New Donkey Kong Country Secrets Revealed By Rare Veteran


Before Diddy and Cranky Kong, see how the ape’s reboot looked in the early planning stages…

If you were in the Play It Loud generation of Super NES owners, Donkey Kong Country holds a special place in your heart. Just as Sony and Sega were talking up their fancy polygon prowess, here was this reimagining of Donkey Kong that had CGI effects in the here and now. It was mindblowing to see a SNES pull that off back then, and even if there’s a level of tech trickery involved, it’s still damn impressive that Rare was able to pull that off way back when.

But the game went through a long development, and there had long been stories of Nintendo devs guiding Rare’s team through this rebuilding of the arcade classic. There were tales of total redesigns of Diddy Kong, added ties, new enemies. Well now, thanks to one Rare veteran cleaning out their closet, we now get a glimpse into just what DKC looked like back in its infancy.


Thanks to Gregg Mayles, we now have a whole new look at how the first Donkey Kong Country came to be. Mayles has been with Rare since 1989, and is now the developers Creative Director as it transitions into the Xbox One era, whatever that will be. But back in 1993, he was helping Nintendo make Donkey Kong new again, and the notes, sketches, and diagrams are illuminating to see DK in such a raw state.

Just take a look at the first sketches for the model:

If you ever wondered where DK’s business casual look came from, here’s a sketch from Shigeru Miyamoto himself, adding the tie that would first appear in Donkey Kong ’94 for Game Boy:

Damn, Mayles kept that bound concept book in incredible condition:

The story of lost bananas is pretty similar, though Cranky and Diddy were Grandpa and Junior back then. As the story goes, Nintendo didn’t like that as a look for DK Jr., so Rare just made Diddy a separate character to keep the design:

It looks like Rare had even bigger plans for the animal pals than the ones we already saw:

Looking at these concept designs, K. Rool went through a number of transformation before he became the bulky gator DK would one day wrestle:

Damn, look at that early 3D modeling tech! It makes the final designs seem much more advanced by comparison:

All you folks about to get Super Mario Maker take note - Here's how you design a stage:

All told, it's incredible to see all this classic stuff out in the open, and I'm mighty appreciative that Mayles shared all this with gaming historians like myself. Honestly, this is the type of stuff Nintendo rarely allows anyone to share, but either it's finally ok to do it, or Rare simply don't give a fuck. Either way, what's your favorite bit of all these old planning pictures? Tell us in the comments fellow DKC fans.

4 thoughts on “New Donkey Kong Country Secrets Revealed By Rare Veteran

  1. Very cool seeing these ideas and how they started out. Maybe not an amazing game to some, but I have serious nostalgia for it. I went onto eBay last week and bought the promo video they sent out before it’s release, mine’s rotting in a landfill somewhere.

  2. Over the weekend I hooked up the old SNES and played some DKC with the family and had a blast. That game is still super fun to play and some of those later levels get hard as balls. Really cool to see how this childhood favourite came to be. Keep up the good work Hank!

  3. I would love to see a hand drawn Donkey Kong based on the style of the second group of images. they still look great!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.