Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fantasy Smash Bros.: Donkey Kong JR

Wow, I guess I took a vacation last month. Sorry about that. I'm thinking about doing some other things with the blog though, including reviews if I can ever get around to it (which I never seem to be able to do these days), but right now I'm coming back with the series I started before that I absolutely love, because it's something I can almost never think about. And this has become even more true since we were essentially promised a return to the Super Smash Bros. franchise in the coming future. I'm gonna keep this up until Nintendo actually tells us what's going on, and just because I'm fair, I'll probably keep playing at it after that.

Bringing us back to style, and not leaving his own behind, Donkey Kong JR is joining the Fantasy Smash extravaganza! This powerful primate isn't short in either stature or tricks, being taller than the famed plumber of lore at the young age of "child", and a master of sports, kart racing, and mathematics all while still presumably in diapers!

Look at that genius at work!
Or maybe it's just lice?
But before all the paparazzi and scholarships, JR was just a simple ape living the life of a backwater gorilla. Unfortunately, it wasn't all bananas and vines. JR was called into action early in his young life when the dubious Super Mario, then known by his superheroic alias, "Jumpman", defeated and imprisoned "Papa Donkey Kong."

Almost immediately JR set forth to free his father, and soon found himself going face to face with the plumber!.. Zoo keeper!.. Carpenter!.. Doctor!.. Construction worker!.. Mario! Despite Mario's seeming status as a "hero", he had a few baddies under his control who eerily resemble the Klaptraps, the most terrifying members of the Kremling Krew. These monsters, with their voracious appetites, saw to it that JR wasn't going to simply walk through the zoo. No, not at all.

Luckily, they were terrible at everything.
As testament to JR's genius and resourcefulness, he managed to dispatch any and all opposition with the deadly powers of fruit. In this primates hands, bananas and strawberries became projectile weapons the likes of which would make Bullseye duck for cover.

JR didn't vanish after his first anti-heroic escapades, however. He went on to get a math degree after some rigorous tutelage from his father, who didn't want the same dead end future he had (capturing damsels is a road to nowhere. Just ask King Koopa). He was also involved in his father's revenge scandal, where he worked hard to prevent Mario from yet again rescuing Pauline in Donkey Kong for the original Game Boy. Among his other numerous returns to the gaming realm, JR would show up most prominently after making the leap from Brooklyn to the Mushroom Kingdom, where he participated in a number of sports in karting events, most notably the first two Mushroom Kingdom Royal Tennis Championships, and the first Mushroom Kingdom Grand Prix.

Where he was as big as Bowser, because apparently apes are freakin' huge.
The next time JR showed up, he was supposedly an adult waging war with the terrifying Kaptain K. Rool. But since I don't believe any of that nonsense, we're just going to assume he still wears a onesie and has been missing in action for some stupid amount of time.

JR's good looks and charm have carried him to the hearts of Nintendo fans the world over, and his versatility makes him one of the most open-ended fighters available. He's got the skills to rumble with the best, and the rep. to back it up. Being one of Nintendo's classic all-stars (even showing up in his own segments on the Saturday Supercade), JR was ready to go since Punch-Out.


Donkey Kong JR, while an enigma, hasn't done an awful lot of fighting in his day. Aside from a pair of conflicts with Mario, JR spends most of his time gorging on mathematics and winning sports trophies. However, the bond between father and son is clear, so he'll be demonstrating of Donkey Kong's talents that have been thusfar ignored by good Sakura.

Up + B: Spinning Kong JR - Donkey Kong's "Spinning Kong" move doesn't do much for aerial lift, but it can carry him across great chasms. JR has emulated this move... somewhat. By extending his arms out and spinning at tremendous speeds, JR is able to keep himself afloat for a short while, and also manages to protect himself from those who might attempt to attack him in the air. However, because JR is much lighter than his father, but not a great deal weaker, the force of his spinning motions carry him higher into the air, giving him a great deal of distance and height to recover from. In addition to this, because JR has a lot less weight to haul around, this move can carry him for a much longer time than it can for his father. Also unlike his father, JR is able to cancel this move into any aerial melee attack, or even a dodge or shield.

Standard B: Barrel Roll - Those of you imagining Peppy Hare's meme phrase are a little bit off on this one. In Donkey Kong's debut in the self-titled Donkey Kong he was rather fond of chucking barrels at Mario to impede the plumber's progress. This trait has become iconic to the character, and even found a place as a core gameplay element in the Donkey Kong Country franchise, and descendants of the barrel continue to appear in Donkey Kong titles today. The barrel so well represents the franchise, that it's almost as well known as Mario's super mushrooms.

JR does his father proud by bringing the legacy back to life. In the Smash Bros. franchise, barrels are common items that are similar to crates, containing a number of items inside them. JR's barrels are a little different. To start, their on the smaller side of the spectrum, being shorter than JR himself. Besides that, the barrels don't contain items, but there is a surprising hiding inside the occasional blue barrel JR might toss at you.

A very hot surprise.
These flaming creatures, known as firefoxes, act in a manner similar to the Waddle Dees tossed by their ungrateful king. They peruse the platform they land on until they flicker out, causing burn damage to enemies who happen to be in their way. They can distinguish friend from foe, and make a point not burn the JR who spawned them.

In addition to unleashing firefoxes, blue barrels behave just as they do in the original game: they're faster than the typical brown barrel, they bounce instead of roll, and they deal about twice as much damage as the others. So if you find one of these tumbling your way, it's advisable to get the hell out.

Side + B: Elbow Rush - A character was recently introduced who is very similar in concept and design to Donkey Kong JR: Baby Donkey Kong! BDK made his debut in Yoshi's Island DS, where he helped Yoshi grab onto vines, smash through brick floors, and mow down enemies with his most identifiable attack: the Elbow Rush. While the older Donkey Kong hasn't been seen using the technique, it's not too wild to imagine his child performing a similar technique.

Down + B: Tossed Salad - JR's first and most useful weapon against his enemies in Donkey Kong JR were the numerous fruits that grew on the vines he traversed, and he hasn't forgotten that. This unlikely arsenal has never failed him before, and his Kong Kousins continue to use similar weapons to this day! JR tosses these fruits in an arch, making sure they cover both land and air. Though he can toss a variety of fruit, including bananas, strawberries, and pears, the different types are purely aesthetic. These fruits are somewhat heavier than your average fruit, so getting hit by one is kind of the same as having one of those dinky candlepin bowling balls hucked at you.

While in the air, JR will toss these fruits straight down, just like he did back in the day. From this angle the fruits fall much faster, and deal significantly more damage, so while JR doesn't come equipped with a Simian Slam, it's probably not a good idea to get beneath him.

Final Smash: Grapevine - Maybe these vines aren't for grapes, but they're certainly for apes. JR's well known for his climbing capabilities, and they're just what he needed to help him rescue Papa Donkey Kong back in the early 80's. It's really no wonder that he would use those smarts of his to find a way to bring them any confrontation he may encounter.

But it's not like they can appear out of the air, even if JR grabs a Smash Ball. Oh no, he had to put a little more effort into this one. One of JR's lesser known talents is that for tricks and traps, and there's no shortage of that mischief where Smash Bros. is involved. In Donkey Kong on the Game Boy, JR was the master of mayhem. With the pull of a lever, he could bring all sorts of untold harm to the mustached hero. And with a flick of his wrist and some classic influence, those same levers drop a vine curtain over the stage.

"Look what I got! Look what I got!" - JR with his switch.
Also, that annoying kid who just got the Smash Ball.
With the switch pulled, JR leaps up into his natural element: the vines that have just lowered from an invisible, magical crane in the sky. Up there, above the chaos below, JR makes himself right at home and abandons these newfangled controls for simpler timers. Up, down, left, and right are all this ape needs to make his way through the forest. While he's up there, fruit will spawn on the vines. These fruits are much larger and heavier than the ones in his down special, each about the size of JR himself. If he happens to touch one of these fruits, it will plummet through the stage below, striking his enemies like a meteor.

And it isn't bad enough that JR can drop apple-shaped anvils from above, but those annoying snapjaws Mario commanded in Donkey Kong JR now work for the gorilla. They travel down the vines and drop onto the stage, looking for an easy snack. The blue ones are a little derpy, and will just drop off any ledge they come across, but the red ones have a mighty long stick up their butt, and will charge at anybody unfortunate enough to be one the same platform as them.

If you aren't quite sure how this all plays out, it's basically like a large-scale version of the actual Donkey Kong JR game. And if you still aren't clear on that, here's a video to help you out:

A Closer Look: There's more to JR than just special moves and Final Smashes. JR's play style is very primal and ferocious, much like his father's, but he's got a little more control over what he's doing, and he's faster about it. Unfortunately, he isn't quite strong enough to carry his enemies around, so he's stuck with the basic grappling maneuvers of every other character.

A notable move in JR's arsenal is his basic dash attack (A while running). This move, to continue the theme of JR picking up his father's slack, is actually Donkey Kong's signature somersault technique. Not only does this clear the way for JR's entrance, but it can be followed up in a variety of fashions. In true DK flavor, if JR is to jump while perform the somersault,  he'll jump farther than he normally would. Additionally, the somersault move can be canceled into a special kick that knocks enemies into the air. This can be nifty for clearing out opponents you don't really want to deal with, or setting somebody up for an aerial combo.

The Stats

Size - 5/10
Weight - 7/10
Strength - 7/10
Speed - 6/10
Jump - 8/10

The Breakdown:

Size - In most of his appearances, JR is either as large as or larger than Mario. I was almost tempted to make him larger than the ol' redcap, but decided against it because I didn't want to get too close in size to Donkey Kong SR. While JR might be large, he's still smaller than even half the size of his father, and it would be pretty weird to have him almost as large as an adult ape and still wearing a onesie.

Weight - JR is, of course, an ape, and apes are heavy. He's not as heavy as his father is, but JR isn't exactly on the lighter side of things either. In Yoshi's Island DS, Baby Donkey Kong is heavy enough to weigh Yoshi down, and that isn't easy considering the kangaroo-like legs those dinos have. JR is actually even larger than BDK, and since neither Mario nor Luigi are heavy enough to weigh down the appetite machine, it only makes sense that he'd be heavier than them both.

Strength - JR has the simian strength of his father, but in a slightly smaller package. Still, he's a lot tougher than most contenders, and it wouldn't take a whole lot of effort on his part to pound someone into the ground. Actually, in Mario Tennis for the N64, Donkey Kong JR's swings provide more power than even than adult Donkey Kong. Of course, this can easily lead to more outs, so I can only assume that this was a lack of control on his part, and that Donkey Kong was masking his true strength to avoid committing tennicide.

Speed - You might think that "heavy, and strong" goes along with "slow", and that's the case for most characters. But, again shown in Mario Tennis, JR is a speedy little bugger. He might not be as fast as the Speed class characters like Birdo and Baby Mario, but he's still more capable of putting dirt behind him than either of the Mario Bros.

Jump - Though JR and his father are large and heavy, it's in an ape's nature to never touch the ground. Despite being the second heaviest character in Melee, Donkey Kong could jump nearly as high as Captain Falcon and Luigi. That's almost ridiculous, but it makes a lot of sense. From what I've seen, JR jumps about as high as his father does, and if not, he jumps a little bit higher because he has less weight holding him down.

A Closer Look: JR might seem a little overpower at first. He's strong enough to arm wrestle with Ganondorf, quick enough to leave Mario and Luigi in his tracks, able to leap tall platforms in a single bound, and to heavy to be tossed away without a little punching around. But there's a balance to all of this, don't worry. Most of JR's attacks have a fair bit of lag, less than his father's, but still a significant amount of it. The ones that don't (such as the somersault) aren't particularly terrifying attacks, and despite having various cancel or combo options, once he's coming out of an attack, he's a little slow to pull himself back together.

The Alternate Palettes

Super Mario Kart's sprites are way too fun to recolor.
Palette One: The standard JR colors, of course. Nothing else would do for his basic color set!

Palette Two: JR's Red Team costume shows just how much respect he has for his father. He borrows DK's classic red and yellow necktie color scheme and translates it over to his trademarked onesie. What better way to show family pride?

Palette Three: The Super Kong is famous among the Kong's, and a personal hero of JR. He we see his Super Kong JR get-up, which also serves as Blue Team color scheme.

Palette Four: Again a mimic of his father's wardrobe. JR's Green Team costume hides him pretty well in jungle terrain. Perfect for hunting unsuspecting enemies.

Palette Five: JR isn't the only infant ape to play a major role in the Donkey Kong franchise. Long after JR had begun to fade from the hearts of children everywhere, Donkey Kong Country III came out and brought with it the infamous Kiddy Kong. Kiddy is definitely younger than JR, but much, much stronger, and played a role very similar to that of DK in the original Donkey Kong Country. JR shows his appreciation for the Kong youth by wearing his cousin's pajamas.

Now, who wants a hug?
Palette Six: JR's lesser appreciated educational title Donkey Kong JR Math demonstrated Nintendo's ability to simply not give a crap and give all of their characters 2P color swaps. At least Ms. Pac-Man had a mole. Either way, the pink Donkey Kong JR has become kind of an enigma, as nobody is quite sure whether it truly is a palette swapped JR, or if it's a separate child entirely. One thing is certain, however: JR isn't going to make the message any clearer. He's just going to wear the mystery like it's a sport coat.

Seriously, what is this? I smell another blog...
Or some monkey poo...

No character is complete without their own victory theme. Unfortunately, Smash Bros. chooses its themes by franchise, so the tired old thing that DK's been using will have to do.

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