Hello again, world! Hope that everyone is having a great first week of the autumn season so far (even though it’s still scorching hot around most of the country, especially here in our hometown of Austin, Texas).
Don’t Sleep on Donkey Kong Country 3!
Speaking of “Country”, our latest design releases today, “Don’t Kall It A Comeback: I’ve Been Here The Whole Time!”. It takes homage and inspiration from my favorite video game series/franchise, Donkey Kong Country. Most of the design structure comes from the Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! box art, the last entry of the original trilogy, released in November 1996 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).
Considered to be the weakest of the three mainline entries of the series, DKC 3 still holds a ton of great (Rare) replay value that introduced several great new features:
- An open-world map that allows the player to explore freely and not on a linear path in comparison to the previous two games.
- A wide range of new collectibles and currency used to upgrade your transportation vehicles, open up new pathways and unlock the true ending with banana birds (yes, you read that correctly) and a secret lost world at the end.
- New playable character, bosses, enemies, animal buddies and all different types of terrains from a snowy mountain, magical forest, underwater caverns, industrial factory and even a castle where Baron K. Roolenstein (the final boss again, only using a different moniker as an evil scientist this time around) awaits to confront Dixie and Kiddie Kong.
- Another amazing soundtrack led by the legendary David Wise (along with the equally talented Eveline Fisher) that blended beautifully with the aesthetics of each level and world of the Northern Kremisphere.
With all of these accolades, DKC 3 was met with some backlash. The main critique came with the new playable character that I alluded to, Kiddie Kong, who was a whiny, oversized baby in a onesie who could smash open hidden areas, bounce on water, and even be used as a barrel for Dixie Kong to ride on top of along with an ability to throw her to other out-of-reach areas. He played similarly to Donkey Kong (and also in physical stature), who was kidnapped again along with Diddy Kong as well, the main protagonist in DKC2 that teamed up with Dixie Kong then. But he was still a bizarre addition to the game, especially with Donkey Kong not being playable in more games than present despite his name being in the title of the series.
Nontheless, DKC 3 was a great swan song to both the original DKC trilogy along with the Super Nintendo, too. Even though it was released two months after Nintendo’s next home console came out, the Nintendo 64 in September of 1996, it still cracked the top 10 of overall game sales for the SNES. With the recent release of Super Nintendo games on the Nintendo Switch Online Service a few weeks ago, I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll add these games in the near future so that myself and other fellow games can relive these classics again or even perhaps for the first time for others. Rare, the company that created these timeless games with their incredible gameplay, visuals and soundtracks, truly are rare by giving the world these experiences that’ll never be replicated again and that will stand the test of time.
Digging Deeper With DKC
Anyway, enough of my defense on a 23-year-old video game. I recently returned from an annual “end of summer” family trip out to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the origins of this design came from. I was hanging out on the beach with my uncle, thinking of ways to use the DKC acronym for an inspirational phrase. It was then the lyric “don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years” from LL Cool J’s hit single, “Mama Said Knock You Out”, popped into my noggin. It was then that I made a few creative adjustments to make it my own:
- Change the letters in the word “cool” from a “C” to a “K”, to keep the DKC acronym alive.
- Place the star from the “O” in “Kong” into the “A” to keep it consistent with the same style in “Donkey/Don’t”.
- I wanted to make the words “It” and “A” different from the rest of the font, but still pay tribute to the series at large. Sure enough, after doing some further digging I came across the Donkey Kong Land series, which were essentially ported versions of each of the original three games onto the original Nintendo GameBoy handheld system back in the day. There was a Roman numeral III used for the third entry, along with the “A” used in all three box art titles as well, that worked perfectly for this design. Serendipity arrived once again!
- Lastly, I always liked using the words “the whole time” instead of “for years”, as I felt the former held more clout and power to it rather than the latter. It also sufficed my OCD with three words each in the second part of the phrase, fitting perfectly in the blue flag at the bottom.
Speaking of another non-comeback, this beautiful, vintage flatbill DKC2 hat became available again on eBay. I had my eye on it for awhile, only for it to get scooped up by another fellow DKC2 fanatic instead. However, for whatever reason I just happened to check the tab I had open, and lo-and-behold another one resurfaced. After a couple unsuccessful, large non-disclosed bids, the seller and I came to a middle ground for this relic on my favorite video game of all-time to finally fall into my possession.
The Big Picture: Taylor’s Kong-Quest
With all of these developments happening in short amount of time (all of the ideas for this design, SNES games added to the Switch, this retro hat, reactivating the Summers Ink Facebook page), it opened up my mind to reflect on some larger, macro-level thinking. I’ve touched on it before, but my dad passing away tragically and unexpected three-and-a-half years ago was the driving force not just on launching Summers Ink, but also to pursue a life as a full-time artist. As hard as my father’s death has been for my family and me on a multitude of levels since then, I know that the universe sent all of this pain our way for a reason.
For me personally, at the time of my dad’s passing, I was living a life that wasn’t meant for me. I was stuck in a career that didn’t make me happy, I was surrounded by people that didn’t necessarily uplift, empower or guide me in any real way, and I was not challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone. I was in a cycle of following the crowd, dating the wrong women and surrounding myself around a group of phony, fickle friends that all disappeared or distanced themselves over the months and years.
So instead of succumbing to self-pity and capitulating to the sorrowful hardships, I began to forge my own path, leaned on my family for love and support instead of others that didn’t, and cleansed my life of all of the toxicity. The constant in life is and always will be change, so embracing and accepting that as you move forward in life is the only true philosophy to embark with.
Some people may look at all of this through a lens as a “comeback”, as someone who overcame obstacles, trials and tribulations of their past. But to me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve been here the whole time, dealing with struggles every single day, and I couldn’t have gone through it all without my dad and all of the learning experiences since he died. In my eyes, he sacrificed his life so that I can live the one that I always wanted to, and I’m forever thankful and grateful that my dad is now with me in spirit every day from here on out as I move forward through it.
Kall It A Give Back Instead
As with all of our designs, Summers Ink donates portions of each sale to charity. We are continuing the video game theme here as we did with our previous release, “Never Steal Our Shine”, by donating 10% of all sales on this design towards the Extra Life 4 Kids charity organization (extra-life.org). They unite thousands of players around the world to host fundraising and gaming marathons in support of local children’s hospitals. As an avid gamer always trying to keep the kid inside me alive, it only made sense to help fellow young people (in actuality but also in heart and spirit) at a second chance in life and to build a sense of community that video games in particular can do.
Thank you to those that take the time to read this post, and to all of our supporters for the brand so far. Please help us bring awareness towards this great cause and organization, to always keep that Summer(s Ink) feeling alive all-year round even as we enter into the fall season, and to remind everyone that we never went anywhere, because we’ve been here the whole time.