[Games of Summer is a recurring seasonal retrospective highlighting those magical titles that evoke wondrous thoughts of warm weather, carefree days, and discovery. Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll reflect on said titles and analyze why they meant so much to us then - - and just as much now.]
For most of my childhood, my step-dad had joint custody over his two sons, my step-brothers. I say step-brothers now, but in conversation, I almost always just refer to them as my brothers. I grew up with these guys, and they’re infinitely closer to blood than water.
Anyways, the joint custody meant that every other weekend, they would come over, and we would hang out. Mostly we watched cartoons, made ugly rectangular Lego vehicles, and played on the SNES. After the weekend, they’d go home and we’d have completely separate lives at different schools with different friends and different interests.
Then summer would come around. When your siblings are only around every so often, summer is a big deal. It’s the only time of the year where you’re likely to see them for a week or two at a time. It’s the only time of the year when you can really get your co-op on.
So when I think of summer gaming, my mind goes straight to the Donkey Kong Country series. There was a new one out for three years in a row, and every year, my brothers and I sat down for week-long stretches and cleared the game 101%, 102%, and 103%. Of course, at the time, it didn’t mean anything. We just did it because it was fun, and it was one of the few games we knew of that had good co-op.
They were some of the only games where getting a total completion seemed worthwhile. Getting to K. Rool was only half of the experience. Every DK coin was worth pursuing, and it didn’t matter how many times we had to shoot through Bramble Scramble to get the real ending.
I’ve been replaying these games alone, for the past couple weeks. They’re still pretty tough and interesting platformers. I’d say they definitely held up over time, but something is missing. It’s one thing when I get pissed, because damn it, I was holding run when I jumped, so why the hell didn’t I clear the son of a bitch bee?
It was another thing entirely when it was three of us, equally enraged.
There were other games, sure, and eventually, my brothers moved into the same house as me, and we spent most of our teen years playing completely different games. Even now, its seems that 95% of the gaming they do is in EA’s NCAA Football series. Obviously, we’ve developed our very separate identities and interests, and that’s fine. But in a time when we didn’t get to hang out as much as we’d have liked, the summer sessions of the Donkey Kong Country series were some of the greatest things my brothers and I shared.