DK Vine, known originally as "Donkey Kong's Jungle Vine," and later as "Donkey Kong Universe," is a unique Donkey Kong fansite. Its complicated, sometimes controversial nature reflects the complicated, sometimes controversial nature of the games it covers. So let's start at the beginning.
In The '90s, Rareware was one of the strongest arms of Nintendo, a legacy that began in 1994, when they created Donkey Kong Country, a big-budget revival of Nintendo's Arcade Donkey Kong franchise. The ambitious SNES game was a success, and after two sequels on the platform, Rareware was poised to continue their legacy on the (then cutting-edge) Nintendo 64. Though Rare did not make a proper N64 sequel to the Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the N64 for a while, they did create a spin-off in the form of 1997's Diddy Kong Racing, a game notable for (among other things) an interesting method of self-promotion: It featured Banjo and Conker, two characters with games of their own under development. With the release of the highly-lauded Banjo-Kazooie in 1998, the concept of the Donkey Kong Universe, a tangible canon of Rareware games linked via the presence of their characters in each other, was born. (The staff of the site explained it in TV terms, saying that the same logic makes Family Matters part of the "Perfect Strangers Universe.")
Donkey Kong's Jungle Vine, originally created by Chad McCanna and Hyle "SirSlush2" Russell, opened in 1999 as a tribute to this collection of distinctive Rareware games featuring anthropomorphic animals, and it was a good first year for them, as it saw the release of the first proper Donkey Kong game since the SNES, Donkey Kong 64. In the year 2000, the trend continued with Banjo-Tooie, the long awaited sequel to Banjo-Kazooie. Then, in 2001, came the moment that would change things forever.
Back around the time Diddy Kong Racing was the big Rareware game, Rareware had already begun promoting their two projects starring two of its costars. People had liked what they saw in Banjo-Kazooie. Twelve Tales: Conker 64...not so much. Besides its very juvenile, unfunny story, the game featured flamboyant, excessively-cutesy graphics, and test audiences were much more skeptical. Seeing this, Rareware sent the game into Development Hell for several years, where it underwent excessive changes. When unveiled, the game had been transformed into Conker's Bad Fur Day, an M-rated, subversive take on the anthropomorphic-animal-platformer genre, released in 2001, and Nintendo was not amused. Despite good ratings, the game was a commercial flop as a result of Nintendo's utter (and deliberate) lack of coverage for it and an excessive scare-campaign to repel everyone under 17 away from the game.
The schism having been seeded between Nintendo and Rareware, it would only grow. Though Rare launched into the Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance era with high hopes (and plans to make many new games for many of their franchises), in the end they would only get to release one game for the Nintendo Gamecube—and not in the form they had intended. At the tail end of the N64's lifespan, Rare had begun work on Dinosaur Planet, an adventure game whose title was self-explanatory. Nintendo persuaded Rare to make some changes, this time of the sort the former wanted, and the game was forced into the Star Fox series and released on the Gamecube as Starfox Adventures. This would be the last straw, and in September 2002, Microsoft bought Rareware out. Though longtime fans were quick to villify Microsoft for bringing about the end of an era, this anger ignores the obvious fact that neither Nintendo nor Rareware were forced to accept the move—but both did. The remaining planned GCN games were cancelled, while the planned GBA games were silently released over the following two years (with the DK-related games, Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers and Diddy Kong Pilot, being re-branded as It's Mr. Pants! and Banjo-Pilot respectively). Since then, with the exception of a Viva Piñata game for Nintendo DS in 2008, the arrival of Rare's new software on Nintendo systems has ceased permanently.
About this time, mainstream media that had praised Rareware's games years before began to take a more negative stance, and a large number of Rareware games found their way onto lists of "overrated" games. Additionally, an infamous quote from Shigeru Miyamoto, criticizing Donkey Kong Country, was taken as an ill-omen and further proof that a massive anti-Rareware backlash was beginning. Fans of Rare's legacy on Nintendo consoles began to fear Nintendo would begin to dismantle that legacy in their absence, a fear that was not helped by the releases of 2004's Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, which undid much of the latter's Character Development and returned him to his original role as a villain, and 2005's Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, whose developers declared that they intended to wipe the slate clean of iconic elements of the past era's DK games.
Thus, pro-Rareware fans who had congregated on Donkey Kong's Jungle Vine decided to make a stand against the perceived negative tide. Fearing the worst for the Donkey Kong series-proper, and assuming Rareware (who had retained the rights to Banjo and Conker when moving) would be the only party interested in continuing the trends once common on Nintendo platforms, the site was renamed "Donkey Kong Universe," as a reference to the more peripheral games in the canon. It became notorious—at least to many outside observers—for its apparent anti-Nintendo sentiment, with such actions as a "poetry slam" condemning the release of Donkey Konga, boggling to viewers who wondered why a Donkey Kong fansite would harbor so much hatred for the company that originally created and still owned Donkey Kong.
Throughout these years, the DKU became a small, but tight-knit and definitive community, with vocally unique opinions from the majority of gaming websites, and a cynical, but often darkly-humorous outlook on life. Through dedicated observation, they successfully linked two new Rareware games, Grabbed by the Ghoulies and Viva Piñata, into the Donkey Kong Universe canon, and eagerly anticipated each new game from the original, Nintendo-era DKU franchises. However, another shift was coming.
Following the 2005 release of Conker: Live and Reloaded, a remake of Conker's Bad Fur Day in the place of what many believed should have been a sequel, faith in Rareware wavered. Conker's own page should give a good idea of the controversy surrounding the remake; here suffice to say that it wasn't controversial for any of the same reasons that the original was.
Still more upsetting to the fanbase (especially in light of its misleading trailer) was the 2008 release of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, a new installment in the Banjo series with little more than a cosmetic resemblance to its predecessors and divisive new gameplay mechanic. With this game, Rareware dispelled most remaining notions that they would necessarily be any more willing to preserve their old legacy than Nintendo was.
Then, in 2010, came a very unexpected move: Nintendo, the company the DKU had long since abandoned all hope in, commissioned Retro Studios to revive the core DKU franchise in the form of Donkey Kong Country Returns, to much celebration. Nintendo even promoted the upcoming game passionately, and Shigeru Miyamoto made a public statement apologizing for his earlier criticisms of the series. The tide had turned, and in a rather unique way. In honor, of this new development, the DKU redesigned itself, renamed itself DK Vine, focused back in on the core Donkey Kong series, and suddenly became one of the most collectively-optimistic fansites ever. Membership swelled as fans flocked to discuss the new release, and although the site has offered some constructive criticism of the game, their anticipation was largely justified. This was continued with the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on the Wii U and eventually Nintendo Switch, to greater success in the latter.note
This website provides examples of:
- Accentuate the Negative: More averted now. During The Turn of the Millennium, though, it tended to be full-stop; at least with regards to Nintendo.
- After-Action Report: The Slush Fun'd, in which Slush catches up with the games he missed out after he lost interest in the DKU, and posts his progress on the site's forums. He covers the games released between Mario Party 5 and Donkey Kong Country Returns. That's fifty-five games! He's currently up to Donkey Konga 2.
- All There in the Manual: The site loves digging up the most minute details of game plots. They have multiple essays on these things.
- Big Brother Is Watching: One of the random messages on the logo is, "The NSA is laughing at you for being here."
- Bizarro Episode: The infamous Bear Rape topic became such a site meme that it was reopened!
- Canon Welding: How DKU canon works.
- Caption Humor: Used in the Gallery section of the site (with official artwork and screenshots from related games), as well as certain images elsewhere.
- Clickbait Gag: A 2004 news article was titled "DKC4 CONFIRMED!!! WHERE’S MY PULSE???" The actual article is revealed to be just a site update adding new screenshots to an image gallery for the Game Boy Advance version of Donkey Kong Country 2.
- Continuity Porn: Pretty much every bit of original fanon was designed solely for this purpose.
- Crack Pairing: The Romance of the DKU feature notes that fans use the chemistry system in the Mario Baseball games to justify their shipping.Donkey Kong ♥z Petey Piranha 4 EVA N ALWAYZ!
- Deadpan Snarker: May be seen as a whole site full of them.
- Five-Man Band: New Staff: Chad as The Hero, Slush as The Lancer, Aussie Ben as the smart guy, Andrey as the Big Guy, and Our Friend as the chick.
- Grammar Nazi: See the "Change the "Rattley" sign in Super Mario Odyssey's New Donk City to "Rattly" change.org petition.
- Gratuitous Rape: According to the lore of Cob Cock Day, Father Cob Cock would rape those who ate poultry on the eve before the holiday, erasing the incident from their memory afterwards.
- Heh Heh, You Said "X": Three of them in I Went Saucy In My Panties[...]the novelty of having Mario and his friends trying to beat each other (huh huh...I said "beat each other")[...]
I don't want to have anything to do with [Mario Tennis] now, simply because it bores me stiff (huh huh...I said "stiff").
I want to see [Mario] battling the forces of evil, not whacking around balls (huh huh...I said "whacking around balls").
- Heroic BSoD: In the Donkey Kong Jungle Beat Slush Fun'd, Slush goes into one when he discovers that the Chopperbird is a human in a Helibird costume.I'm sorry. I can't finish my thoughts on the kingdom at the moment. I just raced a man in a bird costume and I have to come to terms with that. If I can't, then that's it. The Slush Fun'd is canceled, and I'll delete my account and never appear here again.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
- Humanoid Abomination: Pauline's biography treats her as one.
- Left Hanging: Fun With Pass A Story: The Epic Donkey Kong [Not A] Cock-And-Bull Story. It later got a Fully Absorbed Finale with The End, which doesn't necessarily tie up all loose ends and randomly pits DK against celebrity androids.
- Long-Runners: 11 years and counting. "I can't believe this forum is still here", "I can't believe my old password still works" and "I can't believe how long it's been" are phrases you'll hear a lot from returning members.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: DK Vine's 2016 presidential endorsement article wasn't as well-received as Hyle would have liked, and Russian interference DDOS'd the site immediately after it was published. The site stayed down for days (still hasn't fully recovered) and it's joked about that this is what put the other candidate over the edge.
- Official Fan-Submitted Content: The Submit! initiative.
- Orwellian Retcon: Since 2005, any topic in the forums about a recently deceased celebrity will always be titled "(Name of celebrity) is dead." If a topic gets with a slightly different title (like "John Hurt has passed away from cancer" or "So Long, Chuck Berry", that title will soon be edited by the moderators.
- Parody: 2014: The Year of Diddy is a spoof of The Year of Luigi, proposing analogs to each of its games — Diddy Kong Racing: Atom Heart Mother◊ (a Diddy Kong Racing sequel to serve as the Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon of the lineup), Diddy Kong Returns 3D◊ (a Diddy-focused expansion of Donkey Kong Country Returns inspired by New Super Luigi U, with Professor Chops in a Nabbit-style role), and Donkey & Diddy: Dream Space Dynammo Warriors◊ (a team-up game like Mario & Luigi: Dream Team).
- Podcast: Three of them;
- The PoDKast, a straight up (well, sort of) discussion program about current events in the DKU, starring Jeff, Matt, Cameron and a variety of guest stars.
- The Vine Audio Programme, initially the same, only featuring large scripted elements and soon evolving into an epic and crazy story arc. Features the original DKU staff members and their friends.
- The Kongversation, a podcast branching off of The Vine Audio Programme that allows Chad and Slush to more timely talk about the latest DKU going-ons (and with all the spontaneous The X-Files and The Beatles references you could ever expect).
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: The afore-mentioned Pass-A-Story feature laid the foundations for Elvis And Slick Monty.
- Serial Escalation: The Saga Of Funky Kong: Mountain Dew Baja Blast Pitchman is an annual Facebook series beginning in 2014 that sees an additional character added each year. In addition to Funky himself, we have seen — in order — Cranky Kong, Kiddy Kong, Diddy Kong, Donkey Kong, and Banjo added to the growing cast.
- Series Fauxnale: The End, which is also a two-fold Whole Plot Reference to the Grand Finales of both The X-Files and Newhart.
- Serious Business: The very definition of it with regard to fandom, in many people's opinions.
- Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: One of the site's random messages is, "We connected Officer Unogopaz to Kevin Bacon in five degrees."
- Snarky Nonhuman Sidekick: Our Friend, Chad's camera inhabited by a lost soul. At one point he got hit in the lens cap by a wayward hoe, thought he was Bob Newhart, and transformed into Barack Obama. It's a Long Story.
- Take That!: In response to those complaining that Retro Studios should have made a new Metroid game instead of another Donkey Kong one, one of the rotating images in the main site's Tropical Freeze skin is Samus flailing about in the water◊. It also adds the random message, "Should have been Metroid Vine!" For the special site theme celebrating the 20th anniversary of the franchise, a random image of Samus's gunship crashing◊ is present.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Their Facebook page has a tendency to end their series of hashtags at the end of their posts with a hashtag that has zero chance of going viral. For example, in this post featuring the staff Comically Missing the Point of a censored image of a Secret Character in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, the last hashtag is called "WeKnowItsDuckHuntButSarcasmIsOurThingSoDontEvenStart".
- This Means War!: Every decision made by Nintendo from 2001 to 2009. (A particularly noteworthy example.)
- Universe Bible: The whole idea of Rare's "Donkey Kong Universe" is explained by a set of rules kept on the site. They go through a lot of change; the current incarnation is specifically designed to thwart all sorts of loopholes in the system (including "the Copout Rule", an as-of-now unenacted addendum that rules out games with the most tenuous connection to Donkey Kong possible). In addition, a full timeline of events, including complete fanon constructions, called the Timevine is kept.
- Viewers Are Morons: Chad almost constantly in his forum posts. His angst eventually lead him to cancel Green Porn City
- Word of God: Leigh Loveday on the canon, Chad and Slush on the fanon.