Go Ape: Analyzing The Horror Of The Donkey Kong Country Promotional VHS

Joel Harvey

We recently dissected an early nineties Nintendo promotional video hosted by Craig Charles.

It was a glorious explosion of lame jokes, bizarre video effects and questionable shirts. But it was British. It was so very British (y’know, like that “hilarious” Twitter account). We had a thirst for more of the same, but this time with added Americans. And boy, did we got our wish.

In Britain, we’re a bit embarrassed about promoting things. Yeah, we’ll do a promotional video but we don’t really want to be in your face about it. Over the pond though, all they know is being in your face. You want to sell something? Then hey, let’s shove the product in your eyeballs for 20 minutes and scream “BUY THIS” on a continuous loop whilst backed by terrible generic raaaawk music.

In 1994, Nintendo would follow that above brief. In order to promote the release of Donkey Kong Country, they put together a camera and a random bro-dude (who almost certainly had a small role in California Man). They then let the two wander around the Nintendo of America offices talking to people about the game. The results are horrifying:

For scientific purposes, we need to analyse this startling piece of work and breakdown every godforsaken element of it:

The Intro

We’re treated to a cold open – just a bunch of bro-dudes in baseball caps chatting around a table, like only bro-dudes in baseball caps can do. And then, we jump-cut straight into hell. If you remember American TV in the mid-nineties – specifically, the horror of MTV – then this intro may feel familiar to you. In fact, you might be adverse to its damaging effects because of previous exposure to it. If not, it’s entirely possible that your eyeballs will now explode.

The intro is only about 30 seconds long, but what you’ll see is around a million different images all inter-spliced together in an editing speed that’s faster than light. It’s hard to fully comprehend what all of them mean, they flash past in milliseconds. But we think we saw the following:

  • Footage from the game Donkey Kong Country
  • Bro-dudes
  • Kids running around
  • An actual gorilla
  • Subliminal images of the Nintendo logo
  • Pazuzu

If by some miracle you haven’t had a seizure, you will then get to fully experience…

The Head Bro-Dude

It’s the mid-nineties, and we expect every other male in America looked like the Head Bro-Dude. They had terrible hair, wore their baseball cap back to front and talked like Bill and/or Ted without any concept of irony.

And so we have Head Bro-Dude, who has assumed this role of our guide and tour ahead of all the other bro-dudes. Head Bro-Dude consistently breaks the fourth wall and talks to us directly through the camera. However, if you pause the video whenever he does this, and ask your computer to enhance the image of his eyes, you’ll see the shocking truth: Head Bro-Dude is dead inside. Soulless. Do not trust a word that he says, he is the father of all lies and the uncle of all tricks.

The Music

We’re not sure how the conversation went down between Nintendo marketing and whoever provided the music, but it was probably something like this:

“Hi, we’re Nintendo of America marketing department. We have a promotional VHS tape coming out and we want some music to put in it that “The Kids” will like. Can you help?”

“Sure. But you should probably know, I’m 52 years old and completely tone-deaf.”

“Great. Bye.”

This is the only explanation we have for the god-awful guitar riffs and monotonously pumping house music that plays throughout this video.

The Bananas

It’s a game about apes. So, according to ancient law, there must be continual references to bananas; have you had a banana yet, Head Bro-Dude? Why not eat a banana? Go on, they’re bananas. And this is a game with bananas in it. Get it? BANANAS.

Here’s a fun drinking game: try drinking methylated spirits every time you see a banana in this video. It makes watching it a darn sight easier.

The Ending

The ending occurs around 11:34 in and it feels like not only is this the video ending, but so to is your life. There are BIG WORDS on screen telling you to do buy things, and in the background, there’s ominous tribal drums beating.

Images flash up of bro-dudes eating bananas, pretend apes menacingly staring at you, and we’re pretty sure at one point we see Head Bro-Dude kerb-stomping someone. It’s terrifying and we believe it was Darren Aronofsky’s inspiration for how he ended Requiem for a Dream.

But this isn’t the end. Because there’s more after the ending.

The Adverts

After the Donkey Kong Country video you’re “treated” to a bonus feature, an alternate ending if you will – where you get to watch some Nintendo adverts. All of them, without any question, are terrible.

But it’s the brain adverts that are like the hidden key into the kingdom of terrible. There’s a disembodied brain in a jar called Brian, you see, who plays Game Boy. He’s also a bit of a dick.

Maybe it’s unfair to judge Brian so harshly after only a few minutes in his presence, but he’s instantly unlikable. Maybe losing the rest of his body made him this way, but if he wants to keep hold of his brain girlfriend (let’s not even get started with that), he needs to change his ways. Sharpish.

Then, it really ends. Your eyes are bleeding and your life is in bits. But you did it, you made it through another promotional VHS tape. Will there be more? Almost certainly. Will you mentally be able to cope with more? Almost certainly not.

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