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In the first part of “The Dark Side of Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze,” I turned my mental powers (focused and strengthened by my special foil helmet) toward highlighting a few unsavory details about the Kong family. I initially intended for Tropical Freeze to be completely covered in one article, but as it turns out, I had to make something of a long winded point. It turns out the longer you think about Donkey Kong, the more specific your questions become. DK and his family weren’t the only characters to star in that game, however, and there are still a lot of lingering questions about the nebulous nature of the Snowmads.

Where did they come from, exactly, and why are they traveling? During the introduction, the game makes a strong suggestion that the Snowmads are looking for DK by having some penguins go ape-shit when they see his tree house. The game never really directly addresses why they reacted that way though; maybe DK’s reputation for a brutal reign of tyranny precedes him? They could have been trying to curb his wrath with a pre-emptive strike, or maybe they could have been freedom fighters, come to liberate the animals of DK Island. Since Nintendo didn’t feel it necessary to answer these questions, we’ll just have to fill in the blanks and that starts with…
Motivation for DK villains is vague at the best of times, and in Tropical Freeze it seemed almost entirely absent for the Snowmads. That’s not to say that it didn’t make an attempt; there were levels that suggested they might be stopping over for supply gathering, and some cut-scenes that hinted at something else much, much stranger. The Snowmads show up at DK Island’s doorstep, apropos of nothing, firing off ice dragon spells and waving their flying ship around like they own the place. They kick the Kongs off the island and then settle in at the top of the (apparently) live volcano. Wait, DK keeps his family and unwilling citizens on an island with an active volcano? Were we supposed to be playing the villains for the last twenty years, or did Nintendo make a mistake somewhere back in the 90’s and just decided to roll with it?

Resupplying is a pretty evident reason for their extended stay in the region; the Snowmads converted the second last area of the game into what amounted to an island-wide harvest operation, covering the landscape in processing facilities and collection stations. DK Island had been frozen over, but that seemed like it was just a side effect of the magic powering the ship more than any intent of permanent occupation. Moreover, they were able to snap freeze DK Island in an instant, converting the island chain into an arctic paradise would have taken them minutes, maybe, if they were lazy about it. Everything they did probably killed most of the animals on the islands, sure, but this is closer to dickish disregard for others than straight up evil.

“Put the fish racks over by that camp of frozen natives, it’ll help keep them cold!”

There’s a part at the beginning of the game intro movie, however, that shows the Snowmads were clearly looking for DK and gives the game greater context. Without it, the events of Tropical Freeze might have just been a violent misunderstanding instead of the deliberate provocation that it was. When Ensign Penguin raised the alarm and Lord Fredrik summoned the ice dragon to freeze everything in place, DK being blown away was unanticipated consequence of DK’s child-like inability to control his temper. Why else would Fredrik keep such overwhelming forces on islands which otherwise hold no strategic value for his army, other than to hunt for someone who is very hard to hunt?

It’s a large archipelago, though, and finding a handful of monkeys isn’t the easiest task when the search is spread across six islands. So sure, the harvest of an entire island of food could have been a resupply effort for the Snowmads.. Same goes for the bizarre scene at the end of Autumn Heights before you fight Skowl, where you see Skowl and his cronies gathered around what appears to be a ritualistic dais in order to… sacrifice a banana? I’m not even sure what they were hoping to accomplish with this, but unless this is just a weird party game for them (I really don’t want to think about further alternatives) then I’d say it was likely just to rile up DK.

“There were some real “Eye Wide Shut” overtones in this scene that, now that I think about it, seem wildly inappropriate for what’s marketed as a kids game.”

It’s unlikely they would have just done this for a lark since, among other things, DK’s career has seen him take down a Pirate King and his entire army, several times; he once defeated an enchanted coven of spirit mask creatures, which is a is a combination of words which probably didn’t even exist before that game was released. What I’m saying is that if you want to die, there are faster and less painful ways of doing it than angering someone who is not unlike a living God. So if they’re trying to make him angry, are they hoping they can kill him when he gets so angry that he makes a mistake? Or, much more likely, they’re trying to lure him out without out-right killing him because…
The Snowmads are a motley bunch, with a menagerie of piratical creatures rambling through their ranks, all tied together with a loose “ice” theme. The ice theme makes sense, I suppose, since the bulk of their ranks are made up of Arctic owls, penguins, and the army is lead by an “obese”, but clearly magical, Walrus. It doesn’t really require a closer inspection, however, to notice the animals that likely never even saw snow until they joined the Snowmads. This is because they didn’t join the Snowmads voluntarily, they joined them under force, coercion, or, much more likely, through good old fashioned brainwashing!.

It’s in the Game Over screen that you get an idea of what the Snowmads are planning, when it shows DK, and whoever was with him at the time, encased in ice and still alive. It’s as though they were waiting for DK to slip up, allowing them to capture him alive which is… a weird thing to do with someone that’s planning to kill you. They have dominance over DK Island and the surrounding archipelago, why keep around a hostile, blood-thirsty liability when it would be easier to just kill him and be done with it? It’s because keeping them trapped in ice is only step one of their conversion process for prospective Snowmad soldiers.

“Because everyone knows that baboons, gorillas, and fire-owls all totally love icy habitats.”

The Snowmads playing host to animals like baboons and owls, that also have conformity-bucking elemental magic, implies that they didn’t just make a B-line straight from their arctic homeland to DK Island. They would have had to have stopped along the way for resupplying, likely shanghaiing the strongest members of the local populace while they’re there; this is so they can bolster and strengthen their army, probably replacing soldiers who fell in the invasion, as well. However, these are powerful, talented, fighters that are going to be pretty angry about the matching costume wearing invaders who’re defiling their homes. What’s stopping them from protecting themselves and their homeland?

The same thing that allows Lord Fredrik to summon dragons made of ice, and snap freeze an entire island almost instantly: he’s a god-damned sorcerer. The ice motif isn’t what’s important, since super villains tend to go a little overboard with the thematic touches after they go mad with power. We know that magic exists after the Tiki Tak’s used a whole bunch of mind control magic DKC: Returns, and “Ice Fresh” Fredrik has shown himself to be a powerful user of that magical force. With such a mastery over the elements of his homelands, it’s not a stretch to believe he couldn’t have learned a little mental domination, as well. He probably even hand-picked the most powerful of his conquered enemies, turning them into his willing soldiers with mental persuasion, not unlike how Sith do.

“Jedi too, sometimes, although somehow invading a persons mind it isn’t “evil” when they do it.”

With that kind of power, and an army already full of powerful commanders, what could there possibly be on DK Island, a place where bad guys go to die, that he’d be willing to risk everything to obtain?
Hahaha, seriously? Okay. So when you “die” during a stage in DK:TF and return to the last check-point, the classic video-game logic loop of “it just never happened” doesn’t apply: you still have items like the puzzle pieces in your inventory post-resurrection, which means that DK and co. didn’t so much meet their grisly fate as much as they waved to it on their way through. Mario and the mushroom kingdom, both of which absolutely exist in the same world as DK, do this all the time with 1-up mushrooms; it’s the same principle, the Kong family just figured out how to do it with balloons instead of mushrooms. Given the multitude and variety of ways that DK can be killed, these things must have some pretty powerful magic in them.

It seems only the Kong’s can use them as well, otherwise the Snowmads could just collect the random, loose balloons that float around each stage and pump their best soldiers full of Lazarus Juice. With this in mind, it’s amazing that the various bad guys that you re-encounter after dying don’t immediately shit themselves and run at the sight of the guy they just killed coming right for them. The balloons are definitely not a freak occurrence of nature, either, because they bare the Kong visage; instead, they’re manufactured and distributed around the island by Funky Kong. He has a plane, meaning that even if he had to fly to the Mushroom Kingdom and back for some 1up Mushroom powder he could do exactly that.

“His transportation is also his lab and store-front. If there’s a Nintendo-verse equivalent of the DEA, he is extraordinary at avoiding them.”

So if the Snowmads are still hunting down the Kongs and have no idea of the significance of the red balloons, why wouldn’t they abandon their mission after so many failed attempts? Especially when their target continuously dies horrifying deaths and then comes right back again, dragging their soldiers to whatever dark, terrible place he has trudged from. It’s almost as if they’re waiting rather than actively seeking, like they have the inside track on the resurrection balloons from someone who’s clued into what’s going on. With such vast numbers to throw at DK, all they have to do is wait for him to “die” enough times, run out of balloons, and then swoop in with their ice prison.

This informant would also have to know how to use them on the Kongs, since when DK runs out of balloons he’s dead and will have to be revived before he’s dead for good; only the Kongs know how to use them, so this means the informant is one of their own. So someone among the Kong family has a supply of balloons to pass onto the Snowmads and has a means of transporting them around the islands, because it would be easier to buy in bulk and hand them out to everyone than to have a few and follow DK around in case he drops off. It would have to be someone who values profit more than their friends, giving them an incentive to work for both forces so they can maximize their reward– oh holy crap, it’s Funky.

Pictured: Arms dealer, terrorist, traitor, and now suspected communist. “Righteous Red” indeed.

The Kongs are a twisted family, and Funky’s demented apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. He has the hook-up that allows DK and co. to wage bloody, unrelenting war, but he charges them for the privilege. When he values money more than his family or home, it would be stupid to think he isn’t playing both sides. He even gives himself away every time you visit his shop; he was the first and only character to call the Snomads by name, and he says things like “I heard those Snowmads are enjoying your Island!” Heard them from who, Funky, you treacherous wretch? It’s not like he even has to worry about DK finding out, since he manufactures the things keeping them all alive and can easily take that away from DK.

He’s basically an arms dealer except with fewer morals than most in the profession, an evident family history of mental illness, and no invested interest in keeping DK in power. Probably enough motivation to see DK removed from power. In fact, he probably has more motivation for getting rid of DK than any other villain in the series. The world is full of militarized factions (The Kremlings, The Tiki-Tak Tribe, The Snowmads, The Koopa Kingdom, The Mushroom Kingdom, so on and so forth) and DK Island is apparently in the middle of some kind of naval highway that all of them use (which would explain why it’s always under attack). What better place to setup a base of operations that provides weaponry and equipment to armed forces?

This place is like an invading army magnet, it’s the El Dorado of the arms dealer world.

Being more mobile than Donkey means that he could easily keep it out of DK’s sight, and the Snowmads already know that he’s supplying DK because it’s a part of their plot against him. Playing both sides just means that he comes out on top no matter what happens and, given the activities of the rest of his family, that’s pretty much exactly what we’d expect a Kong to do in his situation. At the end of all this, there are two things that I’ve taken away from the Donkey Kong series in general: 1) Cranky Kong is the filthiest and most depraved character in all of videogaming, which also raises some really disturbing questions about Wrinkly Kong; and, 2) Nintendo marketing propaganda can, and often does, make terrible characters seem inexplicably heroic and appropriate for children.

Patrick Waring

Patrick Waring

Executive Editor at GameCloud
A lifelong Perthian, Paddy is a grumpy old man in a sort-of-young body, shaking his virtual cane at the Fortnites and Robloxes of the day. Aside from playing video games, he likes to paint little mans and put pen to paper, which some have described as writing. He doesn't go outside at all anymore.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a work of satire, parody and fiction. At no point was it my intention to assert that the things written in this article are true (unless, of course, it turns out that they are true. In which case, suck it, I was totally right). I don’t own the characters, or the concepts, and I’m sure I’m probably not the first to come to many of these conclusions. However, in saying that, stealing my words without asking would be kind of a dick thing to do. To the original owners of the discussed characters: please don’t sue me, I am not a rich man.