It’s difficult to approach a beloved memory with a critical eye. The emotions from a positive past experience tend to ripen with age. But it’s important to reevaluate one’s list of favorites over the years; to ensure nostalgia isn’t muddling your perception.
With that in mind, I have decided to pair one of my preferred brews with a beloved game from my childhood. Each of these items has remained in my wheelhouse for years, so it’s high time that I checked in on what makes them so special to me. Plus, they both have simian themes, which makes for easier pairing.
I first tasted Golden Monkey roughly three years ago at the behest of my wife. She particularly enjoys Belgian-style beers, and the availability of Victory Brewing Company’s products in our area put Golden Monkey on her radar. From the start, we enjoyed the rich flavor and subtle spice notes of this brew. In spite of its high ABV of 9.5%, Golden Monkey had a relatively light body. This, along with the year-round distribution from Victory, made Golden Monkey well-suited for any season.
Since our initial sampling of Golden Monkey, Laura and I have continued to enjoy this brew. Over time, it became our go-to for an affordable and tasty Belgian-style ale. So I am excited to check in with my palate and see if this beer still hits the spot.
Golden Monkey pours egg-yolk yellow, with a translucent golden hue and a subdued foamy head. This beer certainly earns its name, as it has a mellow nose of banana cream pie with hints of butter and clove. The coriander seed used in brewing plays into the flavor, as Golden Monkey leads with a spicy bite. The taste transitions to a rich body of banana and pound cake, finishing with honey sweetness and a hint of black pepper.
As I had hoped, Golden Monkey still earns its place in my regular rotation of beers. While it may lack the depth and complexity of some higher end Belgian ales, this brew offers a delicious balance of banana sweetness with pepper spice. Its price point and far-reaching availability make it a great choice for an everyday Belgian-style beer.
Now that the ale is poured, it’s time to fire up the Wii-U Virtual Console to see if a certain Kong’s quest stands the test of time.
It was on Christmas Day in 1995 when I first played Donkey Kong Country 2. My brother and I received the game soon after its November release date as one of our thrice-yearly video game gifts. We were floored by the leap in quality and content from the first entry in the Country series. There was greater variety in the stages, enemy types, and animal companions. The introduction of Dixie Kong brought a stronger dichotomy of play between the two main characters. With her hover ability, I now had a character to match my calculative (read: hesitant) gameplay style, while my brother could barrel forward as Diddy Kong.
And so, armed with a matching strategy guide in hand, we dove deep into Diddy’s Kong Quest. We scoured every level in co-op bliss; making sure to acquire all of the hidden collectibles to unlock bonus content and achieve the legendary/absurd 102% completion score. We completed the ridiculously difficult stages in the secret Lost World, defeating Kaptain K. Rool at the Krocodile Kore to see the special ending. We played Donkey Kong Country 2 over and over again, returning to the game every few years to complete another co-op run.
It has been quite some time since those halcyon days of Kong Questing™. Until earlier this year (when I played DKC2 for charity at UPickVG 5), I had not returned to Crocodile Isle for nearly a decade.
In a way, playing Donkey Kong Country 2 as an adult isn’t that different from my childhood experience. I still strive to find every hidden DK Coin and Bonus Barrel. The key change is that instead of playing with a sense of discovery and exploration, the game has become a sort of memory exercise. Some of the secrets make sense; a trail of bananas may indicate a hidden item or shortcut. I follow these paths just as I did years ago. But for the more esoteric items, I challenge my hands to locate the barrels and coins using muscle memory and faint recollections. Fortunately, most of the stages are rather short, which makes each one a delightful tiny puzzle instead of a frustrating scavenger hunt.
Outside of the general gameplay and level design, Donkey Kong Country 2 holds up fairly well. The ACM character models are very expressive, although they look a bit rough around the edges (particularly when upscaled to HD output through Virtual Console). The hit boxes for enemies continue to be rather finicky, with all sorts of issues present when trying to determine the safe zone to bop their heads. The music is still amazing. David Wise’s soundtrack shines with a great mix of melodies; from rousing ragtime romps for the bonus stages to haunting ambient tunes for the murky swamp levels. Even though I had not played the game for years, I have regularly listened to the soundtrack from Donkey Kong Country 2 (particularly, Stickerbrush Symphony). I can definitely understand why my brother and I recorded the soundtrack to cassette tapes when we were younger.
While Donkey Kong Country 2 may show its age in some areas, this game is still a delight to play. It represents an interesting transition period for video games; when platformers moved from traversal challenges to massive collect-a-thons. But unlike so many other awkward examples of this genre, Diddy’s Kong Quest shines as a blend of the two styles. It’s a great game to play in short single-player bursts, or as a marathon session with a Preferred Player Two™ by your side; especially when paired with the mellow sweetness of Golden Monkey. I would recommend this combination, and it will continue to stay in my wheelhouse all year long.