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Original designer shares early Donkey Kong Country concept art that shows other designs for the Kong we know and love today

Posted by Steven 'Dreamking23' Chavez • April 7, 2023 at 10:42 a.m. PDT • Comments: 0

When you picture Nintendo's own Donkey Kong right now, you probably have a particular image in mind. A large brown ape with a red "DK" tie and a pointy hairdo makes up the overall design we've come to know this Kong for over the years, with iterations of it being used in numerous games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and more.

During a recent live stream, one of the original designers and former Rare employee Kevin Bayliss shared some of his concept art for Donkey Kong from way back during the first Donkey Kong Country game on the Super Nintendo. The artwork showcases several other styles and designs for the Kong we know and love today.

"Some of my early character design sketches of DK for #DonkeyKongCountry," wrote Bayliss on Twitter accompanying the clip in which he goes through the concept art. "He looks a lot more polished now than he looked when we re-launched him with the game in the 90's! But this shows that you don't have to be the greatest artist in the world to get a concept across, so keep creating your #ART & you WILL improve!"

The first piece of artwork shows a side-by-side comparison between the original Donkey Kong design, created by prominent Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Rare's initial sketch, and finally Rare's finished rendered image. Rare's first attempt features a more stocky DK design with a larger head, while the finished product appears to give Donkey Kong more appropriate proportions.

Continuing on, Bayliss shows several small thumbnail sketches made in pencil, going so far as to prove that this work is original by smudging two of them with his finger. Different sides of Donkey Kong are shown, including two profile views and a shot of his back where his arm is extended outwards as if he's punching someone.

What's even more of a treat is that we get to see a Donkey Kong portrayed in the style of Battletoads — another title Bayliss made designs for. With this art piece, DK's facial features are more exaggerated and he really does look like he'd fit into the Battletoads games well here.

Though he doesn't pick up the sheets beneath the DK concept art and show it to the camera, we also see a packet on the table that has concept work for the Kremlings. These crocodilian enemies are prominent in the Donkey Kong Country series, and the one shown in this clip sees a tall, muscular foe with a big mohawk and a strangely thin waist.

Kevin Bayliss' portfolio is incredibly impressive, especially if you're a fan of retro games. Not only was he tasked with redesigning Donkey Kong and creating Diddy Kong for the Donkey Kong Country series, but he also designed numerous characters for Killer Instinct, Battletoads, Diddy Kong Racing, and Star Fox Adventures.

It's incredible to not only see the evolution of Donkey Kong from Miyamoto's original to Bayliss' version for Donkey Kong Country, but also to see how the leader of the Kong clan looks now in games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Be sure to check out the clip below, and for more content like this head over to Kev Bayliss' Twitch channel.

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