Do you hear the drums building in the distance?The biggest news to hit theme park aficionados in decades is the coalescing of worlds at the first major theme park to open in the U.S. since 2001: Universal Epic Universe. When the Chronos powers on in 2025, Universal’s third theme park in Orlando will carry guests away into unfathomable, fantastic worlds. Already, we’ve toured what to expect from a Dark Universe of monsters; a Wizarding World set far away from the one we know; the stellar coaster that’ll anchor an IP-free land; and the flying flat ride that’ll make the How To Train Your Dragon: Isle of Berk a must-visit.Today, we’ll power on the portal into Super Nintendo World, the highly-anticipated anchor land that’ll act as a first stop for many theme park fans. Thankfully, installations of Super Nintendo World are already up and running at Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood. When Orlando’s version opens, it’ll contain the tried-and-true MarioKart: Bowser’s Challenge AR-based dark ride as well as the Yoshi’s Adventure family attraction… but it’ll also include a warp pipe leading to a whole new section of Super Nintendo World: get ready for Donkey Kong Country!Monkey Business

Image: Nintendo

Believe it or not, a whole lot of video game history came riding on the rolling barrels of Donkey Kong. When the game debuted in 1981, it was as a joystick-powered arcade game in a classic wood cabinet design. Despite predating the name, Donkey Kong was one of the first examples of what would eventually be called a “platformer” – the kind of game where players control a character that moves between platforms by climbing or jumping. (Donkey Kong was actually the first video game ever where a character could jump.)By the way, the character doing that jumping? Oh, just an Italian plumber with red overalls, a red cap, and a mustache. Yep, technically, Mario debuted in Donkey Kong four years before he’d become the hero of Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. In the original Donkey Kong games, Mario’s goal is simple: to climb platforms, leaping over rolling barrels released by the antagonistic ape as he ascends toward the captive Pauline. 

Image: Nintendo / Universal

A living piece of video game history, the original 1981 Donkey Kong didn’t just introduce platforming, jumping, and Mario… it’s also remembered as a pioneer in the idea that video games could have pre-rendered graphics and – unbelievably – in-game storytelling. A first real international hit for Nintendo, Donkey Kong is the game that started it all. Of course, one company hoped desperately to stop it: Universal.Yep, in 1982, Universal Studios – hot off the release of E.T. – sued Nintendo claiming that Donkey Kong amounted to an unlicensed use of the legendary King Kong, and that Universal at least deserved a cut of all Donkey Kong sales. (Universal lost, primarily on the grounds that they themselves had argued that the story of King Kong was in the public domain in a previous lawsuit filed against them.) It may have been a bitter fight, but forty years later, the great apes have found a home together: Universal Orlando.Welcome to Donkey Kong Country

The warp pipe to Donkey Kong Country is about to open in Japan… Image: @LCASTUDIOS_USJ, Twitter

Donkey Kong has sure come a long way since that cabinet arcade game nearly a half century ago… In Epic Universe (and Universal Studios Japan), guests will soon be able to step into the tropical jungles of Donkey Kong Country for an ape-brained adventure. It’ll start as guests step through the warp pipe from the Mario-themed Mushroom Kingdom. They’ll emerge in a jungle outpost as only the Kongs could imagine: a paradise of palms, waterfalls, rockwork, and crumbling temples. This ain’t your grandfather’s Adventureland, though. As you’d expect in Super Nintendo World, this immersive, all-encompassing jungle plaza will be filled with all the kinetic energy, music, mayhem, and joy you’d expect of a video game.

Image: Unknown, via Orlando Park Stop

As always when it comes to Epic Universe, the incomparable Orlando Park Stop has all the details, but here’s the quick version: guests will enter the land to find a downed cargo plane serving as one of the land’s merchandise locations. (Among its offerings will be Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong versions of the land’s “must-buy” collectable: the Power-Up Band.)

Image: Universal / Nintendo

Super Nintendo World’s equivalent to the Wizarding World’s Wands, Power-Up Bands can be synced with the Universal app and used to track guests’ progress through the land. That’s done by not only linking with its interactive rides and recording guests’ performance, but also by storing “Keys” that guests earn through interactive mini-game challenges. It’s rumored that Donkey Kong Country will add at least one or two mini-games to the four found in the Mushroom Kingdom… think of interactive drum circles that challenge guests to stay on beat, for example.Beyond is Donkey Kong’s Treehouse – expected to be the site of a meet-and-greet that may include next generation, real-time-interactive animatronics of characters from the franchise. But of course, all eyes will be on the land’s E-Ticket anchor… We’ll dig into the details on the next page…

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