Those very early NES games… they’re not ones you get the bug for

Donkey Kong 3 (1983)

Bugs, bugs, bugs… I’m telling you, they’re everywhere. It might even be that my house is bugged with listening devices – actually, I already know it is, I’m typing this on my phone right now. But I’m not talking about electronics here – I’m on about our constant struggle to keep human supremacy over our fellow partaker in earth’s space: insects.

It’s obviously difficult for even the most ennui-affected, do-nothing professor to actually verify this, but we understand that there are 200 million insects for every single person on earth. Are you serious?! My calculator breaks when I try to multiply 200 million by 7 billion. Well, strictly speaking that’s not true, but it starts giving me the letter “e” instead which obviously stands for error. But I think we can surmise that, if those insects ever did put all their differences aside, banded together and took us on… well, I’m plenty tough, but I ain’t tough enough to take on 200 million in a row, am I?

I have it bad enough here in Ireland, even though the bugs you come up against here aren’t that bad really, in the grand scheme of things. We had to deal with some woodlice in our house, or pillbugs as I belive our American cousins call them, prior to getting out Pappy’s flamethrower and dealing with them that way. They’ll infest your nice clothes and turn your wardrobe space into a dank, musty mess, so take care of them as much as you can.

They’re not so bad, but you’ll definitely run into problems with silverfish, neither half of their name giving an accurate idea of the things at all. If you get these in your house, like I have before, then good luck to you because they breed like rabbits on Kamagra, and you’ll be looking out for them and killing them on pretty much a nightly basis until you think you’re safe. But then poof, they magically reappear again.

You probably now think of me as a disgusting sort who lives in squalor, but I’m going on to my next bug now and I know this’ll resonate with everyone – spiders. Yes, yes, I know, they’re not insects per se, but they ain’t cute and cuddly puppies either now are they? But if you saw some of the chaps who’ve been appearing in my house lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking they could eat a puppy whole. And I remind you that I’m in a country of a temperate climate, where pretty much nothing kills you.

In Australia, you have to check your shoes every day in case a massive beastly arachnid has nestled itself in there, and it’s probably the only country in the world where a house being advertised as having a basement or cellar would actually knock some value off it – keep an old cupboard down there, and you better believe it’ll be a spider breeding ground for the biggest, hairiest, most foul beasts imaginable.

Christ, even just opening a dusty old press (that’s Irish speak for cupboard) and seeing one or two enormous hairy buggers in there has me shuddering. Can you imagine if it jumped out at you? We don’t have anything like the distressing camel spiders or Sydney funnelwebs here, but have spiders in non-lethal countries been getting bigger or what?

I had to hoover one up the other day (because it would have just laughed at the old paper and glass trick, believe me) and the thing had sufficient strength to hang onto the wall for a few seconds, even with maximum suckage coming its way. Even when it finally went down the tube, I had to apprehensively check the tank just to make sure it had died. Its last hurrah was equal parts impressive and horrifying, like all great predators in nature, I suppose. I don’t like to kill any of God’s creatures of course, but sometimes it really is me or them.

Hence I am not entirely onboard with old Stanley’s gameplan to remove insects and pests in Donkey Kong 3, formerly of the arcade in a time where colour television was still a novelty, and later to be released on NES. I don’t remember a Donkey Kong 2, but it might have been on the piddly old Game and Watch. If not, maybe Donkey Kong Jr. was intended to be the second game? Either way, Donkey Kong 3 is probably the most obscure in the series, and but for an appearance as a Smash Bros. trophy, sticker and spirit, we haven’t heard any more noise from this game. 

It’s got a foreboding start though – Donkey Kong, sick of being put on his backside by Mario, waited for old Mario to go away on vacation, or to start his doctor training or to umpire at a tennis match or whatever it was he was doing that week. The big old villainous ape then allied himself with some insects in an effort to wreck Stanley’s greenhouse. I’m not sure why, I don’t know if Mario and Stanley even know each other. Maybe DK is just a spiteful ape after all? But anyway, Stanley will have to fight back using bug spray to keep the plants safe, while repelling Donkey Kong who hangs gaily over the action unfolding below.

Now, there’s several things wrong here. Firstly, bug spray doesn’t work at all, you know that and I know that. You need something far more powerful, and more powerful tools do exist in the Nintendo universe – he could have borrowed a flamethrower from Samus, or better again, Luigi’s vacuum cleaner. Bug spray just angers the enemy and makes them fly even more erratically, that is to say, even more grotesquely. You wouldn’t try to fire spray at a flying roach, now would you? It’ll be the last thing you ever do before it flies at you and you die of a heart attack.

This seems to be what happens to poor old Stanley – when an insect makes any kind of contact with him, he seemingly dies of heart failure along with a particularly sinister music jingle. He’s got two more lives, a few less than your average wolf spider, but if he loses them then that’s it.

Anyway, you’ll have already “enjoyed” the bulk of the game by then because this is another of those very early Nintendo games where there ain’t much to do beyond getting a high score, although it’s fun to put DK’s head in a beehive if you can. Stanley doesn’t fare too well here, and he never got another game outing again. I dread to think what the punishment for such failure at Nintendo HQ is. Or indeed, what the punishment is for the crime of killing important insects, like our friend the bumblebee. Perhaps it’s exile to the deathzone known as Australia, like all of the other criminals?

8 February 2022

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