Vaporwave’s not for everyone. This niche subgenre of electronic music can be described as dreamlike or downbeat, punctuated by the retro sounds of obsolete elements from ‘80s and ‘90s culture. But it’s more than just a sound; vaporwave culture also takes aim at consumerism and the mainstream through a mixture of nostalgia and surrealism. It’s also incredibly esoteric, and outside of its cult fanbase, many may find the whole thing a bit too impenetrable.
Still, despite claims that vaporwave is a dead genre (mainly because it got noticed by people), new projects keep spawning from it. This latest should be an appealing one to anyone who ever picked up a video game controller, as the SNES classic Donkey Kong Country has been transformed into a full-on vaporwave gaming experience.
This game, titled DonkeyKong.exe (or スーパードンキーコング Ｄ Ｒ Ｅ Ａ Ｍ Ａ Ｋ Ｅ), is a hypnotic reimagining of the original, complete with a lethargic version of the game’s memorable soundtrack and a dizzying array of retro screen effects and sounds. As Donkey, Diddy, and Cranky Kong traverse through this freakish experiment, players will notice that this isn’t quite the same game they grew up with.
Characters only have the ability to walk side to side and jump, and many of the title’s staples have been transformed to fit the vaporwave ideology. Memorable locations have been replaced with a neon landscape of geometric vector graphics, and robotic bleeps and bloops stand in for the game’s original sound effects.
One of the most interesting changes is the collectible letters from the original that once only spelled out “Kong.” Here they have much darker messages like “Consume” and “Obey,” as you’ll soon find that all you can really do in DonkeyKong.exe is collect bananas and watch as Cranky falls into an abyss of commercialization. The theme of consumption fits in well with the genre’s cultural outlook. In an interview with Kotaku, the game’s creator, Sebastian Strand, noted that he was drawn to vaporwave because of its "ambivalent relationship to commercialism and the notion of dissecting (often superficial) popular culture and twisting and redefining it into something new just tickles me the right way.”
For the most part, DonkeyKong.exe is beyond a written explanation. If you’re interested in this bizarre take on the beloved Super Nintendo game, you can download it for free.