|Match Date||Tuesday, April 6th, 2004|
|Donkey Kong - 52.70%|
52 for - 25 against
|Donkey Kong - 73.22%|
This was the most hotly-debated first round matchup within Division 8. Contra/Phantasy Star and Pong/River City Ransom came close, but most people knew where those polls were going. In this poll however, each game had a decent shot of pulling it out. And why? Because for whatever reason, Donkey Kong has become one of the weak links for the Nintendo franchise in these contests. Back in 2002, Donkey Kong was the first to show us what it was like to wear out the F5 button on our keyboards during his matchup with Aya Brea. He fell behind early, but came back with the morning vote. After the two characters were tied for what seemed like forever, Donkey Kong finally took the lead for good. In 2003, Donkey Kong had a similar matchup with Tommy Vercetti of Grand Theft Auto fame. Vercetti took a small early lead on Donkey Kong, but the big ape spent the entire day fighting his way back into the match before bracket voters were barely able to put Donkey Kong away.
With Donkey Kong's tradition of getting into close matchups in this contest, the bracket was kind enough to give him Duck Hunt as his first round opponent. What seemed like a simple 6-11 victory turned into a massive board debate once people learned of Duck Hunt's good chances at winning the match. Erasers were taken to brackets all over the board, and this turned into a bigger Division 8 upset special than Phantasy Star vs Contra. Again, most people on the board knew that Phantasy Star had no chance. In Duck Hunt's case however, it was much different. Even the Prophet Challenge was only favoring Donkey Kong by a 2:1 ratio, which never happens for a game that was once so heavily favored to win its match. In the span of a few days, Donkey Kong went from a lock to win the match to a game with a bullseye on it for upset-minded bracketmakers.
Unfortunately, the poll started around as bland as it could. Donkey Kong jumped out to an early 60-40 split in the poll, and Duck Hunt was all but dead in the water. All that excitement for nothing, apparently...
...or was it?
By the time 10:30 AM Eastern rolled around, Donkey Kong was seemingly in complete control over the match. He had a commanding lead of nearly 3300 votes, and it was nothing more than waiting for the next poll to open up after so much hype had been put into the match.
But hold the phone here. Did Duck Hunt just cut into the lead? Eh, no big deal. It was only one update.
Wait a second, did Duck Hunt just slice into the lead again? Aww, who cares. Donkey Kong is still up by over 3200 votes.
But do my eyes deceive me? Did Duck Hunt just cut into the lead again? And again? And AGAIN? Oh believe it, for the comeback trail was on. Duck Hunt began throwing everything it had at Donkey Kong in this match in its efforts to come back, despite the fact that the largest successful comeback ever seen in any contest was merely 1500 votes in the Sonic/Samus match of 2002. Still, Duck Hunt could care less. It felt that it could easily come back from being down over twice as much, and put on one of the most amazing charges ever seen in one of these contests. Throughout the day, Duck Hunt kept chipping away at the lead, with minimal resistance from Donkey Kong in retaliation. Duck Hunt also picked up a ton of steam as the day progressed, and managed to tear into Donkey Kong's lead with updated in which it cut over 100 votes off the lead all at once.
As you could imagine, the board was going nuts by the time the evening rolled around. The update topics were on fire, the bracketmakers were going at it all over the place, and with each new update, the hysteria only grew louder. Only on GameFAQs could Donkey Kong and Duck Hunt going at it ever be exciting. In the evening hours, Duck Hunt managed to get the lead to less than 1000 votes, and the anticipation of the closing of the match was imminent.
However, Donkey Kong had almost 75% of the brackets, time, and bracket voters on his side. Throughout the evening hours, Duck Hunt's gains grew smaller and smaller, and Donkey Kong even managed to win an occasional update to keep himself from being upended in the match. But on the other side of all of this, Duck Hunt was still making a push to try to win the match. And had time not run out, Duck Hunt would have most definitely won. For the last three hours of the match, the voter turnout slowed down to the point where Duck Hunt's gains simply weren't enough for it to be able to overcome the bracket voters before the end of the match. For every small push Duck Hunt made within the final few hours, Donkey Kong managed to fight back just enough to hang on tight to the lead, as well as the match. This irritated the Duck Hunt fans to no end, but it was still fun to see.
Within the final hour, Duck Hunt made a huge push to close the gap to 143, but the poll closed before any more damage could be done to the big ape. Despite being battered, bruised, and beaten halfway to hell for 16½ hours of the poll, Donkey Kong walked away a winner. How did this happen? If bracket voting was ever the difference in a match, this was it. Compared to how close the match turned out to be, an overwhelming percentage of people had Donkey Kong winning in their brackets. And while I firmly believe that people don't care about their brackets given the right match, I don't exactly think this was one such matchup. Donkey Kong, despite all of his strengths and the various pleas from Donkey Kong (the user on gamefaqs named Donkey Kong, of course =p) himself, found himself in another knock-down, drag out match. Only this time, it is obvious that he would have lost had the poll gone on just a tad bit longer.
Donkey Kong, in his own right, is a gaming legend. His game was the first to feature Mario (or Jumpman for you technical people), and it was one of the games that influenced the industry. But as a character, he doesn't seem to be able to get the love that his fellow Nintendo brethren are able to see. Outside of the Donkey Kong Country series and the original title, he doesn't come across as being as well-loved as the heavy hitters of the franchise, which causes him to be about as unreliable as they come in these contests. It's not like Nintendo has made any real effort to boost Donkey Kong's popularity, either. His last game was Donkey Kong 64. Think about how long ago that was, then think about how bad the game was. Not fitting for a character who is trying to make it to the next level in our popularity contests.
By the sheer letter of the match, Donkey Kong won. But in spirit, his game got his ass handed to it by Duck Hunt. For the better part of 16 hours, Duck Hunt was winning nearly every update in the poll. And we aren't talking weak updates here either. We're talking a consistent push on the lead, with 100 vote gains mixed in to make sure Donkey Kong was being threatened. In this match, Donkey Kong was very lucky to have his bracket and fan support, because he could have easily lost otherwise. And any doubts as to how unreliable Donkey Kong is were proven beyond any doubt in its next match.
Stats and Analysis Edit
Division 8's most debatable match was an unassuming one: a giant ape taking on a flock of ducks. Duck Hunt was a popular upset pick due to Donkey Kong's prior failures (nearly losing to Aya Brea in 2002, leading Tommy Vercetti only to blow the match in 2003). When it's close, don't support Donkey Kong, is what they said, and who could have guessed that Donkey Kong the game would experience something very similar to Donkey Kong the character.
Donkey Kong took control of the match early, and even had a solid lead after 10 hours. It looked like Duck Hunt would be the underdog pick that didn't pan out...but there will still 14 hours to go. With that time in its pocket, Duck Hunt began to chip away at the lead. Donkey Kong entered panic mode as its lead kept draining away slowly. But Duck Hunt's gaining was too slow, and in the end, Donkey Kong escaped with a win of 143 votes after being pecked to near-death for much of the poll. Once again, Donkey Kong presented a match for the history books, and looked bad doing so.
Remember when I said that the most inconsequential matches are often the most entertaining? It doesn’t hold true for any match more than this one. A hotly-debated Round One match saw what IIRC was the single biggest comeback in contest history at the time – and I’m pretty sure it remained that way until DK himself tried to come back against Master Chief in 2005. In both cases, the comeback failed, but it made for a helluva match regardless.
Donkey Kong led for the majority of the match, but Duck Hunt - Duck Hunt! - zoomed back in for an amazing comeback that nobody thought was possible at the time. The two classic games duked it out for the rest of the day until Donkey Kong managed to pull off a narrow win. Either way the match was destined to be a one-pointer, but who cares? It’s not the end result that makes these contests, it’s the journey to get there.