As I said last time, I wanted a quick breather this month. You know, a more obscure character, someone harboring a more succinct, less celebrated existence. While there were a few options under consideration, a certain collaborative project inspired me to bump Diddy Kong Racing’s Bumper to the front of the waiting list.
However, I first need to thank everyone who crossed the finish line with me:
- TheAnvil, my good friend and fellow Kong documentarian, for offering commentary and helping with edits.
- Wolfman_J and Voyager, two of our talented teammates, who also looked over the piece and offered support.
Diddy Kong Racing introduced a plethora of colorful, prospective mascots in 1997, three of whom proceeded to live rewarding, celebrated lives. However, most of Diddy Kong’s social circle faded into obscurity, never becoming fixtures within Rare’s ensemble.
One of those underappreciated racers happens to be our favorite heavy-weight badger…
We’ve covered Diddy Kong Racing’s unique development history twice already, but it bears repeating that the game wasn’t conceived as a spin-off to the Nintendo-owned Donkey Kong license. However, Rare always planned to populate the racer with a plethora of anthropomorphic animals, including Bumper. As an aside, the internet is rampart with musings that Timber was planned to star in a marquee Nintendo 64 game with Pipsy and Bumper in supporting roles, but former Rare employees Martin Wakeley and Lee Musgrave have affirmed those claims are unfounded.
Thus, 1997’s Diddy Kong Racing remains the badger’s biggest appearance. Its manual explains how Bumper, unlike most of his kin, relishes in speed and adventure. So, when the foul Wizpig endangers the normally serene Timber’s Island, he’s eager to become the racing champion Taj sought. During the game’s ending, Bumper happily parties with his friends, celebrating the successful purging of the hog’s influence from the racetrack-saturated islet. A decade later, Bumper reprised his role for Diddy Kong Racing DS. Arguably set a decade after the original, Bumper’s portly figure remained intact.
Sadly, like the majority of Diddy Kong Racing’s cast, Bumper’s career never took off. He was absent from the ill–fated Diddy Kong Pilot, nor did he seem slated for the even less fortunate Donkey Kong Racing or The Fast & Furriest. Climax Studios’ Diddy Kong Racing Adventure initially intended to bring in many Racing returnees, with dark doublegangers – including a Dark Bumper – operating as their rivals. However, had it been greenlit by Nintendo, Adventure would’ve housed a far more Donkey Kong-centric lineup; Rare’s Leigh Loveday testified to how Rare retained ownership of Diddy Kong Racing‘s roster barring the Kongs and Krunch. (Amusingly, Loveday was also relieved he could still helm the M-rated Bumper prequel he envisioned.)
However, unlike the majority of Diddy Kong Racing’s cast, Bumper’s escapades did continue past his Nintendo 64 debut, albeit off-screen. Conker, in his 2004 written forward commemorating the then-new Conker: Live & Reloaded, made a passing remark that implied one of his former associates “was in jail.” Loveday, a man whose authority I defer to, confirmed in 2012 that it was Bumper, and the veteran Rare figurehead was asked later that year to clarify Bumper’s situation. As it turns out, Bumper was imprisoned partially because he’s “so far down the list of old Rare characters in with a chance of a spectacular comeback.” It also “sounded funny” and functioned as a callback to Bumper’s dubious butt-slapping animation in Diddy Kong Racing’s character select screen.
Bumper’s predicament even caused some friction to arise behind the scenes here at Source Gaming between TheAnvil and myself; whereas he diligently places his faith in Bumper’s innocence, I trust the legal proceedings that indicted him. Loveday himself even chimed in during one of our conversations, affirming justice was served.
So, what does this all mean for Bumper’s future? Well, Loveday’s insight on the matter seems accurate; he doesn’t have much of one. Nonetheless, the endearing “furry maniac” lives on in our hearts…
So, what’re my thoughts on Bumper?
While I liked him decently enough, Bumper failed to catch my attention in Diddy Kong Racing. Not that I had anything against him, he merely blended in with his cohorts, being one face in a colorful roster hosting other characters whose aesthetics appealed to me more. However, if we were judging Bumper purley from his two in-game appearances, his ho-hum resumé doesn’t offer much worth discussing.
But, thankfully, that’s not all Bumper has to his credit. When I was a kid, I occasionally wondered what my favorite video game protagonists were doing on their days off, periods when they weren’t encumbered with a perilous adventure. Did Mario and Luigi lounge around their humble cottage all day? Was Sonic roaming the globe, taking in the wonderful sights? Was Kirby really doing his taxes?
Rare explored this concept through Diddy Kong Racing‘s manual, explaining how Diddy’s friendship with Conker and Banjo was forged during his off-screen escapades. Bumper, likewise, later embarked upon his own off-camera misadventures. When I read Conker’s public address, I was amused by the startling revelation, pondering over the culprit’s identity. I, using my intuition, figured there was always something suspicious about Bumper, and I laughed when my hunch was proven correct.
Dedicated fans of Rare’s work are presumably familiar with Mr. Pants and Roysten, two characters known for cameoing across numerous titles. I’d like Bumper to be admitted into their stratum, offering another in-joke to those of us who’re aware of and care about Rare’s bizarre continuity. In an upcoming game, perhaps Sea of Thieves, I want to discover a jail cell in some remote corner of the world, and I want to see a dark-furred badger trapped therein. Afterwards, future titles could expand on Bumper’s saga, perhaps implying he escaped by adorning wanted posters in a town somewhere. Naturally, this will lead into a narrative-focused title starring a hardened, emotionally battered Bumper who’ll be forced to come to terms with his past transgressions and re-adjust back into society.
I don’t expect any of that to happen, however, and I’m content with Bumper’s conviction remaining the amusing footnote it currently exists as. But, regardless of whether he’s guilty or not, the nature of Bumper’s criminal record will continue to keep his character alive, even if he never physically appears again.
Congratulations, Bumper! #GuiltyBadger
We’re going to keep talking about talking animals next month. In fact, it’ll even double as a return to the Super Smash Bros. family! I’d better hit the dojo…
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