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K-O-N-G Letters (also formatted as KONG Letters or K O N G Letters), also known as Golden Letters, are recurring collectable items in the Donkey Kong franchise, which first appear in Donkey Kong Country. They are a set of four square-shaped objects, each displaying a letter of Kong, and they appear in every level except boss levels. All four letters can be collected for a reward, usually an extra life; in some games it is mandatory to collect them. K-O-N-G Letters also serve as progress indicators, as the letter K usually appears at the start, the letter O appears near the halfway point, and the letter G appears near the end.
In the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy, K-O-N-G Letters are flat, gold-lined objects with a letter stamped onto them. In Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the K-O-N-G Letters are redesigned with a more simplistic appearance, resembling plain orange panels with yellow letters.
Donkey Kong Country / Donkey Kong Land trilogy
K-O-N-G Letters appear in every level except for boss levels. The letters always appear in a specific location, either in plain sight or hidden. In the first Donkey Kong Country, a K-O-N-G Letter sometimes appears in a ground cache, and can be unearthed by landing from above. In Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Land 2, a K-O-N-G Letter is sometimes hidden inside a Treasure Chest, and in the former game, the letter G is sometimes a reward at an End of Level Target, such as in Krockhead Klamber.
In rare cases, there are two of a letter in a level, and by collecting either one, the duplicate letter disappears. For example in Donkey Kong Country's Snow Barrel Blast, there are two letter G's, each appearing in a path which the Kongs can take. In Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest's Chain Link Chamber, there are two letter O's in the same area. In certain versions of the original Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, the letter G does not appear in Rocket Rush.
In Donkey Kong Country, yellow letters similar to the K-O-N-G Letters appear in the "Spell it Out!" Bonus Level challenges. In them, there are letters spinning around in a circle, and the Kongs must jump at the highlighted letters to spell out a word (such as "RARE" in Vulture Culture's first Bonus Level). In the Game Boy Advance version of Donkey Kong Country, the Kongs are required to collect every letter to add to the 101% completion, and the player can check the statistics for K-O-N-G Letters from the overworld map's menu. However, in the latter two Game Boy Advance ports, it remains optional to collect every K-O-N-G Letter.
In Donkey Kong Land, the KONG Letters' purpose was changed to saving the player's game progress. To do so, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong must collect all four KONG Letters in a level and complete it. The KONG Letters have a unique role in one of the levels, Kong Krazy, which has numerous sets of KONG Letters. Shortly after collecting all letters in a set, the active Kong encounters a button, which they must press to form a bridge from the letters, thus allowing them cross over a gap. Contrarily in the game's two sequels, Donkey Kong Land 2 and Donkey Kong Land III, the K-O-N-G Letters have the same role as in the first three Donkey Kong Country games.
In the Game Boy Advance ports of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, the K-O-N-G Letter sprites have a spinning animation, and unlike the original release they neither sparkle nor shimmer. The sprites are the same throughout the three ports, unlike the original Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, which has different K-O-N-G Letter sprites than the first Donkey Kong Country.
DK: Jungle Climber
Donkey Kong Country Returns
In Donkey Kong Country Returns and its Nintendo 3DS remake, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, KONG Letters are required collectible items. When Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong obtain every letter in a level, an orange pin with a black star appears under the name of the level. When they collect every KONG Letter in a world, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong unlock a Key Temple featuring one of the Rare Orbs. In Mirror Mode, the letters on the KONG Letters are flipped like the other surroundings. Unlike the normal mode, it is optional for the player to collect the KONG Letters in a level, though doing so changes the orange pin to blue. K-O-N-G Letters do not appear in the Golden Temple or in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D's other Cloud levels.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
In Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, KONG Letters retain their appearance and role from the previous game, Donkey Kong Country Returns. The Kongs must collect every KONG Letter in a world to unlock a temple level, which has a Mysterious Relic instead of a Rare Orb. In the Hard Mode, the KONG Letters are colored blue.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest