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Red Balloons, also known as Life Balloons, 1-Up Balloons or simply Balloons, are recurring items in the Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong Land series that grant extra lives to the Kongs.
Donkey Kong franchise
Donkey Kong Country trilogy
In the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy, the Red Balloons only give one more life. The less frequent Green Balloons and Blue Balloons provide two and three extra lives respectively, and the three variants are collectively referred to as Donkey Kong Balloons, 1-up Balloons, or Extra Life Balloons (also spelled Extra-Life Balloons or extra lives balloons). By collecting an Extra Life Balloon, it floats to the life counter on the upper-right corner of the screen. If the Kongs lose a life, the life counter appears on-screen, and its balloon icon pops and decreases by one.
Extra Life Balloons first appear in Donkey Kong Country, where they are in the shape of Donkey Kong's head. An Extra Life Balloon is often rewarded for completing a Bonus Area, but a few appear in the level itself, such as on the treetops of Jungle Hijinxs. They can also be rarely found when Hand Slapping certain areas (in place of Banana Bunches). Some Extra Life Balloons float up in the air and must be quickly collected before floating off screen.
In Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, the Extra Life Balloons were changed into the shape of Diddy Kong's head, likely owing to him as the new main protagonist. Extra Life Balloons rarely appear within Bonus Areas, which feature Kremkoins as the main reward instead. The main method for obtaining Extra Life Balloons is by completing the quizzes at Swanky's Bonus Bonanza, where the type of Life Balloon rewarded corresponds to the number of Banana Coins the Kongs must pay to participate in a quiz. Some of the hints at Kong Kollege and Monkey Museum provide hints on where the Kongs can find an Extra Life Balloon within a level. Some No Animal Signs reward an Extra Life Balloon if the Kongs cross with an Animal Friend.
A few of the later levels feature black Klobbers, who cause Diddy and Dixie Kong to lose an Extra Life Balloon whenever it bumps into them. As the Extra Life Balloon(s) float upward, the Kongs have a few seconds to recollect the Extra Life Balloons before they disappear.
In the sequel, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, Extra Life Balloons have the same main purpose as the previous two games, and its overall role is more similar to that of Donkey Kong Country 2. In the game, Extra Life Balloons were redesigned in the shape of Dixie's head, the main protagonist of the game. Like in Donkey Kong Country 2, some No Animal Signs still reward an Extra Life Balloon to the Kongs if they pass it as an Animal Friend or with Parry the Parallel Bird. In one instance in Rocket Barrel Ride, where if Dixie and Kiddy pass the No Animal Sign with Parry, they are rewarded with a blue Extra Life Balloon. At Swanky's Sideshow, Swanky Kong may reward an Extra Life Balloon, among other items, to Dixie and Kiddy, if they perform well against Cranky Kong.
Donkey Kong Land trilogy
In the Donkey Kong Land trilogy, every Extra Life Balloon only grants one life, and represent the Red Balloons from the Donkey Kong Country games. The monochromatic Game Boy screen cannot distinguish between the differently-colored Extra Life Balloons. When the active Kong obtains an Extra Life Balloon, a Life Heart (which represents an extra life) appears on the HUD at the bottom.
In Donkey Kong Land and Donkey Kong Land 2, the Extra Life Balloons have the same shape as their Donkey Kong Country counterparts. In Donkey Kong Land III, which recycles many of its sprites directly from Donkey Kong Land 2, the Life Balloons are still in the shape of Diddy's head despite him not appearing in the game. In the Game Boy Color port of Donkey Kong Land III, the Extra Life Balloon sprites are red, which affirms them representing Red Balloons.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
In Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Red Balloons were redesigned with the appearance of a normal balloon. Red Balloons are the only Balloons that return in the Wii version. In the Nintendo 3DS version, a Green Balloon can be bought from Cranky Kong's Shop in every world, which allows the Kongs to recover from a pitfall without losing a life.
If Donkey Kong loses a life, he is shown floating from a Balloon out the the top of the screen; during this, the lives counter displays in the center and decreases by one life. In single-player mode, after this occurs, Donkey Kong floats back to the level while holding on a Balloon. He either returns to the start or to a checkpoint, based on his level progress. Once he reaches the ground or the player presses a button, the Balloon pops, and Donkey Kong can continue moving through the level.
In two-player mode, both players share their extra lives. If either player loses a life, they can float back onscreen in a DK Barrel hanging from a Balloon after pressing if the remote is held sideways, or if the Nunchuk is attached to the remote. This is similar to how players float around in bubbles in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. If both Kongs simultaneously lose a life, often from falling down a pit, they lose two extra lives in total. Like single-player mode, if both Kongs lose a life or if one of them loses a life while the other is missing, they must restart the level or from the last checkpoint.
The Kongs can purchase some Life Balloons via Cranky Kong's Shop in groups of either one, three or seven (priced at 3, 7, and 15 Banana Coins respectively). If the player selects a save file where the Kongs are low on lives, Cranky provides them with some extra balloons. There are also three balloons (one red, one yellow, and one blue) on the roof of Cranky Kong's Shop, the latter two of which do not have an in-game role.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
In Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and its Nintendo Switch port, Red Balloons act the same as in its predecessor. However, Funky's Fly 'n' Buy only sells single life-giving Red Balloons. Performing a Kong POW with Diddy also turns all on-screen enemies into Red Balloons. Green Balloons also return from the prior game's 3DS remake. Blue Balloons appear as well, now giving the Kongs more air underwater.
An Extra Life Balloon makes a small appearance in Super Mario-Kun as a small drawing at the end of Issue 14 on page 127.
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Names in other languages