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Overview

A green balloon 
   
Extra life balloons give the duos lives. They come in 3 varieties, Red balloons which award one life, green balloons which award two lives, and blue balloons which award three lives. When a Kong dies, a distinct "pop" sound is made - representing the popping of a balloon. In addition, some Extra Life Balloons will start to float upward when they appear on screen to add a time pressure to collecting them. Usually they are shaped like the marque Kong of the game in question with the exception of DKLIII and DKCR, in which they were shaped like Diddy's head and a regular balloon respectively.
   

Donkey Kong Country Series

 A DKC Bonus Stage
 
In Donkey Kong Country the Extra Life Balloon was introduced in the first level, Jungle Hijinx. The level was chock full of extra lives, with a grand total of 7 extra life balloons spread between treetops, DK's treehouse and a bonus stage right after encountering Rambi. In DKC, lives were also found as a prize for timing based bonus levels on occasion, however that was discontinued in DKC2 and 3 after the introduction of the Kremcoin standardized the bonus level. In the later games Balloons did tend to show up inside chests, or as a reward for passing a "No Buddy Sign" in addition to just floating in midair. 
 

Past the Donkey Kong Country Series  

 DKR's collectible Balloons
The Diddy Kong Racing games used balloons as the main collectible and the source of power ups. In races, the balloons varied by color depending on what power up they held. Drivers could also stack power ups, powering up ones they already have by driving through balloons of the same color. Outside of races, balloons of a different sort were collected to open up new worlds and new tracks. They came in several colors, though it didn't effect their use. Players would get one balloon for beating a race, and another for beating a race while collecting 8 silver tokens. They would also get balloons for beating a boss, beating a challenge, or for coming across one in the central hub. In the DS Port, the token challenge was replaced by a touch screen based challenge where the player was asked to pop a certain number of balloons.
 
 The Banana Balloon
 In DK64 the lack of lives left the Extra Life Balloon with no purpose, so instead Banana Balloons were introduced - balloons containing 10 bananas that had to be shot by a specific Kong. Their coloring determined who they belonged to, yellow being for DK, red for Diddy, blue for Lanky, purple for Tiny, and green for Chunky. While DK64 had abandoned the idea of color indicating  value, other Rare games hadn't. In the Banjo-Kazooie franchise the same three colors, Red, Green and Blue, are used in many mini-games to represent tiers of targets with the point values you'd expect.
 
In Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast, balloons are also used to obtain items ala Diddy Kong Racing.
 

The Return of Donkey Kong Country

 The new balloons
In Donkey Kong Country Returns, the Extra Life Balloon has returned with a new implementation. Instead of simply popping after every death, the balloons are instead used to lift DK and Diddy out of harms way after they take too many hits. Additionally, when a Kong dies in co-op he returns to the screen as a DK barrel suspended in midair by an Extra Life Balloon, similar to the bubbles of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
 
The Extra Life Balloons shown so far are not in the shape of Kong heads like the balloons of old. Instead they are shaped like ordinary balloons.

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