Review by katamari_roller

"All the fun of the arcade Donkey Kong...minus 25% percent of it, that is"

Donkey Kong was an arcade game known mostly for introducing Mario and Donkey Kong to the world, both being widely known video game characters to this day. When Nintendo introduced this game to the American consumers, they loved it. Like any arcade hit, it spawned ports for home consoles like rabbits. Naturally, Nintendo would port the game to their home console, the NES. By my rating, you can already guess I enjoy the game, but not to the point of worship. Let me elaborate further.

For starters, I'll introduce the story. Yes, this arcade game actually had a storyline, courtesy of now legendary game creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. In the game, Mario, errr...I mean Jumpman (He wasn't Mario until the eponymous game Mario Bros came out) is a carpenter (That's right, not a plumber until Mario Bros comes out) who unfairly mistreats his pet ape, Donkey Kong. Out of pure spite for Jumpman, Donkey Kong steals his girlfriend Pauline (Despite popular belief, Peach didn't appear until Super Mario Bros and even then, she was named Princess Toadstool) and climbs the nearest construction site. Jumpman follows in hot pursuit and it's a battle for the ages. Man versus ape, fighting for the pretty woman atop the large construction site.

The gameplay fits the style of games from the 80s: they are ridiculously simple, yet the gameplay takes a lot of skill to survive. Left and right on the D-Pad move Jumpman left and right. Up and down allow Jumpman to clim and descend the ladders scattered around the game. As his name implies, a push of the A button lets Jumpman jump over obstacles that keep him from his beloved Pauline. During each level of the game exculding the final one, your goal is to climb to the top of the level, avoiding various dangers like barrels, sparks, and falling to reach Pauline. In the first level, you have to ascend the first structure, which is a series of diagonal beams with ladders connecting them. Donkey Kong throws barrels at you from the top of the level which you can either jump or break with a hammer. Hammers, located in the first and last levels of the game, are much like Power Pellets in Pac-Man. When you grab one, you get to turn the tables on your enemies by smashing them all into bits! Unfortunately, you can't jump or use ladders while swinging the hammer. The second level features sparks, which will try to kill Jumpman and are a pain to jump over, and elevators you have to carefully board, lest you lose a life trying. If you manage to survive, a spring boucing along the uppermost beam will attempt to hit you. Without proper timing, the spring is a formidable foe which will kill you many times unless you stop to learn the safe spots in the spring's path. The third and last level is the epic climax of the game. Donkey Kong goes all out in his quest to make Jumpman's life hell. This level has many sparks who can trap you in a corner if you make foolish decisions. To clear this level, you have to run across yellow blocks (I'm not exactly sure what they are) which hold the structure together. One you get rid of them, Donkey Kong falls and hits his head on some steel beams below. Meanwhile, Jumpman and Pauline are united at long last, gazing into eachothers eyes, a heart between them symbolizing their love, when the game goes back to the first level. Also like most 80s video games, the game has no real ending. You go through the three levels, trying to score as many points as you can before you finally lose. Each time you complete the set of three levels, the game gets harder. It does not take long for the game to get really hard. In my opinion, the game is extremely hard during the thrid time you are introduced to level two. The elevators and sparks are not that difficult to get by, but the spring is significantly faster than before. I have rarely gotten past it on level three and if I do, I don't survive much longer than the fourth time on level one. If you recall the title of the review, I said this game had 25% of the original Donkey Kong arcade game removed from it. Believe it or not, the original game had four level instead of three. After the elevator level, there was a level called the "pie factory" level by Donkey Kong fans. It had a series of conveyor belts and pies to avoid. After you cleared this level, you went to the final one. Why they couldn't port the pie factory level is beyond me. The NES was limited in how much it could hold, but I'm sure it could have handled one more level! With such expansive levels found in games like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong doesn't feel like a compete game without the REAL third level.

Graphically, the game follows the arcade game as close as it can. Back in the days of arcades, Donkey Kong was considered to have some of the best and detailed graphics out of all the arcade games. Due to the NES's limited power, the game couldn't reproduce all the details found on the arcade game, but did the best it could with the available technology. All in all, the graphics look like the original more than any other competing console's Donkey Kong port.

Unfortunately, the sounds in Donkey Kong are not that impressive. To be honest, even the original arcade machine didn't have any catchy music. Music is only present for the first and last levels and it's usually drowned out by the sounds of Jumpman jumping, Donkey Kong beating his chest, or any of the other ingame actions with sounds.

In the competitive arcade gaming community, Donkey Kong is hailed as one of the most devious arcade games ever created and for a good reason. The game gets hard quickly. Most people can easily breeze through the first two sets of levels with little to no difficulty, but a lot of people's games end when going through the levels for a third time. Donkey Kong's replay value is very high due to this dificulty. If you have another Donkey Kong playing friend nearby, you can play the game's two player mode and try to earn more points.

Although Donkey Kong is a rather old game, it's legacy is still present today. Donkey Kong went from a character in an arcade game to having his very own series of platformers for the SNES called the Donkey Kong Country series. Donkey Kong and some of his relatives make cameo appearances in several Nintendo games as well as having occasional spinoff games. This port of the classic arcade game is great, but only gives you 75% of the actual arcade Donkey Kong experience. If you want to experience the full Donkey Kong game without searching for an arcade that still has a Donkey Kong machine or paying up to $2000 for a recreation of the arcade cabinet, you can either buy Donkey Kong 64 for the Nintendo 64, where it appears as an unlockable minigame or download an arcade machine emulator for your computer and a Donkey Kong ROM. If neither of these options are available for you, the NES port still provides the thrills of the arcade, just not enough.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/08

Game Release: Donkey Kong (US, 06/30/86)


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