Review by stonedwal

"It's all fun and games until the monkey falls off the building."

Many would say that Nintendo's wide variety of franchise titles would have to be its strongest asset. Known characters, whose games are top notch, and always sell like hotcakes. The strong catalog of licenses had to begin somewhere...the first out of the primordial soup of popular Nintendo creations was Donkey Kong. A young man, who calls himself Shigeru Miyamoto (perhaps you have heard of him?), set out in 1981 to make a videogame. Originally, this videogame was to be based on the Popeye license (which came later). Donkey Kong was the product of Miyamoto's efforts. Although originally called Monkey Kong (I think), the title was changed based on threats by Universal, who control the King Kong license. In the game, a large Ape like creature, possibly an Ape, who goes by the name of Donkey Kong, is up to no good. He has kidnapped the lovely Pauline, who happens to be the love interest of a little man who likes to call himself Mario. While Mario is currently a carpenter, many of his friends believe he has a bit of a knack for plumbing. Being your usual brave hero type, Mario sets off to save Pauline from the clutches of the surly simian, so he can live happily ever after...or at least until he changes careers. Ah, who am I kidding - any self respecting person who considers themselves to be a gamer, especially those quote ''hardcore and old school gamers'' unquote, should already know just about everything there is to know about this game - and if you don't, turn in your badge and your uniform, attach the Rock of Shame, and get the hell out of here, because you are a disgrace to gamers around the globe.

In 1981, graphics were a rather simplistic affair. In fact, a lot of games used to be able to get fine without the use of graphics. Fortunately for those graphic whores amongst us, Nintendo have decided to include graphics in Donkey Kong. Go Nintendo! Donkey Kong gains the most out of this graphical splurge, being the most animated character on the screen, and so he should - this is his game (even though he is the antagonist). Mario on the other hand, has been screwed around, receiving less animated benefit that that of his opponent, hardly fair, seeing he has to do all the work. Pauline however, doesn't move. While this could lead us on to such silly questions as 'Is Pauline real? Or is she just Mario's blow up [snip - Ed]...well, let's just say Pauline is animatically deprived. Background are kept rather simple...well, honestly, there are no backgrounds. The level variation is a little bit lacking in variation, all 3 levels taking the form of construction-like areas. Unfortunately, the much beloved (well, by me at least) Factory level has been abandoned for this home port, disappointing.

Donkey Kong has one of the most thrilling soundtracks in the history of videogames. While it was composed by Miyamoto himself (most likely on one of those dinky little Casio keyboards ;)), and can be faithfully replicated by a 3 year old and a mini piano, it goes down as one of those all time classic soundtracks which you will never forget. The music of Donkey Kong features an Andy Griffith-esque simplicity; these tracks will be sticking in your head all day. In particular, I found the title screen music, the level introduction music, and the music of the first level to be spine-tinglingly brilliant. Thanks to the raw power of the NES's sound synthesizer; we have been treated to an extra sound effect that was not featured in the original Donkey Kong arcade game! Mario's footsteps are now aurally represented. Mario's aerial escapades are also voiced. While the sound effects are few, those that are there are pleasing, especially for an early game.

Games of the classic era only had one component to rely on, their gameplay. Unlike today, where people seem to think graphics can make a game, games of this era had to rely on great gameplay to avoid people leaving them on the store shelves. Donkey Kong does not disappoint in this regard. Unfortunately, in the transition from the Arcade machine to the NES, the Factory level has been lost. In a 4 level game, the loss of a level is very painful. Fortunately, the levels which remain are still top notch. The first level places you in a construction area. An agitated Donkey Kong throws his weight around, resulting in these level platforms being turned into ramps. After the silly monkey snickers at you, you must get to the top of the level. Unfortunately, Donkey Kong has decided to be a bit of a jerk, and throw barrels at you, to hamper your progress, and to make matters worse, certain barrels (distinguished by their blue colour) contain petrol, which creates a flame enemy, who believes it is his duty to chase you, making sure you cant fart ass around, and jump barrels all day. Mario is not without his own devices, to turn the tables back to his favour. Apart from jumping to avoid these barrels, Mario can grab a mallet, which enables him to smash the barrels, as well as sort out those menacing flames, by giving them a good bonk on the noggin'. Once Mario reaches the peak of this behemoth structure, his victory is cut short, as Donkey Kong nabs Pauline, and takes the poor damsel up to the next level. The second of the three levels is an elaborate maze of elevators and ladders. Donkey Kong has run out of barrels to toss at our hero, but a bunch of springs with minds of their own have filled the void left by their wooden compatriots. Once you finally reach the top of the platforms, Donkey Kong takes off again, for the thrilling finale. This time, your task is simple, avoid the flames, and remove the bricks from the structure. Scattered throughout the levels are various bonuses in the forms of gifts for Pauline (or one would think they are). These gifts reward you with points, which enable you to obtain extra lives, and bragging rights on the high score charts. Controlling Mario is a simple task. The directional pad moves the moustached one around the level, A jumps, and start pauses.

Thanks to its limited arsenal of three levels, Donkey Kong doesn't really put up much of a fight in longevity terms. There are alternate difficulty modes, and the game does continue indefinitely, but I believe most of the fun in the game lies in its take turns two player mode, and building up high scores. This is gaming from the golden age folks, back when things required skill, rather than being 50 hour long movies with random battles coming out of every orifice.

And now we continue onto the much criticised (by the elitist pigs from the review board) breakdown section; (remember, these ratings are against other titles on the system)

Graphics: 7.5

Generally pleasing graphics, with enough animation to suffice. No collision detection issues are present, and the game is slowdown free.

Sound: 8.2

A simplistic, yet highly addictive soundtrack combined with just the right amount of sound effects. In my opinion, it’s among the best stuff on the system, but when did people actually listen to what I said?

Story: 5.0

Shouldn't really have a story, but there wasn't much to compete against in 1981. Just your basic case of 'crazed animal stealing girlfriend'.

Gameplay: 9.5

You know the deal for the old days, you either had gameplay, and people loved you, or you didn't and you were stuck on the shelves for the next 20 years. Donkey Kong has great gameplay, and is something you can still go back to, 21 years later.

Control: 9.0

Easy to pick up, and free of bad collision detection - how many NES games can honestly say that?

Lastability: 6.0

You'll come back to it one day, when you need your retrogaming fix, but other than that, it's about 10 minutes work. High scores can be very competitive, but that’s up to the person who is playing.

Pro's

- Near perfect arcade port
- New sounds
- Classic gameplay
- Great music

Con's

- The factory level has been dropped :(
- The game is a tad easy

Does this game belong in my collection? Yes

You shouldn't even be asking this game. You should already own this game. Shame on you if you don't (* stonedwal releases the hounds).

Overall: 9.0 (not an average, adjusted for GameFAQs score systems)

Donkey Kong for the NES is a near-flawless port of the arcade original, apart from the completely unjustified exclusion of the Factory level. This is one for the books. One which belongs in every collection. One which will forever remain in the hearts and minds of gamers, both young and old for years to come.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/25/01, Updated 10/19/02


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