"Best classic-style Donkey Kong game ever made."

Tons of people love the original Donkey Kong arcade game for no apparent reason - It's aged fairly poorly over the years, what with Mario's horribly slow trodding through the stages, impossible difficulty after some loops, and the fact that there's only 4 stages (And an outrageous 3 in home ports) that infinitely loop. A while before Rare released Donkey Kong Country on the SNES and turned DK into a hero instead of a villain, Nintendo made one more effort to create a classic DK game. And oh man, did they succeed.

Donkey Kong, originally, looks like a graphically updated version of the original game. The boxart depicts Mario swinging a hammer at Donkey Kong, who's running away with Pauline, as barrels and flames appear around Mario. When starting the game, you will even begin in the first stage of the original game. But that's where the similarities end.

Mario's gained new moves: This is the first game in which he does handstand jumps and backflips, and can hang on wires, swinging around to increase his speed before he flies up into the air. He's also picked up the pace from the original game and runs faster. And using these moves, the first level of the game is a cakewalk. Mario can pretty much backflip four times and be done with it. What follows is the other three stages of the original game (Yes, this means this game has all 4 original stages - The only other Nintendo system port that has all 4 is Donkey Kong 64, which includes the original arcade game as a bonus), after which you assume DK's unconscious, you've rescued Pauline, and you just wasted your money.

But what happens next is one of the biggest surprises ever to anybody who's never played this game before: Donkey Kong suddenly wakes up and creates an earthquake, causing Mario and Pauline's platform to crumble. Mario falls down on his head and DK catches Pauline, and the chase is on again as DK flees the classic construction site and heads towards the big city, containing 8 more stages. Mario follows, and what follows next is the gameplay you may be familiar with if you've played Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA) - In each level, DK will run through a door with Pauline, and Mario will have to solve platforming and puzzle challenges, dodging both new and old enemies, to retrieve a key from somewhere, which will unlock the door. In each normal stage, Mario has the opportunity to retrieve 3 of Pauline's objects - A hat, purse and umbrella (She sure has a lot!), which will allow you to play a bonus game to earn extra lives at the end of the stage.

After 3 of these normal stages, you will have an encounter with DK, which is much like the original game. DK sits at the top of a stage, and Mario must find a way to get up there. These DK stages are larger than the original game's stages, and aren't as easy.

Then, after 3 more stages, Mario must battle DK for real. DK will throw around objects, which Mario must grab. Then he climbs to the top of the stage and throws them at DK. After 3 hits, he's done and grabs Pauline again, making off to another world.

The worlds themselves aren't that inspired - There's the aforementioned Big City, followed by Forest, Ship, Jungle, Desert, Airplane, Iceberg, Rocky Valley and finally Tower (Yes, these are their actual names). A few of these (Such as Big City) only have 8 stages, but others have 12, and Rocky Valley is the sole area to have a whopping 16. In areas with 12 or 16 stages, this means there are 2 or 3 normal DK encounters before the battle encounter at the end.

The worlds get progessively harder as you go on. The Ship, for example, is the first area to emphasize on the clotheslines Mario can hang on. He has to swing on them quickly and then release to reach higher areas more easily. The Jungle emphasizes on vine climbing, much like the vines in the arcade/NES game Donkey Kong Jr., in which you played as Jr. instead of Mario, and the Jungle also introduces Donkey Kong Jr. himself, who will aid DK in certain stages. The Airplane stages all have wind that blows you around, and the Iceberg has slippery floors everywhere. The worlds all offer their unique and interesting features, which will create difficult and fun challenges for you to overcome.

After 9 worlds and 100 stages, Mario will finally have the final showdown with DK (With epic music!), knocking him down the last time and finally rescueing Pauline. The last 8 stages of the game are ALL boss battles, which is an interesting and fun twist.

So, the gameplay itself is nice and varied, how's the rest? I'm skipping story, as Mario games always have a very basic and unimportant story.

The difficulty in the game is fairly forgiving. There's only one difficulty setting, and none of the stages in the game are truly hard. There's a few challenging stages later on, but most difficulty stems from finding the puzzle solutions instead of actually executing them.

The music in the game is absolutely amazing. One of the, if not the, best (classic) Game Boy soundtracks ever, featuring extremely good-sounding tunes that you will find humming every now and then. While the normal stage level themes are fairly generic, the map themes and boss battle themes are all absolutely amazing and capture the spirit of the area/encounter very well.

The game's graphics are also great. It's got some of the best graphics on the systems, surpassing other titles like even The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. All creatures and characters look nice, and the levels have very nice and varied tilesets. If you play the game on a Super Game Boy, the game gets colour, with each level having a different palette. This adds even more to the already great graphics. On top of this, playing on a Super Game Boy adds a special border around the screen, which is made to look like the arcade cabinet of the original game. This is because Donkey Kong (This game, not the original) was the first game to have special Super Game Boy features, and was even released on the same day.

All in all, I would say this is the best classic Donkey Kong game ever. There isn't much competition, but it far surpasses the original, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3 and Mario vs. Donkey Kong 1/2. I'd even go as far to say that the game could stand up to the Donkey Kong Country trilogy. This is one game that every single Nintendo fan should play. Hunt it down and play it RIGHT NOW. You will not be disappointed.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/06/07

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