(The famous beginning.)
Back in the 80's, when Donkey Kong was a huge hit, a rumor spread around about the game. No, not the one about how it was called Monkey Kong but a bad translation made it Donkey Kong (that is not true but we thought it was as kids). No, it was the rumor of a mysterious level called the pie factory. We heard of a friend of a friend who got to this mysterious level. Most of us were pretty good players but we had never seen the pie factory. For all we knew, there were three levels on Donkey Kong - the main level, the girders and the elevators. We figured we had seen it all and beaten all the levels. That was until the rumor of the pie factory spread. Then we all had to keep playing until we saw it. It became an obsession to be the first to see the mysterious level. Well, after a few weeks we saw the pie factory. We stood in awe as one of my friends reached the fabled level. We felt like Ponce DeLeon stumbling upon the fountain of youth or Coronado finding the City of Gold.
(The pie factory level! We dreamed of what this level looked like as kids)
You may ask why I begin this review with this story. It is because this review will be of the Japanese version of Donkey Kong. While the gameplay is the same as the American version, the level set-up makes sense. In the American version, you go from Level 1 to Level 4 to Level 3 to Level 1 to Level 4 to Level 3 and back to Level 1. As you see Level 2 is nowhere to be found. For you who do not know, Level 4 is the famous Pie Factory level. In the Japanese version, you go from Level 1 to Level 2 to Level 3 to Level 4, where you defeat Donkey Kong and get the girl. Makes alot more sense. Why it got all screwed up in the American version is anyone's guess.
For anyone who does not know the story of Donkey Kong, it is about a guy named Mario who must rescue his beloved from a giant ape. The name Donkey Kong was meant to mean Stubborn Ape. Donkey is stubborn and Kong is ape. Hence the name. The game is a simple platform game that is still as much fun to play today as it was during its initial run at the arcades. The running and jumping over barrels and climbing of ladders is still as fun and fresh today. Beating Donkey Kong is still fun. And with MAME and the ability to play the Japanese version, it finally makes sense. I always wondered why you beat the ape on the second level and yet there were still another level to play (two counting the pie factory, but it was so hard to get to, we did not know it existed). But in the Japanese level, you keep chasing Kong through the first three levels as he keeps getting away with your girl. Finally on the fourth level, you defeat him and win the game! Makes a whole lot more sense to me.
Donkey Kong is to platform games what Pacman is to maze games. It is the game that set the craze and launched a thousand clones. Neither was the first of their genre, but both were the ones that made their genre popular. And it was because of addictive gameplay and lots of personality. People felt for poor Mario and despite being a villain, they liked Donkey Kong. From his stomping to move the platform to his smile, he had personality. That is a big reason why both characters are still very popular today.
Once again the music was a big part of the game. When you hear the beginning of the game, you instantly know it is Donkey Kong. The music is fun and whimsical as is the game. It is also instantly recognizable. The sound effects are simple but fit well. Everything about the game is quite simple. Even the graphics are basic. But they work. It is not incredible graphics or stereo sound that draws the gameplayer. Rather it is the simple and fun game. It is saving Pauline (who was later dumped for Princess Peach) from the clutches of Donkey Kong. It is the thrill of watching the big ape fall and land on his head. The game is just fun.
(The elevator level, the third level both in the US and Japan)
The controls are very tight and precise. With a four way joystick and a single button, you move through the game. Jumping barrels, climbing ladders and jumping from elevator to elevator, it is a simple game to play. But on later levels, it can be a test. The barrels become more plentiful, the fire chickens (that is what I call them) chase you down and things get much tougher. But it is never impossible.
(What was supposed to be the end of the game, except in the US.)
Donkey Kong is a great game. The fact that it is still popular nearly 25 years later, is a testament to how great a game it is. While it did feature two sequels, I still think the original is the best of the group.
This is just a review of the arcade machine. If you are looking for the actual arcade machine, you may want to check out ebay. Click below to see if you can find this game.