Until July 2013, Nintendo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Famicom by releasing "classic" titles for the new Wii U Virtual Console. As an added bonus, you can get these games for 30 cents during the first 30 days of each title's release. This month's release is Donkey Kong. Does Mario's first appearance hold up after 3+ decades? Find out after the jump.
I'll never forget the first time I saw Donkey Kong. It was in a bowling alley and the game stood out like a sore thumb among Tempest, Galaga, and Pac Man. The arcade cabinet had an unusual name, bizarre artwork, and the joystick was on the wrong side. People had to learn how to use their left hand to control the game. Some players actually crossed their arms so they could have the right hand on the joystick and the left on the jump button. On top of all that, the manufacturer's name was weird... what is a "Nintendo?"
Still pretty after all these years.
There was typically a long wait for Donkey Kong but once you got your quarter in the machine you were in for a new experience. The music, graphics, and game-play were unlike anything else in the arcade. In hindsight it is easy to see the origins of both platform and puzzle games in Donkey Kong. This fact was capitalized by the excellent 1994 Game Boy version of the game. But what we have this month is the NES version of Donkey Kong which was originally released in 1983 (the title screen says 1981 but it was a Famicom launch title) and re-released multiple times on the Virtual Console, e-Reader Cards, Animal Crossing, and Game Boy Advance. Yes, there have been many versions of Donkey Kong released on a plethora of consoles, computers, and smart phone apps over the years but this month's Wii U Virtual Console is the NES version. And yes, that means this version does not contain the infamous cement factory "pie level."
The only way to play this level at home is with an arcade cabinet or DK64.
Donkey Kong purists will certainly be disappointed that Nintendo decided to release this version instead of the original arcade classic. Since it is the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, it does make sense that we get the home version in the 30 cent promotion. However, an argument could be made that Donkey Kong is not only responsible for the millions of "Mario Universe" games that have been sold over the past 30 years but also for the success of the Famicom (NES) itself. After all, didn't Donkey Kong make Nintendo a household name? Not to mention furthering the career of Shigeru Miyamoto?
Donkey Kong did not push the limits of the NES as evidenced by the 1998 release of DK Classics.
They probably still had room to fit a few more games on the cart, too.
For better or for worse Donkey Kong looks and plays exactly like the NES cart. The graphics do lack the cut scenes and overall "pop" of the arcade version but the looks and sounds are still very recognizable and do emulate the arcade much better than many other consoles did back in the day (see video below).
It's 30 cents, a fun little diversion, & a decent way to finish the Famicom Anniversary collection.