Game Cover
©1981 Nintendo Co.,Ltd.
Release: 1983-07-15 (¥4500)
Cartridge HVC-DK
Action/Platform game

Famicom Disk Version
Released in Japan (Disk Writer) as

American Version
Released in America as

European Version
Released in Europe as
Here is the Famicom port of Nintendo's arcade classic Donkey Kong. Do we still need to introduce the universally beloved barrel-throwing gorilla ? Donkey Kong, a large and angry ape, has kidnapped Lady (aka Pauline) and climbed to the top of a tall and perilous construction site, where he keeps her prisoner. Without hesitation, her boyfriend Jumpman (aka Mario), a little mustached carpenter with red overalls, a blue shirt and a hat, flies to her rescue. The little man is the gorilla's original caretaker and he is also ready to teach the large ape a good lesson that he will not soon forget... The player must guide Mario through three different stages and eventually rescue the beautiful damsel in distress. But the task won't be easy and the gorilla will do anything to protect and uphold what now belongs to him. In the first screen, Mario must run up a series of metallic girders while avoiding barrels that the ape throws down at him. The first barrel also ignites an oil drum located at the bottom of the screen, which in turn generates fireballs that go chase after Mario. Although the carpenter can only jump, avoid enemies or climb up ladders, he nevertheless has a way to defend himself - hammers are sometimes available and can be used as improvised weapons for a short amount of time, and crush anything that dares cross their path. The second screen features elevators, evil bouncing springs and a wandering fireball, as well as two bonus items - Pauline's umbrella and purse that the player can collect for extra points. Finally, the third screen is made out of four large platforms hold in places by eight yellow rivets. Mario must jump over every single rivet to make them disappear, forcing the large construction to collapse and then trapping the giant gorilla, thus rescuing Pauline from her predicament.
screen shot screen shot
screen shot screen shot
Donkey Kong - arcade The story of Donkey Kong is a fascinating one and it began in 1980, when Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo in Japan, decided to expand the company into the United States. He delegated this huge responsibility to the man who married Yoko, his beautiful daughter. Although Minoru Arakawa (Hiroshi Yamauchi's son-in-law) originally graduated as a civil engineer, he accepted the challenge and moved to New York in 1980. His first task was to break into the lucrative arcade business and he started to import several Nintendo arcade games, and especially a Space Invaders/Galaxian clone called Radar Scope. The game was a success in Japan and Minoru hoped it would become the next killer game, and therefore ordered a large quantity of three thousand units for the American market. However, when the machines arrived, the public interest had evaporated and the young company was on the brink of financial disaster. In a desperate move, Minoru contacted his father-in-law and asked for a replacement game (the ROM inside the units could easily be replaced, and the cabinet refurbished and repainted). However, all the key development teams in Japan (the famous R&D teams) were already busy and didn't have enough resources to create a brand new game on such a short notice. So Hiroshi Yamauchi assigned a rookie designer named Shigeru Miyamoto the task of developing the game, and although he had already been at the company for a few years as a graphic designer, the young man had never actually designed a game before. Helped by Nintendo veteran Gunpei Yokoi, he first started working on a concept based on the popular cartoon Popeye (Nintendo was negotiating the rights with King Features at the time), but as the deal fell through, he decided to come up with his own idea. Donkey Kong - sketches This is how Donkey Kong slowly took shape - inspired by The Beauty and the Beast, Miyamoto created a large ape-like creature, unlikely pet of a goofy looking carpenter called Jumpman. The game was nearing completion and rumors even suggest that Miyamoto wrote the distinctive music all by himself (Yukio Kaneoka will be later credited for the Famicom soundtrack). As for the name, he decided that Kong would clearly fit the large antagonist, but he also wanted the suggest the goofy nature and comic stubbornness of the giant ape. In an interview for the official Nintendo japanese site, Miyamoto reveals that he used his Japanese/English dictionary, and 'Donkey' came up as a translation for manuke (meaning 'dumb' in Japanese). As a result, the game was given the euphonious name Donkey Kong. However, back in the United States, the staff at NOA was horrified and could not hide its disbelief about the game. But Minoru (pressured by Yamauchi) went ahead, translated the instructions, renamed the damsel in distress Pauline (named after Polly, wife of NOA's employee Don James) and the goofy carpenter Mario (based on Minoru's warehouse landlord at the time, Mario Segali). For some obscure reasons, the stage order was changed between the original Japanese and American versions - instead of barrel-conveyor-elevator-rivets, the American version featured several loops, starting with barrel-rivets, then barrel-conveyor-rivets and so forth... But despite the initial disbelief, Donkey Kong became a smash hit and the rest is, as they say, history. I invite you to read David Sheff's excellent book 'Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World', where the fascinating story of Donkey Kong (along with Nintendo's) is richly told with fascinating historical details.

Donkey Kong - Arcade The original Donkey Kong arcade game was released in 1981 (picture on the left), and thanks to its huge commercial success, the game was ported to virtually every single video game system at the time (including Nintendo's Game & Watch series) and the characters were licensed and appeared on a wide variety of products (such as books, cereals, boardgames) as well as televisions shows and cartoons. A sequel to the game called Donkey Kong Jr followed in 1982 and starred Donkey Kong's young son (Mario is the main antagonist in this second episode). Curiously, Donkey Kong II was not released in the arcades, but as a multi-screen Game & Watch LCD game in 1983, and used the same formula laid down by Donkey Kong Jr. The arcade game Donkey Kong 3 then followed in 1983 and featured Sutanrī (aka Stanley), a young man who must protect his greenhouse from Donkey kong's wrath. At that point in time, Donkey Kong became one of Nintendo's mascot franchise and was featured in countless titles, from Game & Watch games (such as Donkey Kong Circus or Donkey Kong Hockey) to Famicom spin-offs (such as Donkey Kong Jr. no Sansū Asobi, aka Donkey Kong Jr Math). But, as time went by, Donkey Kong slowly became overshadowed by other popular Nintendo characters such as Mario or Link, and although the ape made a few cameo appearances (such as in Super Mario Kart released in 1992), it remained relatively quiet. Until 1994. That year, a Game Boy game simply called Donkey Kong took the original arcade concept and ran with it, creating a masterpiece and the best game for fans of the original game and art design (it later inspired Mario vs. Donkey Kong released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance). But, most importantly, Super Donkey Kong (aka Donkey Kong Country in the west) was released for the Super Famicom and gave the characters and the series a new identity. The iconic character Donkey Kong was entirely redesigned and the game used pre-rendered 3D graphics. Well, according to the Super Donkey Kong series, the gorilla that appears in the early Donkey Kong games is actually named Cranky Kong (depicted as an ederly ape), and the charismatic gorilla seen in the Super Donkey Kong series is apparently his grandson (or his son). The game was a huge success and, naturally, several sequels followed - Super Donkey Kong 2 (aka Donkey Kong Country 2 Diddy's Kong Quest, Super Famicom, 1995), Super Donkey Kong 3 (aka Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, Super Famicom, 1996), Donkey Kong 64 (Nintendo 64, 1999) and Donkey Kong Returns (aka Donkey Kong Country Returns, Wii, 2010). The early Donkey Kong Country games were also ported to the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance, as well as the Game Boy exclusive Super Donkey Kong GB (aka Donkey Kong Land, 1995). The classic Donkey Kong and the new Super Donkey Kong characters have appeared in countless spin-off games and have appeared as cameos in many Nintendo games, and the franchise is still going strong today.

This port of Donkey Kong has a few differences with the original arcade game. First of all, the short introduction sequence was completely removed - in the original game, Donkey Kong climbs the construction site with Pauline under his arm and heavily stromps his feet as he reaches the top, causing the metallic girders to collapse and form the first screen. The 25-meter scale displayed between screens was also omitted - in the arcade game, each screen represents 25m of the construction site, from 25m to 100m. Most importantly, the second screen (the conveyor belt/cement screen also known as the 'Pie Factory' stage) was completely omitted (probably scrapped because of space limitations within the ROM). Surprisingly, the Famicom port features sound effects not found on the original arcade game (such as Mario's footsteps) and a new opening music (credited to Yukio Kaneoka).

Donkey Kong - silver In 1983, the Famicom version tested here was one of the Famicom system launch titles (with Donkey Kong Jr and Popeye), but it wasn't the case for the American NES launch two years later (the game was probably a bit too old). In Japan, Donkey Kong was part of the 'Cassette Line' series (popularly known as the "pulse line" series) which counted fourteen titles, and was later released again with an illustrated cartridge label and a silver box (arguably harder to find than the line version, picture on the right). As a side note, Donkey Kong was also released for the Famicom Disk Writer in 1988. As for the American releases, Donkey Kong was part of what is now commonly called the 'Black Box' series. Nintendo own releases for the NES early years (1985 and 1986) came with black boxes and a distinctive pixel-art illustration showing gameplay graphics from the game. Donkey Kong was re-released in the United States in 1988 (and Europe in 1989), and included in the Donkey Kong Classics collection (along with Donkey Kong Jr). However, the game is essentially identical and it is anybody's guess as to why Nintendo didn't use that opportunity to add the missing conveyor belt screen... this was also the case for the Famicom Mini Donkey Kong (aka Classic NES Series Donkey Kong in twe west) released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004! Amazingly, players would have to wait 2010 to finally see the missing screen added to the NES version! Donkey Kong Original Edition was included in the red Mario 25th Anniversary European Wii system (limited edition). The game is a revised NES ROM that finally features the missing conveyor belt screen as well as the in between screen animations!

Teaser text copied from the American version:
Can you save Mario's girl from the clutches of Donkey Kong ?
Donkey Kong had kidnapped Mario's girlfriend Pauline and taken her to the top of a construction site! It's up to you to help Mario save Pauline before time runs out. But it won't be easy. Donkey Kong will do everything in his power to stop you. He'll throw barrel bombs, flaming fireballs and anything else he can get his hands on. So if you're looking for action, don't monkey around. Get the original DONKEY KONG from the Nintendo Arcade Classic Series.


Donkey Kong manual
Click on picture to enlarge


Add your Pov here !

Donkey Kong is a classic among classics, and is definitively the game that put Nintendo on the map in the US and the rest of the world. The game shone with a brilliantly simple gameplay and certainly stood out in the sea of space shooters and maze games that filled the arcades of the early 80's. So how does this version compare to the original arcade game ? Graphically, the port is excellent and is as close as you can get to the original game (within the obvious hardware limitations of the 8-bit system). Although this version only includes three levels (as opposed to four in the arcade), the game is still as fun as the original and the controls are responsive and work exactly as they should. However, like many early arcade games, Donkey Kong centers primarily on the concept of a high-score, and as such, some players may find the game too repetitive (the game just loops indefinitely after the third screen). Granted, if you look at it with fresh eyes (and if you're not into the high score thing), the game is about ten minutes long... So here you have it, Donkey Kong is definitively a highly-regarded arcade classic (praise that it rightfully deserves), and this port is incredibly faithful to the original game (despite the missing screen). But I feel that it just doesn't really hold up when placed against the rest of the Famicom library.

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