Release Date: 7/9/1981
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The Good: Precise platforming, perfect level design
The Bad: Way too expensive, extremely short, is the lesser NES version rather than the arcade version, difficulty decreases rather than increases
Oh, good ol’ Kong. Whether you were born 80 years ago or 5, you probably know who Donkey Kong is. While not as internationally recognized as Pac-Man, unless you were born under a rock you have probably played Donkey Kong at least once on an arcade cabinet or one of the numerous systems it has been released on. It kickstarted Mario as a mascot for Nintendo and made them millions of dollars.
So, how does it hold up to todays standards? The Wii U ROM is running the NES port, which is the lesser version. While it has improved platforming physics and an infinite loop of the three levels which slightly get harder as you beat them, it is missing out on the fourth level of the arcade version. I don’t see why Nintendo keeps releasing this “dumbed down version” rather than making a version of the arcade game mixed with NES’s physics.
But that is not the biggest offense of this port. I picked it up on a sale for 30 cents on the Wii U, and at that price it was a complete steal. However, at $4.99 it is ridiculously expensive for what is basically a 15 minute long game. Sure, it’s a good game, but there are much better games available at the same price. There is even a better Donkey Kong game available on the market for the same price: Donkey Kong Jr.
As I mentioned earlier, Donkey Kong takes you through three different stages. The presentation here is rather lackluster, with dull black backgrounds accompanying the game. While I would normally give an older game leniency for this, I know that the NES is much more capable than that, as seen in games like Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and Metroid.
Of course, my complaining my lead you to believe Donkey Kong is a bad game. It is by no means a bad game, and in fact in many ways is a timeless classic. The jumping is Nintendo’s trademark pitch-perfect and while the level amount is very low, there is tons of variety that can be found in here. One unusual element of this game is that the difficulty appears to be random, with the first level being the hardest, the boss being in the middle, and the second level being really easy.
The level design is near-perfect and requires strategy without becoming too complicated or taking you out of the game. This game was designed for the arcade, and it really shows, but not in a bad way. Also, multiplayer is an option as well as harder game modes and the infinite loop I mentioned earlier, so there is a lot of replay value here.
The Wii U Difference
The Wii U version of the game is basically the same game, except for the fact that you can save whenever you want. This does feel a little cheap at times, but it does lower frustration. Also, there is a cool multiplayer mode I came up with where two people try to control Mario at the same time with separate controllers. It’s not exactly what the developers intended and it is kind of taking advantage of the ROM, but nevertheless it is a lot of fun planning out with other people on what you are going to do by coordinating jumps with moving forward.