So what can be said about this Arcade game that hasn’t already been said? That it is a true classic in every sense of the word? That it helped put Nintendo on the map beyond just a playing card manufacturer? That it is the most successful Arcade game out there second only to Namco’s Pac-Man?
Obviously the answer to those questions is a no-brainer, but like with the best video game titles, it all comes down to the gameplay experience itself. And my memories with this character are quite an interesting one.
Having been born in the mid-80s, I wasn’t able to experience playing the Arcade game when it first came out, but I had been first made aware of it in one of those old Nintendo pamphlets that I had gotten from way back in the day.
Specifically this one.
On the corner of that piece of paper was something called “Donkey Kong Classics”. Now I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time, only that I knew that “Kong” involved a big hulking gorilla and Mario (?), nothing more. But then fast forward to when I moved from New York to Florida and I was playing on my cousin’s Atari 2600, which also had the Donkey Kong cartridge. Granted the graphic style didn’t match the screenshot on the Nintendo pamphlet but still, being able to play the game was good enough for me.
Then when I went back up to New York to visit some relatives I was able to play on a Donkey Kong Jr. cabinet and boy, was I hooked instantly. While it was a sequel to the original game, the gameplay was still intact, and I liked how the game flipped the script where DK was a more sympathetic character and Mario was the antagonist-something no game had really done up to that point in time.
Some months later I found an advertisement on TV about an upcoming Donkey Kong game for the Super Nintendo called Donkey Kong Country, and then when I got the chance to play it at a Best Buy in Orlando I was hooked. Granted, aside from the championship edition I never got a chance to play the full game until I got a Game Boy Color – and with it the GBC version of the game – and then the Wii Virtual Console version years later but it was more than worth the wait.
Then I eventually discovered the original Game Boy version of Donkey Kong on my 3DS which took the classic gameplay to another level, but probably my favorite Donkey Kong experience was being able to play the original Arcade and its sequels at Disney Quest which was beyond incredible. Although the Blue Box closed down in the mid 2010s, being there and being able to play it more than made those days special, and while I do wish I could have done more, I am grateful for the time I was able to.
While the cabinets have gone to other places, I am glad that the Arcade games with the character live on in various ways, most notably the Arcade versions that can be bought from the Nintendo Switch’s eShop, as well as the NES versions from the NES app and the DK Country trilogy on the SNES app.
In all, the character is one that like Mario endures and has continued to endure. While none of us know what the future holds, I’m pretty sure it’s a bright one, so let us all pick up a controller and go bananas as we play with power and have a great time with our favorite ape!