Video Review: Donkey Kong for the NES

Andy makes bad jokes and gets mad about broken arcade machines. He also discusses Nintendo’s port of the arcade classic Donkey Kong for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Video transcript:

The invasion of allied robot armies from the moons of Saturn has forced a union between man and ape in this video game sequel to Planet of the Apes. The queen robot overlord Pauline has kidnapped the President of the United States of Ape-merica and taken control of his mind, and it’s up to a mustachioed Charlton Heston to rescue him from capture and secure the survival of homo sapien kind. But plot twist: Charlton Heston has been working undercover for the robots the entire time and has fallen in love with Pauline. But the love between man and machine causes an anomaly in the Matrix, forcing them to be trapped in a perpetual time loop for all eternity.

You see, the story of Donkey Kong is much deeper, and ties into much more Hollywood film franchises than I think most people realize. In fact, the first ever article I ever wrote for Retrovolve, back when I launched the site in 2012, was about Donkey Kong, and how I thought it was the best game ever made. (I’ll actually link that in the info below this video if you want to check that out.)

Anyways, this video review is about the NES version of Donkey Kong (I am playing here on the Wii Virtual Console), and to me, this is probably the most accurate, the most faithful rendition of the arcade game, besides the fact that it’s missing the pie factory level (and I don’t care what anybody says; those are pies, not cement). I’m actually not sure any of the home console ports of the game did have that level in it, aside from Donkey Kong 64 had a playable version of the full arcade game, if you played that game for long enough (which is just about the only redeeming factor of Donkey Kong 64 if you ask me; that game just wasn’t any good).

It seems silly to me, though, that they couldn’t fit the pie factory on this cartridge, given that the NES featured such large, elaborate, beautifully designed games such as Legend of Zelda or Super Mario 3. But that doesn’t really take away from the experience of this cartridge at all really.

I have played just about every home console version of Donkey Kong, and I do have to say that this is the closest to the actual arcade game. And you could actually argue that playing it with the NES directional pad is actually preferable to the arcade game nowadays, being that pretty much every Donkey Kong machine I’ve ever played in the past five or ten years has had a wobbly, broken joystick because the owners are too lazy to fix it up. And shame on them for treating Donkey Kong so horribly. What has Donkey Kong ever done to you? It’s made you money. Be grateful.

And being that this was released in the mid-80s, there hadn’t really been a lot of arcade games that were this faithfully translated to a home console. I mean, you did have a lot of great, great versions on the ColecoVision and the Atari 7800, really enjoyable approximations of what you got in the arcade, but nothing really this close,. It took until the NES to really mimic arcade hardware this closely.

And thankfully, today this game can be found fairly cheap online, for around ten dollars. Or you can get the more popular, and more affordably available yet, multicart with Donkey Kong Jr., which, of course, is a great game — not as good as the original Donkey Kong, if you ask me. But if you’re going to pay less to get more, hey, it’s a win-win.

You all know that I love Donkey Kong. I’m a sucker for anything Donkey Kong. If I see a Donkey Kong machine anywhere, regardless of how broken it is, I’ve got to always play it at least a few times. But it is nice to have a version available at home as well. And to me, it doesn’t get any better than this fantastic re-creation of the classic Donkey Kong, for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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