Monday, June 7, 2010

Donkey Kong (1982, Nintendo/Coleco, Colecovision)

Ah, Donkey Kong. My favorite video game character's origin story. I can't help but love this game. It's one of my favorite vintage arcade games, even though I totally suck at it (It's those damn purple springs...) It was a phenomenon when it released to arcades in 1981, spawning toys, apparel, books, breakfast cereal (I am not making this up) and even a TV show. Donkey Kong sits up there with the greats in arcade game history.

As common practice with any successful arcade game to release, Donkey Kong received home console ports.
The biggest one in particular (in 1982 anyway) was released, well actually packed in with the Colecovision console which released in 1982. The system sold six million units, and I'm betting that the decision to pack in Donkey Kong probably did alot to help the sales. But did Donkey Kong for the Colecovision suffer the same fate that Pac-Man for the 2600 did? To answer briefly: Hell no!

This port is nearly everything that fans of the original game could ask for, with graphics that are amazingly close to the arcade game's, all of the same sounds which are remarkably close to the arcade, and of course, all of the great challenging gameplay amazingly intact. For lucky Colecovision owners back in 1982, it didn't get much better than that.

But this is 2010. Does the Colecovision port hold up to the arcade version well today?

Well, yes and no. The gameplay is still remarkably similar to the arcade. The graphics for the time of the port's release were unmatched, but the magical year of 1985 came along and brought us the NES version, whose graphics were near dead-on to the arcade, making the Colecovision port seem weak in comparison. The sound suffers the same fate, while neither the NES or the Colecovision ports have dead-on sound to the arcade, the NES certainly seems closer. This isn't the Coleco port's fault, Nintendo just released a better port as time went on.

The game plays like this: You are Mario, a carpenter (around this time at least) whose lady love has been kidnapped by the big hairy ape, Donkey Kong. And in stereotypical movie hero fashion, you gotta go save her. The game has 4 screens (keep this in mind) that you have to traverse at on time or another. The first screen is the barrel screen. Mario must climb up the girder structure while jumping over barrels rolling towards him. To help even the odds, Mario can grab a rather conveniently placed hammer to temporarily gain the ability to smash them to little tiny pieces. The second screen is the lift screen where you must traverse lifts and jump platforms to reach the top where evil purple springs attempt to flatten Mario. The third screen is the Pie factory screen where you dodge evil fireballs while climbing retracting ladders. The fourth and final screen is the rivet screen, where you remove giant yellow bolts in the girders and make Donkey Kong fall to has doom and finally save your sweetie. After that, the game starts over again at a higher difficulty.

The Colecovision port accurately portrays these scenes, aside from one which has been cut out entirely for seemingly no reason. Thankfully it's the conveyor belt scene, which isn't very well liked anyway, but it's a silly omission nonetheless. Actually, as a matter of fact, the NES version does the exact same thing! I really don't understand why. Maybe because it kinda sucked to begin with? Maybe? Hmm.............

Oh yeah, when you finish the rivet scene in the original, there is a moment with Donkey Kong falling and doing a head-plant. That has been taken out of the Colecovision port due to memory concerns.

Well, what to give this port? I'll give it a 8.5 out of 10, because for the time of it's release, it was unbeatable: America's #1 arcade game almost in it's entirety at home. It was missing the Conveyor screen and the end animation, but it was still very much worth the $199 you had to pay to play it. It wasn't the best game to come out in 1982, no, that would be the 2600 version of Ms. Pac-Man. But it definitely did what gamers dreamed: brought the arcade experience home.

*****8.5 out of 10*****

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