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Donkey Kong, Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto. All these names have made it to 'The Great Video Game Hall of Fame'. Donkey Kong has had a long and distinguished career in the industry. Mario is possibly the best known video game character of all time, selling more games than any other character. Shigeru Miyamoto is the genius behind both, and the driving force behind the now world famous Nintendo. But it was not always like this..........lets beam back to 1981.
Nintendo were known for producing playing cards way back in the 1950's, in the 60's they moved into electronics, producing an array of gadgets like robotic arms and even love-testers. After a brief flirtation with a colour TV game called amazingly 'The Color TV Game', Nintendo moved into the new fledgling arcade game arena. Unfortunately all their titles were uninspiring. But a young programmer called Miyamoto while working on a crap game named Radarscope becomes disinterested and puts his energy and ideas into a new game based on the movie King Kong.
The plot is simple, a Kong like character steals a small carpenters girlfriend while working on an unfinished building. The carpenter pursues Kong up the building to rescue his girlfriend who unfortunately has the very unglamorous name of Pauline.
The carpenter is known simply as 'Jumpman' the name 'Mario' came much later. Using a simple joystick and jump button Jumpman had to make it to the top of the screen avoiding barrels flung down the girders by Kong at the top. Although the sound was simplistic, the graphics were colourful, and the game as with all classics offered something new to the gaming community. Along with Midway's Gorf of the same year it offered the gamer different boards to play. Back in 1981 this was a novelty and something which ensured Donkey Kong offered something different to the gamer.
Before we go any further I think now is as good a time as any to try and answer the question every sane person asks! Why was the game called Donkey Kong? Answer - No-one really knows! There are numerous myths and ideas such as it was supposed to be called 'Monkey Kong', but due to a barely legible fax sent to the screen printers thousands of pieces of artwork were produced that read 'Donkey Kong'. Another is that those crazy Japanese simply took it from a Japanese-to-English dictionary and the reverse translation of monkey is donkey which means stubborn and Kong is synonymous with monkey so 'Donkey Kong' or stubborn monkey was coined, which aptly describes the games central character. Or as I like to think, monkey in English can sometimes mean crap and a game describing itself as crap is never going to pull in the punters so the name was changed.
Being a Classic Game many sequels followed and here is the list:- Donkey Kong Jnr, Donkey Kong 3, Mario Bros, Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country etc, etc.
Game play was challenging, addictive and deceptively hard. Depressingly after traversing the screen and finally making it to the top the unfortunate player had to watch Kong snatch Pauline under his arm and disappear to another screen. There were four different screens to contend with, all containing different obstacles and problems. Barrels, fireballs, what appeared to be pies on a conveyor belt which were infact trays of cement as well as deadly jumping springs. Add to that vertical drops and Kong himself, its no wonder the game was bastard hard.
All good games goad you in someway and Donkey Kong's goad was the annoying question asked at the start of each new screen, How High Can You Get? 150m being the maximum height. Nothing gets a gamers blood up like a mickey taking challenge thrown out by a machine.
the first 3 levels Donkey Kong as said above will carry Pauline off to the
next level. But when you reach the 'Rivet' level, Jumpman must remove all the
rivets on every floor by running or jumping over them. When the rivets are
removed, Donkey Kong will fall head first down onto a stack of girders and
be KO'd, then Jumpman and Pauline will be together at last.