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Donkey Kong for the 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

It's Good to Beat the King

The original Donkey Kong, originally released in arcades and then on the NES in America, seems to be a very polarizing game. Most players love it, others disregard it as just another stepping stone on the way to later titles like Super Mario Brothers. Either way, the original Donkey Kong has cemented itself into the American gaming lexicon as the jumping board for Nintendo of America’s meteoric rise in video gaming history.

Surprisingly, Donkey Kong 1 wasn’t originally a game about a man trying to rescue a princess from a plumber, the entire concept was actually based on the Popeye cartoons. The main antagonist was Popeye, Donkey Kong was Bluto, and the Princess was Olive Oyl, Popeye’s ever-present love interest. However, at the last minute the licensing for the Popeye franchise was pulled, leaving the Nintendo company, as well as creator Shigeru Miyamoto, left with a fully designed game that was now devoid of characters. Miyamoto quickly redrafted the characters into the three we now know and love, and a legend was born. However, Nintendo had the last laugh, as a Popeye-licensed Donkey Kong clone was released on the system to mediocre reception.

My first experience with Donkey Kong was with the original arcade machine, as opposed to the later-released Donkey Kong NES game. It was a wedding, and though I couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old, controlling the game was easy and intuitive. The combination of timing and frantic scrambling made the levels seem exciting, and each stage brought new challenges, such as riding elevators to reach the elusive Princess, or removing rivets to tumble the mighty Donkey Kong from his perch. The Donkey Kong game, which had been pumped full of credits for the wedding reception I was attending, was my best friend that day.

While the plot and gameplay of Donkey Kong NES game are extremely simple, the game itself is easily just as challenging. The first few levels fly by, especially in the hands of experienced DK players. However, moving farther and farther through the levels, it’s inevitable that a given player will find a point they can’t get past. In true Nintendo fashion, the player is given three tries, or lives, to defeat DK, with the final try sending you back to the beginning level. For me, that level was level seven, at least that day. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get past that second set of elevators.

Since it’s creation and release upon the masses in 1981, there have been over a dozen official Donkey Kong titles, and the iconic character has appeared in just about every Nintendo game featuring an ensemble cast. Nintendo’s latest release has player playing a Donkey Kong online game cooperatively, with one player controlling DK’s sidekick since the SNES days, Diddy Kong.

The game has also sparked what is considered to be the world’s most intense battle for a high score. While the game ends at level twenty-two, due to a programming error, players have long battled for the highest score achieved before this “kill screen”. A well-received documentary, “Fistful of Quarters: The King of Kong,” was released, detailing the battle between two player to hold the high score. While the game may not have this effect on everyone, it’s legacy in the history of video games is certainly cemented as one to be revered.

The Donkey Kong ROM is one of the most popular games downloaded from and played online at RetroNintendoGames. For more great NES gameplay online you can check out super contra 7 online or try a real old timer and play galaga online. If you are one of the millions of Megaman fans, then give the first Megaman nes game or Double Dragon 3 nes game a play.

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