The Game: An oversized gorilla kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend and hauls her up to the top of a building which is presumably under construction. You are Mario, dodging Donkey Kong’s never-ending hail of rolling barrels and “foxfires” in your attempt to climb to the top of the building and topple Donkey Kong. You can actually do this a number of times, and then the game begins again with the aforementioned girlfriend in captivity once more. (Nintendo, 1986)
Memories: Once upon a time, Donkey Kong for the ColecoVision was the Donkey Kong experience to beat: short of going to the arcade, it didn’t get any better than that. But Coleco had only negotiated the console rights to the game, and nearly lost that contract when they goofed and showed a version of the game for their ill-fated Adam computer at a 1983 Consumer Electronics Show – though the home computer rights had been granted to Atari. In just two years’ time, none of that would matter – the crash came and went, Coleco exited the home computer and video game businesses, a seriously weakened Atari refocused its efforts on computer hardware, and Nintendo had its own video game console on the US market.
Many of Nintendo’s early NES titles were derived from its early arcade output, resulting in this near-perfect rendition of Donkey Kong bar a single but rather major flaw: the game is missing the conveyor belt screen. Otherwise, only the slightly different position of some of the screen display elements – such as the countdown timer and the scores – differentiate NES Donkey Kong from arcade Donkey Kong. As much as Mario’s legacy was cemented by the Super Mario Bros. series on the NES and subsequent Nintendo platforms, his early exploits were also well represented, with excellent versions of Donkey Kong Jr. and Mario Bros. also appearing in cartridge form.
In just a few years, Donkey Kong left the arcade, became a decent ColecoVision game and a godawful (but best-selling) Atari 2600 game, and returned to arcade-quality greatness…all in the space of about five years. That’s how fast home video game technology was catching up with the arcades, and it was just the beginning…even though it’s hard to let Nintendo off the hook for omitting that one whole level of the game.