lauantai 20. elokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Donkey Kong Jr. (1982)

GENRE(S): Arcade / Platform
AVAILABLE ON: 3DS Virtual Console, ARC, Atari, CVIS, INTV, NES, Wii Virtual Console
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo, Coleco (CVIS, INTV)
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo, Atari

Seriously, what better way to see Mario off this blog than Donkey Kong Jr.? Not only did this sequel to the 1981 arcade megahit - that started it all - give the carpenter formerly known as Jumpman the much more original name of Mario, but it is the only game to date to feature Mario as the main villain instead of the happy-go-lucky, charismatic hero every Nintendo fan so adores. Just like its predecessor, Donkey Kong Jr. has been named one of the best video games in history, and just like its predecessor, it's a classic, but to be completely honest - which a lot of people are apparently unable to do - most of its original charm has worn out. I've said it before: going all super-retro is amazing fun to be had, but vintage arcade gaming just isn't the same anymore, and some games were never fit for home consoles. Ten minutes, a few tears of joy, and casual players are done with Donkey Kong Jr..

Don't you worry 'bout a thing, pa'!

Mario has captured his once rampant pet Donkey Kong, but he has a slight problem: DK's son, Junior, who doesn't take kindly to his dad's incarceration. The player assumes control of the puny ape as he attempts to rescue his gigantic dad from Mario.

Home versions of classic retro arcade games have never been well-received by game enthusiasts, and there are good reasons for that. Classic arcade platformers were tense, because if you failed, you needed to pay more money to get another chance in besting that damn enemy or obstacle that gave you hell. You needed to fight for your high score. As soon as the first home consoles came along, it was clear that gamers wanted more than simple arcade-style games, where your primary goal was the highest possible score. You could play as long as you wanted, no casual gamer gave a shit of a high score - if you bought a game to your home, the only thing of interest at least should've been how long it took to finish the game. The longer and harder, the better - you paid for it, with expectations the game would pay itself back.

Comin' to get ya, pa'.
There are early arcade games that made good, in arcade halls as well as living rooms - such as Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins. This side-scrolling platformer was entertaining and exciting, and its difficulty was peerless at the time it made it to the NES. Let's stick with the NES version of that every gamer's nightmare for an example - it was released on the NES in the summer of 1986, the same time as Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.. Releasing these three arcade megahits for Nintendo's new flagship of home entertainment at the exact same time opened some eyes. Time was definitely on the side of neo-arcade ports like Ghosts 'n Goblins, which truly took you time to complete and weren't just based on how high you could score. Since Donkey Kong was not the only franchise to be brought to homes and then suffer from harsh criticism from arcade enthusiasts, you could say that 1986 marked the death of classic arcade. That's my view... and from my view, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. for the NES have both had their unfair share of bullshit. I've already paid my respects to the first game a long time ago, and acknowledged its impact on the video game industry. Even though Donkey Kong Jr. is an equally short trip to retro land, it is also an immensely influential, and original game in itself. It's a damn classic... but let's be honest, to ourselves and everyone else.

I've got to compliment the graphics, because all of the levels in the game are completely different by design and the game is very colourful and well animated for its time. The music is also surprisingly tolerable. There are two different versions of the theme song, and each of the four levels has a different background tune. All in all, the game is audiovisually pleasant, considering that the original version came out as early as '82.

Similarities between Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. are very obvious. There's character A - the hero. Character B - the villain, and character C - the damsel in distress, who in this case happens to be a giant, pissed off gorilla. B does everything in his power to keep A from reaching the top of the level. If A manages to reach the highest top, the level's over and we move on, right up until we clear the fourth level. The villain's subdued, and the damsel (...) rescued. Then, the game starts over, on a higher difficulty level. This cycle goes on and on until you lose all your lives. The game never ends, it's the high score that "matters".

The final showdown. All you need to do is push
those six keys into the six locks. It's easy. Really.
The gameplay is very innovative. There are platforms to jump across, but most of the game is based on Junior's amazing climbing ability. He can move from vine to vine by simply reaching out to the other one, you don't necessarily have to jump at it. You can also climb both vines at once, which is a good, strategic move. Mario harrasses Junior with all he's got: small animals and electric shocks. His attacks can all be avoided in several different ways; Mario's attacks are small fry compared to the real peril. The real peril is that if Junior falls, even from the lowest possible height that exceeds the height of his jump, you lose a life, just like in the first game - in which it was even more ridiculous. You also die from stalling. See that score window on the top right? If that counts down to zero, you're dead... however, I've never had the slightest problem with that one. The enemies and freefalls are your only concerns.

Each level has a different theme, but indeed, there are only four of them, and each one can be beaten by using one simple strategy or pattern, regardless of the "difficulty level". The game might seem hard at first since Junior's a bit stiff to move around, and it will probably take a moment to sink in the rules of the vine-to-vine transition, but two or three rounds of the game are perfectly possible to beat in less than ten minutes. Don't expect the game to change; it won't. That was it, that was the game. It's all about the high scores now. High scores you cannot save.

The slightest charm Donkey Kong Jr. has, might go to waste at home, but it's an endearing retro classic that demands a little more perspective than just a blunt review of how a home version of it is today. It's a good play - definitely an experience every retro fan should have, and certainly should have time for. The most important parts of the game are minutes well spent.

SOUND : 7.3


a.k.a. Donkey Kong Junior

In Europe, the original arcade version of the game was known as Crazy Kong Jr..

1 kommentti:

  1. Mario had a name in Donkey Kong. His name is featured in the arcade flyer at the time of the games release in the North American Arcade.