|Radar Scope, the game that "evolved" into|
Around that same time, Nintendo had applied to King Features Syndicate for a license to make a video game based on the Popeye comic strip and cartoon - somewhat inspired by the recent feature film adaptation. The game, designed by Miyamoto, was basically done already, but when King Features turned the offer down, the game was basically converted into Miyamoto's Nintendo-saving project. Popeye was replaced with a carpenter called Mr. Video, Olive Oyl with a damsel in distress called The Lady, and finally, Bluto with a gorilla, as inspired by the film King Kong. He didn't want to create a monster, he wanted to create more of a character that was neither a hero or a villain, more of an endearing character with primal qualities that made him a nuisance rather than a manifestation of evil. The game is known as the first ever to have had a storyline written before the actual programming took place. Pleased with the results, Yamauchi laid down one more condition for the game's release: since it was targeted at North American audiences, he wanted it to have an English title. Instead of going over the numerous myths surrounding the title of the game, I'll just go with the most popular one: since King Kong was not an option, Miyamoto came up with the title of Monkey Kong, which he then rephrased Donkey Kong, because he and Yokoi felt that "Donkey" was a proper word to describe the quirky nature of Donkey Kong and his owner's rivalry - the "owner", originally called Mr. Video, then Jumpman, was renamed Mario in North American releases of the game (after Nintendo of America's landlord Mario Segale). His signature clothing and moustache were actually the product of Miyamoto's desire to create a fleshed-out human character as opposed to the matchstick men and formless protagonists of the past; his overalls were painted in the opposing colours of blue and red so players could see his arms move, and the moustache was added in for a distinguishing facial feature.
|Gunpei Yokoi with his former apprentice, now master designer|
Shigeru Miyamoto in 1994. Best known as the creator of Metroid,
Yokoi passed away in a tragic car accident in 1997.
After this story of how Mario and Donkey Kong were born, I hope to tell you more such stories as I go on doing this celebration of a marathon, until there are no stories left to tell. Needless to say, both characters are still going strong, both together and separate, with well over a hundred releases between them, and I consider myself blessed, having been a fan for over 25 years. Here's to the next 35 years, cheers!