Game(s) of the Week (3/5/17) – Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr

When Coleco chose to get into the video game hardware market to compete with the big boys, Atari and Mattel (Intellivision), they knew they needed to give consumers a reason to ditch their old consoles. First selling point was a significant improvement in graphics that much more closely mimicked the look of the arcade games they planned on porting. Second selling point had to be a killer launch title and there was no better game to pack-in with the Colecovision then Donkey Kong. By 1982, Nintendo’s Donkey Kong was one of the most popular video games in the arcades and there had yet to be a home port available on any of the major consoles of the time. Coleco aggressively went after and won the exclusive rights to bring the game to home consoles and table-tops and it was the windfall they needed to launch their brand new console. For a good 6 months in the second half of 1982, including the all-important Christmas season, the only way you could play Donkey Kong in the comfort of your own home was through the Colecovision. While this was a great business tactic on Coleco’s part, the only way it could show the buying public that their console was superior was to make an amazing port. The end result is that Donkey Kong for the Colecovision absolutely gets the job done. It was clear that when Coleco went about porting Donkey Kong for the Atari 2600 (but not the 5200) and Intellivison, there was no comparison to the Colecovision version. The game looks great, sounds great and plays great even today. It doesn’t have the 4th level, the pie factory, and level 1, the girder ramp level’s layout is different but otherwise it is very arcade faithful. My biggest gripe with this version is the lack of animations after completing each level, especially when you make the building collapse and Donkey Kong is supposed to fall to his death (or at least to his unconsciousness). Coleco sold a lot of consoles in 1982-1983 based solely on this decision to buy DK’s rights and include it with their console.

Donkey Kong Jr is of course, the sequel to Donkey Kong and nearly as popular as its predecessor. DK Jr is known not only as a sequel but also the only time Mario is a video game antagonist. Mario has captured Donkey Kong and locked him in a cage and your mission as Jr is to rescue and free your father from the evil plumber. You must swing from vine to vine, grabbing keys and avoiding Mario’s weird snap jawed minions. Similar to the Colecovision port of Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr has some minor but noticeable differences from the arcade version. I always found Donkey Kong Jr to be slightly easier than Donkey Kong when I would play it at restaurants or arcades and that holds true today. Both are still quite challenging in spite of their simplicity and basically achieving a high score remains the goal of these titles. As far as faithful arcade ports of two of the most popular and iconic early 80’s arcade games, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr for the Colecovision certainly make a case for this console being the best of the era.

Currently in my collection:

Donkey Kong – game, manual A

Donkey Kong Jr – game, manual A-

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