Donkey Kong for the Gameboy was definitely a game that passed me by unnoticed when it was released in 1994. It came out just before the resurgence and phenomenon of the Donkey Kong Country series for the SNES so it was easy to miss. The name, Donkey Kong, didn’t invite a lot of interest from the general public as the original arcade game was ancient history by ’94. By using the exact same name as the original, Nintendo didn’t do its exceptional new entry any favors. Officially released as Donkey Kong but became known as Donkey Kong ’94 in order to differentiate itself from the classic arcade game, the game was an under the radar masterpiece.
The game starts out like the original by pitting Mario against Donkey Kong in an effort to rescue Pauline. Mario climbs the girders and then the next level presents itself in the exact same manner as the arcade. At this point, you might think this is just a handheld Donkey Kong port but if you complete the original 4 screens, you are treated to a false ending before Donkey Kong revives and again steals away Pauline from Mario. The rest of the game that follows is what makes DK ’94 unique and amazing. At this point, DK ’94 becomes a action puzzler where Mario must collect keys in each level to open doors while taking on Donkey Kong in a variety of boss level before Mario advances to the next world. The concept sounds simple enough, but it’s anything but. Each level presents a challenge to Mario that must be solved and as one might expect, the puzzles become more complex as the levels advance. Mario must use a plethora of skills and items to accomplish the goals including the ability to pick items up and throw them in the same mechanic used in Super Mario Bros. 2 for the NES. Donkey Kong ’94 also offers a save option, which is necessary in order to realistically complete all 101 stages, original 4 stages included.
I only became aware of this game in the past year after hearing it discussed on a gaming podcast, so DK ’94 is relatively new addition to my Gameboy collection. Boy was I, and probably a lot of other gamers, missing out. Donkey Kong ’94 is a flagship game for the system and one that shouldn’t be slept on.
Currently in my collection: game only