With the upcoming release of the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition (NA) / Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (EU), we're going to provide short profiles of all 30 games included on the system. This time around we look at Donkey Kong Jr., having covered the iconic original in our most recent article.
Our last article in this series focused on the original Donkey Kong, a game firmly established in Nintendo history. It's only natural that such a phenomenal success would have a sequel, and Shigeru Miyamoto once again led development of the original arcade with involvement from other luminaries such as Yoshio Sakamoto and Gunpei Yokoi. Donkey Kong Jr. (written as Donkey Kong Junior on the original arcade cabinets) arrived in arcades in 1982, and as such its release history is very similar to that of Donkey Kong.
We'll come to the gameplay, but first of all the plot has some interesting twists, at least by the standards of game narratives in 1982. 'Jumpman' is now Mario, though the lovable plumber is actually the enemy. Following the events of the first game, where the plumber rescued Pauline from Donkey Kong, the moustachioed one had his vengeance by capturing DK and putting him in a cage. On this occasion, then, Mario is the bad guy, as you try to rescue DK with newcomer Donkey Kong Jr.
As you can see in the awesome 1983 commercial below Mario is very much the nemesis; we'll come to the various home console ports shortly...
In terms of its gameplay, this sequel also saw Shigeru Miyamoto and his team try some different approaches. The key mechanic is DK Jr.'s ability to climb up vines, which is quicker when utilising two at once. It's possible to knock items down onto troublesome foes, and the goal is to once again make it to the top of the screen. Unlike with its predecessor the console ports for this game feature all four stages, with the last of which being a 'boss' encounter in which the climbing mechanic is put to the most effective use.
As Donkey Kong Jr. arrived during Nintendo's transitional period from success in arcades towards its own hardware, multiple ports were licensed out and released across a number of home systems of the day. The video below by Gaming History Source has some fantastic footage of 12 different versions.
As expected it eventually came to the Famicom and NES, arriving in North America in 1986 and Europe in 1987, with re-releases later in the decade. The title has also featured as an unlockable in Animal Crossing, and more recently on Virtual Console platforms; 3DS Ambassadors also received it as one of the free games given out after the portable's major price drop in Fall 2011.
This wasn't the last in this series of DK arcade to NES titles, and though its place in popular culture isn't as prominent as its predecessor it's still a notable release. Mario made his debut as an enemy, and DK Jr. made his first appearance. For those that enjoy 'lore' in this series, DK Jr. is interpreted by some as either becoming the Donkey Kong we now know and love (which is father to Diddy Kong) or could be the father of the current Donkey Kong. It's surprisingly complicated, and no doubt we've got that wrong...
Overall, this should be a fun little diversion on the mini NES, even if it won't necessarily be top of many must-play lists.