While Nintendo has long been a major force in the realms of domestic and portable video gaming, it's important to remember that the release that truly put the Japanese firm on the map was an arcade one: 1981's Donkey Kong. Shigeru Miyamoto's first masterpiece transformed Nintendo from a coin-op also-ran into one of the industry's major players, but its attention quickly shifted to the home arena when it released the Famicom in 1983 to widespread critical and commercial acclaim – the same year that the video game industry in the US was hit with its first crash.
Because of this, many people consider Nintendo's history in the arcade arena to be a side-note to its triumph in the world of consoles and handhelds, but as Ken Horowitz's new book – Beyond Donkey Kong – attests, the firm was actually very active in the world of arcades for longer than you might assume.
Donkey Kong was followed by hits like Popeye, Punch-Out!! and the 'lost' Sky Skipper, and Nintendo would successfully adapt its NES hardware in the form of the "VS." arcade system which used modified NES games to pull in quarters. Later still, Nintendo would keep its name alive in amusement arcades all over the globe by working with companies like Midway, Sega and Namco and helping to produce titles like Killer Instinct, Crusin' USA, F-Zero AX and Mario Kart Arcade GP. Even today, Nintendo's name is still present in arcades thanks to titles like Crusin' World.
Horowitz, as you may be aware, runs the excellent Sega-16 website and has previously published books on Sega's history in both the home and arcade sectors; he brings his usual attention to detail and skill to tell a narrative in Beyond Donkey Kong, and pulls in quotes from exclusive interviews and well-researched sources to create a complete picture of what remains an often overlooked period in Nintendo's recent history.
(Oh, and I wrote the forward, but don't let that put you off. It's a great read for Nintendo fans.)
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