Donkey Kong (game)
Donkey Kong is an arcade game that was Nintendo's first big hit in North America. It marked the beginning of the Mario franchise games, and introduced several of the earliest characters, including Mario himself (originally known as "Jumpman", a carpenter rather than a plumber), the original Donkey Kong (who, in later games, would become Cranky Kong, the current Donkey Kong's grandfather), and Pauline (originally known as the Lady), who now frequently appears in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. A version of the game was also created later for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's first home console. The game sold very well in the United States, becoming one of four games to be inducted into the Nintendo Hall of Fame. The original arcade version had four screen levels, but the Nintendo Entertainment System version only has three, with the stage 50m cut from this version. This game was also the first title to be released on Virtual Console.
Donkey Kong has kidnapped the beautiful Lady (Pauline in the NES conversion) to a dangerous construction site. Jumpman (Mario in home ports and promotional materials) must climb to the top of this construction site and rescue the Lady from the giant ape.
Official story quoted from Nintendo of America
"HELP! HELP!" cries the beautiful maiden as she is dragged up a labyrinth of structural beams by the ominous Donkey Kong. "SNORT. SNORT." Foreboding music warns of the eventual doom that awaits the poor girl, lest she somehow be miraculously rescued. "But wait! Fear not, fair maiden. Little Mario, the carpenter, is in hot pursuit of you this very moment."
Donkey Kong was created when Shigeru Miyamoto, under the supervision of the late Gunpei Yokoi, was assigned by Nintendo to convert Radar Scope, a poorly selling arcade game in North America, into a game that would have more appeal to more gamers. Shigeru Miyamoto later admitted that he did not focus on the story of the game, instead creating a basic plot with colourful characters and music that he himself penned. He said that Jumpman (later to be renamed Mario) and the Lady were not intended to have a relationship, and he did not know where the connection idea came from, but he thought that it did not matter much. Regardless, the resulting game was a major breakthrough for Nintendo and for the video game industry, becoming one of the best selling arcade machines of its time. Its platforming gameplay also distinguished it from most other arcade games at the time.
In 1982, around a year after the game's release, Universal Studios sued Nintendo, claiming that Donkey Kong infringed on Universal Studios' intellectual property rights to the film King Kong. Howard Lincoln, attorney and future president of Nintendo of America, decided to fight the case and hired seasoned attorney John Kirby to represent Nintendo. When Kirby showed that not only was Nintendo not in violation of any copyrights, but also that Universal Studios themselves had sued RKO Pictures in 1975 to prove that the plot of King Kong was in fact in the public domain, Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled in Nintendo's favor, ordering Universal to pay Nintendo $1.8 million in legal fees. In an ironic twist, Judge Sweet also ruled that Tiger's King Kong video game, licensed by Universal, infringed on Donkey Kong. After the victory, Nintendo awarded John Kirby with a $30,000 sailboat, christened the Donkey Kong, and gave him "exclusive worldwide rights to use the name for sailboats."
As Nintendo's newly established video game division lacked programming manpower, the arcade version of Donkey Kong was programmed by Ikegami Tsushinki, a contractor that had worked for Nintendo for several of its arcade releases. For Donkey Kong's development, the two companies signed a contract which gave Ikegami Tsushinki exclusive rights to the manufacturing of Donkey Kong arcade boards.
In 1983, Ikegami Tsushinki sued Nintendo on the ground that the company had violated the contract and produced around 80,000 arcade boards on its own. Ikegami Tsushinki also sought compensation for the use of reverse-engineered Donkey Kong code in Donkey Kong Jr. and claimed it owned the copyright on Donkey Kong's code (while the contract did not specify ownership of the code, a judgment relating to Space Invaders Part II set a precedent establishing computer code can be copyrighted). In response, Nintendo claimed it owned Donkey Kong's code as Ikegami was hired as a sub-contractor.
The case went to the Tokyo District Court until March 26, 1990, at which point the two companies settled out of court. The lawsuit has often been stated to be the reason behind the lack of rereleases of the arcade version of Donkey Kong and the existence of Donkey Kong: Original Edition, although Donkey Kong 64 nevertheless features a full port of the arcade version, albeit with slight differences as it closely imitates the source code.
In 2007, a documentary film directed by Seth Gordon based off Donkey Kong was released. The film centers around high school teacher Steve Wiebe as he tries to achieve a world record for obtaining the highest score in the game, which is held by Billy Mitchell at the time.
Sequels and ports
Donkey Kong has four sequels to date.
In addition to the arcade version, Donkey Kong was ported into several other gaming systems and computers:
The arcade version was produced by Gunpei Yokoi. Shigeru Miyamoto and Hiroshi Yamauchi directed the game while an uncredited Ikegami Tsushinki did programming duties, later leading to a lawsuit over which company owned the arcade code's rights. Intelligent Systems' own website claims credit for developing the NES port for Nintendo, though neither the cartridge nor title screen mentions the company and the Iwata Ask interview released for New Super Mario Bros. Wii states the game was developed by Nintendo Research & Development 2. Landon Dyer programmed the DOS Version.
Although Ikegami Tsushinki is uncredited, a 1996 article published in Bit Magazine and written by one of the programmer involved, Hirohisa Komanome, reveals the name of the programmers who worked on the game.
References in later games