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 and Donkey Kong franchises and introduced several of their earliest characters, including Mario himself (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 Lady (later renamed Pauline). A version of the game was also created later for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's first home console, under the Arcade Classics Series. 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 50 m cut. This game was also the first title to be released on Virtual Console. Donkey Kong was the second platforming game ever made; the 1980 game Space Panic was the first. However, Donkey Kong was the first to include jumping as an ability.
Official story quoted from Nintendo of America
Donkey Kong stars Mario, who attempts to reach the top of a construction site where Lady is held captive. He can walk along platforms, jump, and climb ladders as well. In the process, Donkey Kong may attempt to hinder Mario from a higher location by sending obstacles at him. Mario has the ability to jump over these obstacles or obliterate them using a Hammer; in both cases, he obtains several points that are added to a score. However, if Mario ends up falling off the side of a platform and lands on one below him (or none), and the height difference is greater than Mario's by one and a half, he loses a life. Each time Mario reaches Lady, Donkey Kong will carry her away on a pair of ladders to the next level until the fourth stage, where he is defeated upon completion.
In the Japanese arcade versions, each of the 22 playable levels consist of these four screens:
After completing the fourth screen, 100 m, the player has reached the next level, which starts at 25 m again, but with increased difficulty like more frequent barrels and faster fireballs.
In the international arcade versions, the order of the screens is more complicated with the middle screens revealed in later levels and up to six screens per level from level 5 onward.
Kill screen in Level 22
Although the game is intended to be playable indefinitely by not having a level cap, it is impossible to complete the first screen of level 22 (this is the 85th screen in the later Japanese versions and 117th screen in the international versions), due to a glitch within the process of calculating the time limit. Said time limit is calculated using the formula (10 × level number) + 40 and shown in hundreds as a bonus counter in the top-right edge of the screen. Because the calculated value is stored as an 8-Bit integer, which can only save 256 different values ranging from 0 to 255, and the formula results in a value of 260 for level 22, an integer overflow occurs and the value is saved modulo 256, which means 260 is saved as 4. This leads to a starting value of 400 for the timer of level 22 so that Mario dies a few seconds after starting the level, being unable to finish it. In the first Japanese version, it is possible to get past the kill screen by exploiting another glitch which lets Mario warp to the top of the screen by jumping off the first girder and through the floor. However, the 88th screen cannot be beaten as there is not enough time to remove all the bolts.
Development on Donkey Kong began in March 1981 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 colorful characters and music that he himself penned. He said that Mario and Lady were not intended to have a relationship, and he did not know where the idea came from, but he thought that it did not matter much. The game was also originally designed to have Mario escape from a maze, and jumping was not yet implemented, making platforming too difficult. In a time where arcade games took around two to three months to build, Donkey Kong was built in four or five months and Shigeru Miyamoto was focused on developing it for a global market rather than just for Japan. The working title during development was Table Kong Game until export manager Shinichi Todori came up with the name for both the game and the antagonist at the end of May. The final version of the game was a major breakthrough for Nintendo and 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.
Donkey Kong was originally conceived as a Popeye game, with Bluto being in the spot of Donkey Kong, Popeye being Mario, and Olive Oyl being Lady. The particular Popeye short that inspired Yokoi is A Dream Walking which is set in a construction site. Although Nintendo held the license to produce Popeye branded products, the characters ended up being changed for technical reasons. A Popeye Game & Watch game was developed at the same time and was released only a few weeks after Donkey Kong. The Popeye arcade game came out a year later in 1982 and was followed by two more Popeye Game and Watch releases in 1983.
Nintendo Research & Development 1 worked on Donkey Kong, multiple Game & Watch titles, and the arcade game Sky Skipper simultaneously. Like Donkey Kong, Sky Skipper is also about rescuing captives from gorillas. Miyamoto did cabinet artwork for both games.
Miyamoto envisioned Mario to be a young man at around 24 or 26 years old, describing Donkey Kong as Mario's pet who escaped and kidnapped his girlfriend.
Universal Studios lawsuit
In 1982, around a year after the game's release, Universal Studios sued Nintendo, claiming that Donkey Kong infringed on Universal Studios's 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 likely in violation of any trademarks 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."
To meet the unexpectedly high demand for arcade machines, Nintendo licensed production to other companies. Crazy Kong was an officially-licensed clone of Donkey Kong manufactured by Falcon. They were allowed to produce a certain amount of printed circuit boards (PCB) and were banned from exporting them. Falcon breached this agreement by producing more than 9000 excess units and also by exporting them to the US. On January 29, 1982, Nintendo terminated their license agreement. On June 1, Nintendo Japan filed for an injunction against Falcon in Kyoto District Court, which was granted on June 5. A countersuit by Falcon was won by Nintendo. On October 13, Nintendo launched a lawsuit seeking damages against Falcon. This experience led Nintendo to decide to produce all Donkey Kong Jr. machines by themselves. Falcon's president was later arrested for unauthorized copying of Donkey Kong Jr. PCBs.
On June 30, 1982, Nintendo of America filed a complaint toward Elcon Industries Inc., an arcade hardware manufacturer based in Michigan that sold Crazy Kong boards. The complaint alleged that the licensing agreement with Falcon explicitly forbade the manufacturing or export of Crazy Kong outside Japan. The case was taken to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which quickly ruled in favor of Nintendo.
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 Tsushinki was hired as a sub-contractor.
Announced at E3 2018 for the Nintendo Switch and released as part of Hamster Corporation's Arcade Archives brand, an emulation of the original arcade game titled Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong was released through the eShop on June 14, 2018, marking the first official release of the full arcade version of Donkey Kong for a home console since its original release 37 years earlier. The player can choose between playing the original Japanese release, the later Japanese release, and the international release of the game.
Coleco won the rights for the tabletop and home console ports, first as an oral agreement in November 1981, then formally on February 1, 1982. All were published in 1982 except for the Coleco Adam port which was released in 1984.
Atari, Inc. won the rights for home computer ports for both Donkey Kong and its sequel in November 1982. Atari, Inc. created the Atarisoft brand for titles published on competing computer systems. All were published in 1983.
Atari, Inc. was partitioned in July 1984 with the home computer and console division becoming Atari Corporation. During the June 1988 Consumer Electronics Show, Atari Corporation announced that it would release Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Mario Bros. for the Atari 7800.
By Ocean Software
Ocean Software previously released a bootleg version for the ZX Spectrum in 1983 called Kong. All of the following were published as cassettes in 1986 for the European home computer market. They use the Japanese level progression.
Game & Watch version
Donkey Kong Original Edition
As a minigame
It is featured as a minigame in the following titles:
Donkey Kong has three sequels:
The arcade version was produced by Gunpei Yokoi, while Hiroshi Yamauchi received executive producer credit as courtesy of being Nintendo's president. Shigeru Miyamoto 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. An older version of Intelligent Systems' own website claims credit for developing the NES port for Nintendo, but the current version changes it to Donkey Kong 3. The Iwata Ask interview released for New Super Mario Bros. Wii states the port was developed by Nintendo Research & Development 2. Landon M. Dyer programmed the Atari 8-bit port which served as the basis for several Atarisoft ports.
Although Ikegami Tsushinki is uncredited, a 1996 article published in Bit Magazine and written by one of the programmers involved, Hirohisa Komanome, reveals the name of the programmers who worked on the game.
Reception and legacy
Donkey Kong was an immediate hit when released. In the US, the game was introduced through a test run at two Seattle bars at the end of July 1981. Nintendo of America sold its first machine on September 10. Around 132,000 arcade machines were sold in Japan and North America, making it one of the most successful arcade games during the golden age of arcade video games. In addition, Nintendo reaped millions of dollars from royalties through third-party ports. It was by far the most profitable game Nintendo had produced up till then and would not be surpassed until Super Mario Bros. One year from September 30, 1981, the sales of Nintendo of America went from $4.7 million to $111 million. Net revenues jumped from $64,000 to $22 million.
Starting from 1982, Nintendo of America began licensing deals for Donkey Kong related merchandise and media. This led to the creation of Donkey Kong branded toys, food, a board gameMedia:DK board game.jpg, a card game, collectible stickers/cards, activity books, and other goods. This culminated in the Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior segments of Saturday Supercade which ran from 1983 to 1984. Most of the licensed products used the character designs from the North American flyerMedia:DK Arcade Flyer Front.jpg illustrated by Zavier Leslie Cabarga.
References in later games
Name in other languages