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Donkey Kong Junior for the ColecoVision
In 1982, Nintendo released Donkey Kong Jr., an arcade platform game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi. It is the sequel to the popular game Donkey Kong, but with a twist: Mario is now the villain, and Donkey Kong Jr. is the hero trying to rescue his father. The game was later released for various home consoles, and in North America, it was titled Donkey Kong Junior in the arcade version and other non-Nintendo systems.
The game’s plot revolves around Junior trying to rescue his father from Mario’s captivity. To stop him, Mario unleashes circus animals, but the hero manages to escape and reaches Mario’s headquarters. After a climactic battle, DK Jr. saves his father, and the two set off together. It very much mirrors the gameplay of the original Donkey Kong with some nice gameplay twists.
Like the original, it has four unique stages, each with a distinct theme. And Junior, like Mario (Jumpman), can run and jump. But he can also grab vines, chains, and ropes to climb higher on the screen. The game has some new enemies as well, including Snapjaws, Nitpickers, and Sparks, which DK Jr. can avoid by jumping or knocking down pieces of fruit.
To pass the first three stages, DK Jr. must reach the key hanging next to his father’s cage. In the fourth stage, he must push six keys into locks on the topmost platform to free Donkey Kong. After completing the fourth stage, the game restarts at an increased difficulty. A bonus timer runs throughout each stage, and any remaining points are added to the player’s score.
The game is challenging, and DK Jr. loses a life when he touches an enemy or projectile, falls too far, touches the water and falls off the screen, or if the bonus timer counts down to zero. The game ends when the player loses all their lives. Donkey Kong Jr. remains a beloved classic, appreciated for its challenging gameplay and iconic characters.
When the game hit arcades in 1982, I was smitten. I have always been a sucker for the cuter version of a main character, even unpopular ones like Scrappy Doo. Do when I got an eyeful of Donkey Kong’s progeny, I couldn’t get my quarters into the game fast enough.
And there was the problem. Every time I wanted to play the game, it was going to cost me. Now I had an Atari 2600 and was often happy enough with the game they released there, but ports of arcade games, where I had gotten used to the original, could be difficult to enjoy. Still, it was better than nothing. So when I saw this commercial for the release for the console release of the game, it got me to start saving my money for the Atari 2600 version.
While I was trying to get the money together in anticipation of the release, my one friend with a ColecoVision got a copy of Donkey Kong Junior for that console on his birthday. When he invited me over to play, I was floored. The gameplay was superb and played very much like the arcade. I might have been naive on many fronts, but I knew that there was no way the Atari 2600 would be this good.
So I started to do something I regret in hindsight, I started to become an unwanted guest. This is not something I planned or realized at first, but I found out in an extremely awkward way.
One night, after spending MANY days pretty much camped out at this friend’s house, which was something I had never done before, I reluctantly went home for dinner. When dinner was over, my Mom said she needed to talk to me.
My friend’s mom had called her and told her that my visits were just a bit too much. I was showing up during breakfast and then wouldn’t leave until dinner. That they could put up with, but when their family was headed out to visit their grandmother, I kinda of invited myself to stay and keep playing ColecoVision. They reluctantly said okay, but the madness needed to stop.
It was a weird situation to be in, I still wanted to play DK Jr., but how could I, knowing that I had worn out my welcome? So with pressure from my Mom, I stopped cold turkey. Eventually, I would play with that friend again, but I never brought up his ColecoVision. It was too much for me to handle, so I needed to keep my distance.
Every time that commercial would play, or I would catch Donkey Kong Junior on the Saturday Supercade, I’d feel the pull. Eventually I got the game for the Atari 2600. As predicted, it was fine, but nowhere near as good as the ColecoVision version. Still, it was the version I owned and I would log many hours on it. Each time I fired it up, though, I thought about that ColecoVision and would dream of one day owning one.