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Live-Action Donkey Kong Jr. Commercial
In 1982, Nintendo released Donkey Kong Jr. This platform game is a sequel to the wildly successful Donkey Kong. Sure Nintendo could have played it safe and released just more of the same, they decided to reverse the roles in the game. Instead of playing Mario trying to rescue Pauline, you are not playing Donkey Kong’s son, who is trying to rescue his father from Mario.
It was a big hit in my hometown.
Now I was a big Atari fan, but I was well aware of the graphic superiority of the ColecoVision. So when my friend got a copy of Donkey Kong Jr. in the spring of 1983, a group of kids basically camped out in his house for a solid week playing.
It was hard enough to jump on my beloved Atari 2600 when I knew such a good port of an arcade game I loved was so accessible. It didn’t help when Nintendo started running commercial for the game featuring graphics from the Colecovision port along with live-action people dressed up in costumes playing the three main characters from the game.
You have a villainous Mario, who looks more like Waluigi than the Mario we know and love today.
We have a person in a gorilla costume playing Donkey Kong, who is now a slightly more manageable size than he was in the original Donkey Kong and is holding a ColecoVision controller. Is he playing the game and controlling his son? If so, a very meta direction for a commercial of the time.
Finally you have another person in a more juvenile looking ape suite climbing from vine to vine playing Donkey Kong Jr.
Yes, it all looks very silly now, but it also ticks all the boxes of things that entertained me as a kid. In fact, had Nintendo chosen to do a live-action version of Donkey Kong Jr. as a TV show with this look and feel, I would have loved it.
We would instead get an animated Donkey Kong Jr. that was not quite as dramatic, but watchable.
This commercial would continue to run for a few months and I would wait patiently to get a copy for my Atari 2600. When I finally did, I was disappointed. The graphics were not great, but more importantly a lot of the better game elements, like dropping fruit, was not included.
I had this happen to me on many Atari games before and after, but I was a fan and an optimist. So I played this version of the game for a few weeks trying to squeeze my money’s worth out of it before putting it in a box and forgetting about it. Then biking over to my friend’s house to see if he wanted to play the ColecoVision version.