Donkey Kong: Classic Arcade Game Video, History & Game Play Overview


The main characters, storyline and visuals depicted Donkey Kong help to set this arcade classic apart from every other title released in the same era. From Donkey Kong came highly recognizable games such as the Mario Brothers franchise and even the Mario Kart series. Conceptualized by designer Shigeru Miyamoto, this icon in the video game world worked closely with Nintendo to release titles like Zelda and many other smash hits.

The original Donkey Kong arcade game was officially released in the year 1981. It wasn't long before arcade goers and critics began to talk about Donkey Kong's unique layout and features. While Donkey Kong has mainly been licensed by its publisher Nintendo for NES consoles, it there are versions available that are compatible for Atari consoles and several early personal computer models.

After Nintendo realized just how popular Donkey Kong was becoming with fans, the green light was given on future titles. Starting with Donkey Kong Junior, a total of two sequels were released within four years. The last title, Donkey Kong 3 went in a decidedly different direction, and was not as well received as the first two games.

It was over a decade before the next title in the Donkey Kong series was released, but it helped to strengthen Nintendo's hold on the gaming industry. Donkey Kong Country was released in 1994 for the NES home game system. After that came the following titles in chronological order; Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country 2, Donkey Kong Land 2, Donkey Kong Country 3, Donkey Kong Land 3, Donkey Kong 64, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, DK King of Swing, DK Jungle Climber and Donkey Kong Country Returns.

A few other independent spin-offs were inspired by the original Donkey Kong arcade game, like Donkey Kong Jr. Math and Diddy Kong Racing. Nintendo is also the developer of Donkey Kong. Shigeru Miyamoto based Donkey Kong on Radar Scope, which is one of the very first games that Nintendo ever released. When Radar Scope was not as successful as expected, Miyamoto was asked to change it around and create a new game that would be more compelling to gamers.

While Miyamoto was only expected to make a few small changes to Radar Scope, he ended up introducing new characters, changed the platform and created and entirely new storyline. In the end, the only similarity between Donkey Kong and Radar Scope is the fact that both games were both housed in the same arcade, cabinet and cocktail tables. When Nintendo found that U.S. Based arcade players were not impressed with Radar Scope, they realized that it would be difficult to recoup their investment as well as sell future titles to this demographic.

When Donkey Kong was complete, Nintendo set to the task of removing the internal components of all Radar Scope arcade machines and replacing it with its new and improved creation. This time, fans were impressed, and the rest is history.


Game Play Overview

Quite a few historic video game characters of note appear in the original Donkey Kong arcade title. Donkey Kong himself appears for the first time in Donkey Kong, along with Jumpman (later named Mario) of the famed Mario Brothers series and a character named Pauline. She is also commonly referred to as the Lady. While they are drawn differently, Pauline is thought to be an early incarnation of Princess Peach from the Mario Brothers franchise. This title is widely described as a platform game, which refers to the way that Donkey Kong moves up and across various ledges on the screen.

Even though Donkey Kong is not a playable character, his attacks and movements are tantamount to the way the game unfolds. Jumpman is the main character, and he battles Donkey Kong across four main stages to get to Lady, who has been kidnapped by the hyperactive gorilla. Along the way, Jumpman comes across multiple bonus items and special abilities that can be used to help make his task easier.

Players have a set amount of time to complete each level. Jumpman's main offensive move is the jump action. This action is executed with the jump key. Jumpman moves from left to right when he is on a platform, and up and down when on ladders.

Donkey Kong is Jumpman's main adversary. However; there are many other enemies that Jumpman needs to beware of while on his quest. On certain levels, Jumpman has to skillfully avoid falling into cement pies and bouncing springs. Donkey Kong sends a barrage of rolling barrels and wooden beams at Jumpman whenever possible. Firefoxes and fireballs are also dangerous to Jumpman. These fires based elemental attacks take on the appearance of flaming spheres.

You will instantly lose one of your extra men if you are hit with any of these attacks or make contact with an opponent. Up to two players can play Donkey Kong by taking turns back and forth.

Special Features

The most abundant special features seen in this game are the scattered parasol, hat and purse icons. These symbols are supposed to represent some of the personal items Pauline left in her wake after being abducted by Donkey Kong. One of each of these icons will appear on every stage, and the total beginning value is 300 points when all three are gathered. The second time that you collect all three of Pauline's personal effects; you will get 500 extra points. After that, players get 800 bonus points on every level that they get all of Pauline's things.

While it is possible to get through all of Donkey Kong without using anything other than the jump button to evade your enemies, the hammer special feature attack gives players a break from the monotony. A limited number of hammers are dispersed in the game. This feature gives Jumpman the power to destroy all oncoming enemies, with the exception of Donkey Kong. Unfortunately, when the hammer is in use, the jump key becomes inactive. When the hammer special feature is activated at the right time, players can quickly add to their scores.

The time bonus also rewards players with bonus points when as little as one click remains on the timer. Of course, no time bonus is given if the clock runs out, and you will also be down a man if you are unable to complete a board in time. Extra lives are available for every 20,000 points that you score.


Pauline – Pauline, or the Lady, is the entire reason that Jumpman pursues Donkey Kong in the first place. This character stands atop the highest platform on each level and is guarded by Donkey Kong.

Firefoxes – Larger in size than fireballs, fireboxes can only be destroyed if you use the hammer attack. Up to four fireboxes can be on the screen at any time.

Cement Pies – This enemy, or rather object, doesn't move on its own, but they are transported by elevators. Jumpman can avoid cement pies with ease if you pay attention to their movement patterns and jump at the right time.

Jumpman – The only playable character and main protagonist, Jumpman, AKA, Mario, works to save the Lady, Pauline, from the evil clutches of Donkey Kong. Jumpman can climb, walk, hop and use a hammer to defeat his foes.

Donkey Kong – This angry gorilla is armed with an unending supply of beams and barrels, which he uses to slow Jumpman's progress. For whatever reason, Donkey Kong decided to take Pauline against her will, and will stop at nothing to keep Jumpman from rescuing her.

Barrels – A basic weapon of Donkey Kong's, barrels are nearly as iconic as the game itself.

Hats, Parasols and Purses – Each one of these items is pretty useless by itself, but if you get all three on a single stage, you will get a generous bonus.

Hammers – There will be at least one hammer on each level. Hammers cannot be stored or saved for use at a later time, so make sure that you want to activate it before making contact. One hit from the hammer will utterly destroy every opponent in your wake.

Beams – This is another of Donkey Kong's favorite weapons. Beams are just as dangerous as barrels.

Springs – Runway springs can cause harm to Jumpman, whether he runs into them or vice versa. Since springs bounce high, you can stay clear of them by letting them bounce over your head.

Fireballs – The smaller of the two fire element based enemies in Donkey Kong, fireballs are able to change their movement patterns at will.

How to Play Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong consists of four separate levels that repeat and a bonus round that appears later on in the game. There is no definitive end for Donkey Kong as players can continue to earn extra men for as long as they are able to earn extra lives.

Level 1 – The Ramp Stage
At the beginning of Donkey Kong, you will see exactly how each level is structured. Pauline is at the top of the level, pacing back and forth and Donkey Kong always remains close by her side. Jumpman will always start the level at the furthest point south, near the left of the screen.

You will not have much time to react, but Donkey Kong will immediately start to attack. There will be no 'rhythm' that you can follow to successfully jump over barrels and down flying beams, but you can judge the amount of time it takes these attacks to reach Jumpman. One of these attacks will reach the oil barrel that is precariously placed near Jumpman. In between avoiding flying object, you will want to get as far away from the oil barrel as possible.

Climb up the ladder on the right side of the bottom level. Note that all ladders cannot be used as some will be missing several rungs. Although you will be out of immediate danger, there will still be plenty of rolling barrels for you to avoid. During this stage, you will learn that Donkey Kong is capable of super frenzied barrel and beam attacks. Meaning, that there can be multiple attacks coming your way. To evade two or more barrels rolling in your direction, you will need to get a running start so that you can jump further distances.

There will be two ladders on the second platform, set side by side. Choose one of them and get to the third platform. If you take the ladder on the left side of the screen, you will be able to get to the hammer icon more quickly. Use the hammer to crush Donkey Kong's rolling barrels. The coast should be clear long enough for Jumpman to travel to the next level.

Two more ladders will be positioned next to one another. At the end of this platform, you will see another broken ladder. This is where the bulk of Donkey Kong's barrel attacks will come from. Climb up again, grab the hammer and run to the far right side of the screen. You may need to wait for the hammer attack to run out before you can get up to the final platform where Donkey Kong and Pauline are located. There will be no purse, parasol or hat icons available the first time that you encounter level one.

Level 2 – The Conveyor Belt Stage
Jumpman will be doing as much jumping as he does climbing on the Conveyor Belt stage. Cement pies and springs will also give Jumpman more challenges to overcome. Make your way up the ladder until you get to the very first moving conveyor. While travel across the conveyor belts is pretty quick, it is also very dangerous. Cement pies can appear so quickly that you are not able to respond, so try to get on and off as soon as you can.

You can limit the amount of time that you spend traveling on conveyors by hopping off onto the first floating ledge that you see. This should also position you closer to Pauline's lost item icons, but you will also end up being attacking by bouncing springs. All conveyors are connected by a pseudo ledge, where Jumpman can stop and 'rest.'

When you get to the top of the second level of the conveyor, you will see a ladder. Send Jumpman up the ladder so that he can get to the final conveyor belt. You will soon come across another ladder that connects to the top tier. Try to climb as fast as you can because Donkey Kong will still be hurling barrels at you. Make a few more timed jumps to finish this stage up.

Level 3 – The Elevator Stage
The elevators on level three go in opposite directions. You should always use the 'up' elevator whenever possible, but some enemies will force you to back pedal a bit. A single fireball waits patiently in the middle of the two elevators until you make a move. No matter which way you go, it will follow you.

It is best to use the 'down' elevator at the beginning of the stage, and then quickly backtrack so that the fireball will go to the bottom of the screen. If this is not possible, you can take the 'up' elevator with the fireball still on your heels and then use the floating island up on the left as an escape point. Once that enemy is taken care of, you can continue your ascent to the top.

Donkey Kong will be feverishly flinging barrels and beams in your direction and there will also be an endless stream of bouncing springs. Barrels and beams can be jumped over with ease. However; Jumpman is not really equipped to jump over springs. You will just need to learn how far springs bounce in order to prevent against getting hit.

Make your way to the top ledge, run to Pauline as you hop over barrels and save her from Donkey Kong.

Level 4 – The Rivet Stage
In the final round of Donkey Kong, there is literally no going back. You will be able to locate two hammer icons on this level, which are conveniently located on two of the higher platforms. There are three ladders on the ground level, but you should take the one on the left side. Barrels and fireballs will tumble across the platforms and down all ladders, so take your time as you make your way up.

The second tier will have two rivets that you have to get across. There is a total of eight rivets that have to be jumped over in order to defeat Donkey Kong. The bad news is that when you go over a rivet, a large gap will be left on the ledge. When this happens, you will be less vulnerable to fireball attacks, but you will also be unable to go back.

All of the ladders on the second platform are intact, so you can choose which one that you want to ascend. It will be easiest if you go to the far right and then climb up to the third tier. The third level holds the parasol and purse icons as well as a hammer attack. If you are approaching from the right side, you can pick up the two bonus icon and then activate the hammer attack last. This will allow you to eliminate your enemies just prior to traveling to the fourth layer.

Although you have been traveling in a zig-zag pattern, you will need to change up your approach to clear the last two rivets. Once on the fourth platform, you should continue up to the top. Use the ladder on the outside to get there. Get the parasol icon, clear the top left rivet, which is right next to Pauline, then quickly climb back down.

There will be one last hammer icon on this level, which should help you to smash all of the rolling barrels. However, the hammer icon is situated toward the center, so you will have to do some maneuvering before you can get to safety. Hop over the last rivet on this platform and go up one of the two ladders on the right hand side.

Donkey Kong will be knocked out and fall when the last rivet has been cleared. With no more enemy attacks coming, you will just need to run across to Pauline and this stage will be over.

Bonus Level – The Kill Screen
After you have cycled through 22 rounds, you will be able to get to the bonus level. This stage is solely meant for earning bonus points, which can be especially helpful if you are running low on extra men.

The Kill Screen stage starts off with an animation of Donkey Kong carrying Pauline up an elevator. The stage appears to be a duplicate of the Elevator level, but the elevators will be dismantled into several smaller ladders, and the platforms will fall into a horizontally sloped pattern.

Since the time available for you to score extra points will be severely limited, there is no tangible way to reach Donkey Kong or save Pauline. A hammer icon will be available to your immediate right. Note that Donkey Kong's barrel attacks will start to come as soon as the timer begins to count down. By moving quickly, you can round up quite a few bonus points, and perhaps, you will be able to earn a coveted extra life.

Hints and Tips
- Timing is everything in Donkey Kong. Running jumps will be necessary to hop over multiple barrels. Pause whenever a spring attack is launched, and use the directional keys to get into the right spot.

- Broken ladders can be useful for Jumpman, but only at certain times. If you don't feel confident enough in your ability to leap over fast moving attacks, climb up a broken ladder and let your enemies pass below.

- When you start to get to higher levels in the game, enemies and barrel attacks will start to instinctively 'follow' you. This will make it easier to fake them out and lure them down ladders.


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