Nintendo's most famous character may be a certain plumber with a stylish hat, but the company's first real breakout original star was Donkey Kong. Most interestingly, while characters such as Mario, Link, and Kirby merely evolved over the years with little changes and additions to their properties, Donkey Kong has been continuously reinvented and adapted to meet new ideas and gimmicks. Over at 1UP, Jeremy Parish has come up with ten intriguing facts about the big gorilla himself. You'll learn about the lost sequel to the original arcade game, the bizarre Saturday morning cartoon from 1983, and the mystery behind the character's real creator.
Donkey Kong made Nintendo an arcade giant, so why do we never see the arcade version of the game? Well, surprisingly enough, Nintendo may not actually own the game code. Of course, Shigeru Miyamoto designed Donkey Kong, but the programming work for the game was contracted out to Ikegami Tsushinki, and when Nintendo decided to begin programming its games in-house, they apparently got a head start by reverse-engineering the code to Donkey Kong. Ikegami Tsushinki was unimpressed by this misuse of their work and sued Nintendo in 1983. Wikipedia claims the suit was settled in an out-of-court agreement in 1989, and no one knows what the terms are. It's entirely possible that Nintendo doesn't actually own the original Donkey Kong -- though that version did appear, hidden, in 2000's Donkey Kong 64, which just raises further questions. After all, you'd think Nintendo would be quick to add the game to their Virtual Console Arcade service and rake in the cash, but nope; as of this writing, Nintendo doesn't offer a single one of its historic arcade creations on VC.
Interesting facts really need to come in groups of twelve, so I'll add on to Jeremy's ten and give you two more.
The Donkey Kong franchise has been under the creative control of six development companies over the years, each of which reinvented it to serve its needs:
- Nintendo created the franchise for the arcades and home console conversions as well as the beloved 1994 Super Game Boy take on the arcade formula.
- Rare was given control of the franchise in 1994 for Donkey Kong Country and its related sequels and spin-offs (including Donkey Kong Land and Donkey Kong 64).
- Paon assumed development duties for the King of Swing and Jungle Climber games as well as the ill-received Barrel Blast racing game.
- Namco "borrowed" the characters for their Donkey Konga music titles.
- Nintendo reassumed direct control for the unique bongo-driven Jungle Beat title as well as the Mario vs Donkey Kong and March of the Minis handheld games and sequels.
- Capcom brought the character back to the arcades with Donkey Kong Jungle Fever and Donkey Kong Banana Kingdom.
- Most recently, Retro Studios revived the Country model of gameplay for Donkey Kong Country Returns.
Wait, what's this about Capcom's Jungle Fever and Banana Kingdom arcade games? Yes, the same company that brings us Mega Man and Street Fighter came up with two new arcade titles featuring Donkey Kong back in the mid '00s that aped (no pun intended) existing art assets from Jungle Beat for use in a pachinko game. These titles never saw the light of day outside of Japan, of course. There isn't really a market for pachinko in North America and beyond. Some online sources claim that these Capcom titles are remakes of or sequels to Jungle Beat, but look at that arcade cabinet in the flyer there. Could that be anything other than pachinko or a pachinko-related game? It looks far too static to be a traditional video game. Moreover, while other Nintendo-related arcade games from this period such as F-Zero AX and Mario Kart Arcade GP were localized for limited international release, neither Donkey Kong title was given similar treatment. I believe this makes sense if those games were merely pachinko titles. After all, why localize a game for which there is no overseas market?
Now you are up to date on obscure digital gorilla lore. Consider your day complete. Time for a banana break!