Donkey Kong (Classic NES Series)

If you’re ever in need of a nostalgia fix, just become a video gamer. For some reason, video game publishers can’t get enough of repackaging old classics and selling them once again over and over to the players. Sometimes this can be a good thing. New generations of game heads can discover all the old titles mom and dad used to play when they were young scraps looking for thrills in the arcades and on home consoles. It must be interesting from a kid’s point of view who’s been weaned on the new systems all his life. How amazing can something like Pac-Man be? It’s hard to say, really, but God knows the little yellow chomper is as classic as Coca-Cola and will remain so.

But I have the feeling that the countless titles being regurgitated on a regular basis are more to lure the people in my age bracket into making a purchase. And hell, it’s worked like a charm. I’ve bought everything from Namco Museum to Midway Arcade Treasures and various configurations of those Atari Anniversary sets, not to mention an Activision collection or two just so I could relive some thrills from the past. I even went so far as to purchase an old Atari 2600 on eBay for some weird reason. Sadly I have to say that that system’s games were much better when I was 9 years old. Some things just don’t age well.

But on top of even these collections of games, toy manufacturers have recently decided to issue classic game controllers with the games built in so all you have to do is hook the joystick up to the A/V jacks in your TV and off you go. The 2600, Intellivision, and other consoles have received this royal retro treatment. But when is enough enough really? Oft times, the same old tired games are being reconstituted in new boxes or gimmicks. One version of Ms. Pac-Man will suffice, thank you.

But this hasn’t stopped Nintendo from getting into the game. As of June 2004, the company has begun issuing a series of games under the Classic NES Series line. For those gaming geeks who haven’t already downloaded an NES emulator or held on to or even rebought an old original 8-bit NES system, one can now own a few of the dusty Nintendo classics on the GameBoy Advance. Thrill to the likes of Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, The Legend Of Zelda, Excitebike, and Ice Climber. The funny thing is is that Nintendo already did a retro thing with the GBA when they issued the ill-fated classic card reader add-on that also played some of these titles. But Nintendo has always been guilty of making silly accessories for all their systems that were often left in the dust because of their complete superfluous qualities.

Granted, it might be nice to have Super Mario Bros. back in action, as it’s been out of print for a long time now, the last issuing being on the GameBoy Color as Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, which features some silly extras like little game icons that you could print out on your GameBoy Printer (See what I mean about superfluous add-ons that everyone’s forgotten?). But for all of its classic video game impact and former arcade glory, the same cannot be said of Donkey Kong. If anyone does remember Nintendo’s original flagship title on the NES, then you’ll recall vividly how the game wasn’t even an exact port of the arcade game. And it wasn’t because the NES wasn’t capable of recreating the game to the last detail, it very well was. But for some reason DK was completely bastardized for the home community. And it’s sad but true that nothing’s been changed from the original NES version to its new port for the GBA.

What’s wrong with it? Well, for starters the classic intro screen with Donkey Kong climbing the set of girders that Mario has to climb is gone. The “How High Can You Get” screen is gone. The first hammer on the first screen has been moved from the far right to the far left. And, tragedy of tragedies, there is no mud/pie factory level. How could Nintendo, creator of one of the most well-known names in video games completely get their own game wrong? We’ll probably never know.

These quirks could have been fixed easily, but Nintendo has gone the purists’ route with this title and has left everything at its mediocre best intact for Donkey Kong. Needless to say, this a bit of a letdown and doesn’t faithfully represent the original game in any shape or form. But this is how it often goes with companies trying to make a quick buck on old product.

That may seem a bit harsh, but that’s how it must be. Buyers should be informed that what they’re getting may in fact be the watered-down original NES version of this game, but in this day and age improvements bringing the game up to its original speed could have and should have been made. So while the name of the game is Donkey Kong it simply isn’t Donkey Kong. In fact, it’s only a half shade better than the Atari 2600 version of the game, which if any old gamers remember, really wasn’t Donkey Kong at all. Perhaps the next time Nintendo decides to ship its old stuff out they’ll get it right.