DK Vine: Honourable Mentions: 2A: Donkey Kong Precursors (Game & Watch Games)

2A: Donkey Kong Precursors (Game & Watch Games)

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All Donkey Kong series LCD Games. All are inspired to greater or lesser extent by main games in the Arcade series. Most are official Nintendo Game & Watch systems but there are a couple of third-party LCD games.



Donkey Kong (1984, Game & Watch Multi-Screen)

What is it?  
REDRUM. REDRUM. Note: there is an alternate box with actual art, but I couldn't find a good picture. Sucks to be you!

The first Game & Watch game to be an adaptation of an existing game, this was the second to use the dual-screen setup that later inspired the DS, as well as being the originator of what has remained a gaming staple to this day: the D-pad. Although nominally a retelling of the arcade Donkey Kong, the setup here involves swinging from a crane to remove the supports to Cranky's platform, after the requisite barrel-hopping and the use of a lever. It was rereleased in the Nintendo Mini Classics line, reissues of Game & Watch titles from 1998 onwards in Game Boy-style units. This game is playable in Game & Watch Gallery 2 (AKA Game Boy Gallery 2/3 in Japan/Australia) and Game & Watch Gallery 4 (AKA Game & Watch Gallery Advance in Europe and Australia) in both a "classic" mode with conversion of the original graphics to the different screen size and "modern" mode with improved graphics, multiple levels, new Mario-themed enemies and environments, and Pauline replaced by Peach. The classic style is more faithfully recreated in the Club Nintendo giveaway DS title Game & Watch Collection 1. Which is nice.

Also the origin of the now-iconic silhouette stage look. Right? (Thanks to Madrigal for the playable recreation, which also recreates the look of the hardware as seen here.)
You're not fooling anyone, Nintendo. My Game Boy never did that (well, until I ran it over with my skateboard while doing a sick ollie 'cos I'm from the '90s). Note the use of MvDK artwork, coupled with a DKC2 DK barrel, on a DKC1 jungle. None of which is really indicative of the game itself.
In G&WG2's Classic mode, You can toggle which virtual screen is bigger at any time, if you want to see the smallest DK ever.
HA HA HE FELL
 
This high-tech factory recalls DKCR, but it's in the Mushroom Kingdom (as evidenced by other stages' elements and the drones).
Note the donut lifts and Yoshi's Island-style rotating platform. See, reeks of mushroom.
Rather a nice town-scape in the background, but again note the smiley clouds, Koopa Troopa, and Peach's Castle.
In the GBA Gallery game, they've chosen to represent the LCD sprite "shadows" in classic mode. This carries through to subsequent DS ports of G&Ws.
 
"These dual-screen ones aren't well suited to the wider GBA screen. But let's put 'em in anyway!"
~Nintendo designers.
Both modern remakes of this game also have a lower section, which I haven't screenshotted. There's a basement here...
...a little underground section here...
...and a good look at the cool flying ship here. Note that they've changed the location for this third screen between the remakes.
 
Just like Paul Muad'dib, Mario can see the infinite possibilities before him as a result of his actions. That's how I explain the visible sprite shadows. From carpenter to Kwisatz Haderach. Then to plumber.


Why is it mentionable?

Since the task set out by the Game & Watch title differs from any level of the arcade game, it can be viewed as an extra chapter to those events, easily slotted in much like Pacifica in DKC3's GBA port. Alternatively, it could be seen as abridging the events of 25m and 100m into one and adding a few details, such as the lever and the crane. Aside from its historical significance, the "modern" updates in the Gallery games present another instance of Cranky wearing the famous red tie, which is either contemptible revisionism or reinforcing its symbolism in DK Island leadership. The remakes also can be viewed as a shameful retcon—following what could be seen as a revised version of events in DK '94—or else simply fanciful play-acting to re-enact past events without malice, with the help of a time machine to bring the past version of Cranky forward (it's been done before). Or maybe Donkey Kong is just up to his old tricks again... (barf). One unique feature is that this game represents the first appearance of Junior, who handles the alarm function and is labelled as "Mini Donkey Kong" in the manual.

More Info:

Mario Wiki's general information about the game
Scan of the game's manual
Site hosting various recreations of this and other LCD games, playable on modern computers
Very accurate and nicely-presented recreation of this and other LCD games, playable entirely within a browser
DK Girder's article on Arcade Era Game & Watch games with more pictures



Donkey Kong (1982, Coleco Tabletop)

What is it?

This lesser-known adaptation of the first game aims to recreate the feel and look of the arcades in a small self-contained portable unit, even adorning itself with lots of "cabinet art". Its more advanced and colourful display is a tradeoff for its larger size (and higher price, and large battery requirement). This game was actually made by Coleco, not Nintendo, in a line alongside other arcade "conversions". As such, it's not a true "Game & Watch" title, but as one of the few non-Nintendo LCD games it fits fine on this list. It's based on 25m and 100m, but more faithfully than the multi-screen version.

Such a beast, and yet the gameplay is in such a small window. It was early days, my friends. (Thanks again to Madrigal for the recreation.)
 
Just like the real Donkey Kong arcade game!!!*

*Except worse in every way.

Batteries not included.


Why is it mentionable?

This is notable as one of the outsourced ports that Nintendo allowed for their first big cash cow. Its ambitious aim to emulate an arcade experience and fast pace help it stand out from Nintendo's own LCD adaptation, but its price and power usage make it the Sega Game Gear to Nintendo's Game Boy. Unfortunately, it also takes less liberties and so it has little new to introduce to the story or universe of the Arcade Era.

More Info:

Summary, pictures, and some context for the game
Site hosting a scan of the manual for the game
Madrigal's site for LCD game recreations, playable on modern computers



Donkey Kong Jr. (1982, Game & Watch New Wide Screen)

What is it?  
The controversial first appearance of Baby Waluigi.

While the first DK game had two accompanying LCD games, the sequel had three! The first shared its title with Junior's debut and adapts the first or second stage (they're pretty similar) into a much simpler form. This was also reissued in the Nintendo Mini Classics line starting in 1998. It was featured in Game & Watch Gallery 3 (AKA Game Boy Gallery 3/4 in Japan/Australia) and Game & Watch Gallery 4 (AKA Game & Watch Gallery Advance in Europe and Australia) in both a "classic" mode—a pretty faithful port—and "modern" mode—a re-make which adds new stage layouts, environments, and enemies based on the Mario series. A close recreation of the original was also released on the DSiWare store.

This game has cute art. That print on the left reminds me of DK64's ending, where the roles are reversed and DK picks up Cranky. Aww. (Thanks to Pica Pic for the recreation.)
Although there's been a number of releases of this unit with different colours and packaging, this is the most entertaining. Mostly because of the strangely erotic-sounding exclamation on the left, but I'm also amused by the stock fern photo and the use of Smash 64 artwork, possibly the most off-model official art.
The Game Boy Color ends up looking worse than the LCD game from 15 years prior. Go figure.
Check out that point score, eh lads? Cranky sure seems happy about the prospect.
 
You want to do Mario vs. Donkey Kong right? Right here, we've got playable Donkey stomping Goombas in a platformer in a nice jungle environment. Boom.
A Yoshi's Island Nipper adds to the crossover feel of these modern G&W takes. Also note that bird, which helps you reach the cage. The first Animal Buddy?
The nice backgrounds continue; note Cranky seems to still be wearing the tie.
There's a debate about whether the shadows are more authentic or less. Which do you prefer? I'm talking to you, knucklehead!
 
G&WG4's modern remakes really benefit from the GBA's screen, considering the improved graphics are a big draw.
Funnily enough, the backgrounds in the GBA one are less Mario-like; no clouds with eyes or distinctive mountains here.
Notice how Junior's head looks different to the "miss" icon's head. Is this significant? Nah, probably not.
Not as good a use of the DS hardware as the multi-screen Donkey Kong G&W port in Game & Watch Collection. Also a bit superfluous now that the NES DK Jr. and Game & Watch Gallery 3 are on the Virtual Console.


Why is it mentionable?

As a simplified port of the arcade original, this game offers little new for DK fans beyond the unique art style. As before, the modern Gallery remakes add nicer graphics and new gameplay elements (such as actually carrying the key) as well as a more modern Mario-inspired aesthetic, plus the return of Cranky's tie. It also debatably follows the "revised timeline" of DK '94 –> modern DK G&W: considering that the former seemingly portrays a journey to Mushroom World, these modern versions could be presenting a scenario in which those events are played out similarly but in a different location. Or else it's an abuse of time travel to relive history, whatever.

More Info:

Scan of the manual for the game
Mario Wiki's general information about the game
Site hosting various recreations of this and other LCD games, playable on modern computers
Very accurate and nicely-presented recreation of this and other LCD games, playable entirely within a browser
Nintendo of America's page for the DSiWare rerelease
DK Girder's article on Arcade Era Game & Watch games with more pictures



Donkey Kong II (1982, Game & Watch Multi-Screen)

What is it?  
BROWNRUM. Er...

You know how Harry Potter 7 went from one book to two films? Well, despite the ambiguous naming, this Game & Watch forms the second of the two-part adaptation of DK Jr. from arcade to portable, by recreating the third and fourth stages. The factory stage takes place on the bottom screen, before Junior moves to the top to free his "papa" from Mario's clutches by pushing keys up chains. This game was playable in Game & Watch Gallery 3 (AKA Game Boy Gallery 3/4 in Japan/Australia), but only in "classic" mode with basic graphics and the screen-switching that was used for the classic mode of the Donkey Kong G&W in G&WG2.

Obviously reusing the same hardware as the DK G&W. I like the use of two screens to adapt two separate parts of the original game. (Thanks again to Madrigal for the PC remake.)
The tiny sprites on the non-dominant screen are so cute! So few pixels!
DK actually looks like he's smiling. Are we just intruding on his weird masochism games with Mario? "Papa, no!" "Er, Junior, go to your room!"


Why is it mentionable?

As well as being a bit more ambitious in design, being a sequel to the first DK Jr. G&W allows them to cover pretty much all of the arcade game in another format. It may also seem a bit superfluous though, as the story could have been more or less represented by said previous G&W; not to mention the reused sprites from it and the reused hardware from DK G&W. DK II is a fairly straight adaptation of the latter half of DK Jr., so doesn't add that much to the series, but it's a nice curiosity.

More Info:

Scan of the manual for the game
Mario Wiki's general information about the game
Site hosting various recreations of this and other LCD games, playable on modern computers
DK Girder's article on Arcade Era Game & Watch games with more pictures



Donkey Kong Jr. (1983, Coleco Tabletop/Game & Watch Panorama)

What is it?  
Cranky, what happened to your neck?! And your teeth!?

Not to be confused with the New Wide Screen version, this adaptation of DK Jr. uses the technology of the Tabletop format (like Coleco's Donkey Kong-based game, but simpler) to give a brighter, more colourful display. Nintendo produced the unit in subdued shades of brown for several markets outside the US, while Coleco—after plans to make a more advanced model themselves akin to their first DK tabletop fell through—released the same game with a more garish hardware colour scheme in America. Later in the year a Panorama edition was released that brought the same experience to a handheld form factor. Unlike the Wide Screen one, this game adds some things that weren't even in the original arcade game, such as parasols and balloons which Junior must use, and the necessity to collect and carry the key to Cranky's bonds.

Nintendo's version of the Tabletop. The game part is actually on top of the unit, and light must pass through it and reflect off a mirror inside the cabinet to get to your eyes looking through the screen part. (Thanks to Madrigal for the remake.)
Coleco's version of the Tabletop. The colour effect is made by a pre-coloured layer over the LCD covering different parts, so each element is always only one colour. (Madrigal made downloads for both hardware versions, even though the game itself is the same.)
The Panorama edition. It uses the same technology as the Tabletop but folds up into a very compact form. (Yep, Madrigal did all three versions, and the only difference is the frame.)


Why is it mentionable?

Taken as a package deal, DK Jr. (Wide Screen) and DK II tell the complete story of Junior and the nasty Mario, but this rendition provides a richer experience of the first half. The jungle environment is here in lush colour, and the treacherous water is represented now. Snapjaws are absent, but there are new elements in the form of falling umbrellas and rising balloons to swing from, to complicate the final section. These make it arguably the most interesting of the attempts to bring DK Jr. to the portable G&W platform, and the Panorama version also does it without subverting that whole "portable" thing as the Virtual Boy-style Tabletop version does.

More Info:

• Scans of the manuals for the Tabletop and Panorama versions of the game
Summary and pictures
Madrigal's site for LCD game recreations, playable on modern computers (all three versions of this game can be downloaded and played here)



Donkey Kong 3 (1984, Game & Watch Micro Vs.)

What is it?  
Cranky was using projectile weapons years before DK64.

The second multiplayer Game & Watch after the tangentially DKU-relevant Punch-Out!! (AKA Boxing), this versus game pits Stanley the Bugman (in his fourth and final real appearance) against Donkey Kong Senior in a tug-of-war-style contest. Each of them has a spray gun now, and must use it to push insects towards the other so they are stung. It can be played solo as well against a CPU DK. This game was playable in Game & Watch Gallery 4 (AKA Game & Watch Gallery Advance in Europe and Australia) with the multiplayer retained. The "modern" update had Mario and DK Senior shooting bubbles at a Boo and fireball to push them at each other, in a Mario-style ghost house.

Unfortunately this hasn't been replicated by any enterprising programmers. However...
...it's pretty faithfully recreated for G&WG4.
The only game where you can have Mario and DK Senior in a real battle, both in playable form, and it's just blowing bubbles at each other?
This time, the burning in Mario's crotch is not syphilis.


Why is it mentionable?

It's Stanley's swansong, it's Cranky's first playable appearance (of three) in his Arcade form, it's the second multiplayer DK game. It's also the first game where you can play out both sides of the humanity vs. nature conflict that's been a theme through the Arcade series, and serving as a sequel of sorts to the arcade DK3 this makes it a fitting end to the Arcade saga (the next two games are a prequel and a sports spinoff). The "modern" version also has the rare instance of a Mario vs. DK (Senior) event where they're on equal footing and both playable. It's not totally even-handed though, as the solo mode forces you to use Stanley/Mario, setting DK once again in the default antagonistic role. Still, it does show some moral ambiguity, which is important to the re-establishment of the characters in DKC. Again, the modern version could be taken as part of an alternate timeline that somehow ended up with Cranky and Mario in a ghost house with bubble guns (you can tell I've thought this through can't you?).

More Info:

Scan of the manual for the game
Mario Wiki's general information about the game
DK Girder's article on Arcade Era Game & Watch games with more pictures



Donkey Kong Circus (1983, Game & Watch Panorama)

What is it?

A reskin of the G&W title Mickey Mouse from six months earlier, Donkey Kong Circus has you controlling DK Senior during his enslavement by Mario, who is forcing him to perform for a circus act by juggling pineapples and avoiding fireballs while balanced on a barrel. It has the trappings of the first arcade game with girders and flaming barrels, with the vibrant colours common to the Panorama releases (as seen earlier with the second DK Jr. G&W). Despite the aesthetic, it's the first G&W to have an original plot not directly based on another game.

 
Dynamic. Actually, now that I look at it this mugshot is just taken straight from the DK 3 G&W box. An early example of lazily reusing assets.
Thanks to Madrigal, we can play this game. And so can Japanese people (it was never released there).


Why is it mentionable?

As another example of a villainous Mario and sympathetic Cranky, it's very important for balancing the portrayals during the Arcade Era, and presenting both sides as wronged in some way. Whether this presents a prequel to the original game as motivation for Cranky's kidnapping of Pauline or is set just after, when Mario has him back in custody, we see that the ape has a legitimate grievance. And Mario being an utter laughing bastard when you fail is a satisfying counterpoint to his modern whitewashed image. Its use of Pop Goes the Weasel as a musical cue is not repeated in any DKU game, despite one of DK64's bosses being a giant Jack-in-the-box.

More Info:

Scan of the manual for the game
Madrigal's site for LCD game recreations, playable on modern computers
DK Girder's article on Arcade Era Game & Watch games with more pictures



Donkey Kong Hockey (1983, Game & Watch Micro Vs.)

What is it?

The third and final Vs. Game & Watch title, this one used the same hardware and a similar gameplay layout to DK3 G&W. Mario as Player 1 and DK Senior (CPU or Player 2) try to hit the ball (it's field hockey, not ice hockey) past their opponent, with the referee and "crazy spots" mixing up the gameplay.

 
Now that's just adorable. Good to see Baby Waluigi back too.
Mario is the default player, and yet Donkey Kong gets top billing. The way it should be, baby. Unfortunately, it's one of two games on this list not to be playable in any way without owning the unit.


Why is it mentionable?

Despite a few cameo appearances in early sports games, the Famicom Disk System golf games (1987) and NES Open Tournament Golf (1991) were the first Nintendo sports games to prominently feature Mario, and it wasn't until the Virtual Boy's Mario's Tennis in 1995 that any sports game had his name in the title (not counting 1992's Super Mario Kart). Donkey Kong Hockey beat all of that by years. The irony being that nowadays the Kongs' most common appearances are in Mario spin-offs, whereas the original sports spin-off was Donkey Kong-branded. What this game shows is that the relationship between Cranky and Mario has cooled from antagonistic to more friendly, to the point where they can play a nice game of sportsball together, and as such is an appropriate capper to the Arcade saga with its cycle of retributive acts.

More Info:

Scan of the manual for the game
Mario Wiki's general information about the game
DK Girder's article on Arcade Era Game & Watch games with more pictures



Donkey Kong (1994, Nelsonic Game Watch)

What is it?

Like Coleco's Donkey Kong Tabletop LCD game, this is a third-party non-G&W LCD game. It's based on the Game Boy's DK '94, with artwork, in-game graphics, and even the short music snippets being converted from that title. It was released to coincide with DK '94, and does a decent job recreating the puzzle-platformer gameplay on an LCD system. The DK Game Watch is the second game on this page to not be playable in any other form, but looking closely you find that it's a painstaking recreation of stage 1-7 from DK '94, so you could just play that instead for a smoother version of this.

 
Game Watch! Is it game or is it watch? Game Watch! Nobody knows. Game Watch! Is it game or is it watch? Game Watch! It's probably both.
Apologies for the poor photo, you can see it better in the YouTube video linked below.


Why is it mentionable?

The most notable thing about this release is the cereal box promotion, whose original artwork depicts DK Senior wearing the actual watch that he appears in, possibly the first instance in the DK series of characters interacting with their own games, being followed by DK Arcade in DK64, SNES controllers in DKC2, and B-K carts in Banjo-Tooie (among others). Apart from that, it's a close approximation of DK '94's level 1-7 and so won't add much new to our understanding.

More Info:

Pictures and very basic information about the game
Video of the game in action, including footage of a cereal box promotion which shows Cranky wearing the watch


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