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Old 10-16-2012, 01:01 AM   #1 (permalink)
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A Brief Reunion with the Coleco Donkey Kong Mini-Arcade

During my recent trip to New York City, I couldn't help but visit the local mom-and-pop-owned video game shops, especially since such places don't exist in San Francisco. While I browsed the shelves looking for buried video game treasures, I noticed a small device from my personal video game history: Coleco's Donkey Kong Mini-Arcade, only wrapped in some serious saran wrap.

For a child growing up in the '80s, you couldn't get far without bumping into some form of video game advertising. It literally covered all the ground a young person could manage at the time, from tempting television commercials during after school cartoons to full-sized contest giveaways on the back of cereal boxes -- a great way to suggest a new gift to your parents. While I don't recall the specifics as clearly as I'd like, sometime in 1984, my mom gave my sister and I each our first home video game system for Christmas. And, as usual, she made an excellent choice for our gift.

With the Donkey Kong craze still in effect since 1981, Coleco's Donkey Kong Mini-Arcade became one of the most sought after toys(?) of the early '80s. Just look at all of those tiny details! Built to resemble a full arcade machine, the little system nailed all the details. The marque and cabinet art matched the original perfectly, and look at that tiny joystick. The hard beeps and bops made by the speakers might have sounded too rough, and maybe the Coleco's Mini-Arcade wasn't a perfect portable version of the source material -- remember kids, Donkey Kong had more than one stage -- but to a young child in the '80s, this was the best thing ever: a small machine that let me play one of the best video games available, and without pumping a drip feed of quarters into the machine to do it.

As the exclusive licensee of the home console and portable publishing rights to Donkey Kong, Coleco made a lot of money off of this little machine before Nintendo wisely entered the home market themselves.

So what happened to my adorable little Mini-Arcade? Well, that's actually a sad story. At some point in early 1985, thieves robbed our house of every valuable they could find. Jewelry, TVs, VCRs, portable radios, and our individual Mini-Arcade units became easy pickings for whoever did the dirty deed. I still remember walking through the trashed apartment, on the verge of tears, as we picked over the stuff they'd left behind.

I suppose that's how it goes in a rough neighborhood, but the following Christmas more than made up for the trouble we'd faced earlier that year. Always ready to outdo her Christmas gifts from the year prior, my Mom bought us a Nintendo Entertainment System -- a nearly impossible feat considering how many people in NYC wanted the console. For a small kid in the Bronx, this was a huge moment for me. And that's when I first heard the most memorable video game song ever, and got into Castlevania II, and found the hobby that changed my life forever.
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