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Old 08-28-2011, 10:40 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

Of all the arcade hits of the early 1980s, Donkey Kong has consistently proven the hardest for developers to bring home. When you consider all the game brought to the table in 1981, and everything consoles of the time couldn't do to accommodate it, that's no surprise. However, Donkey Kong even made a monkey out of the NES, which should have had more than enough power to do the game justice. What went wrong, and what are today's designers doing to make it right?

We'll start first with Donkey Kong on the Intellivision. The system was widely regarded as more sophisticated than its competitors, thanks to a massive payload of RAM and an even more enormous load of marketing BS spread by tight-sphinctered spokesman George Plimpton. Its crude resolution didn't make it the ideal candidate for a Donkey Kong port, but Coleco salted the wound when it released a conversion that was so awful it was hilarious. Well, except to the poor saps who bought it. They were too busy crying to see the humor in their new purchase.

The Blue Sky Rangers, the rag-tag group of engineers responsible for the Intellivision hardware, have insisted that their machine was capable of better... and hobbyist Carl Mueller Jr. is determined to prove them right with his own conversion of Donkey Kong. While the game is still chunkier than an explosion on the set of The Biggest Loser, it features all four stages, all of the charming intermissions, and oh yes, sound effects that won't shatter your windows. Mueller plans to release the game later this year, so if you're still on the Intellivision tip, you'd better pre-order a copy before they're all gone.

Now onto the ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong! Fans of the system were quick to extoll the virtues of this translation, but despite being noticeably improved over past ports, it was still a long way from arcade perfect. The devil was in the details, or lack thereof... most of the intermissions were swept under the rug, along with subtle nuances like a hammer that protects you from danger... but not completely. Also, the colors that had been crisp and bright in the arcade game had lost their punch on the ColecoVision... the rusty red of girders became Pepto pink and Donkey Kong's new shade of eye-searing orange was like staring into a simian sun.

Coleco made a half-hearted attempt to improve Donkey Kong on its hapless ADAM computer, adding the rarely seen cement factory stage and some (but not all) of the intermissions. However, hastily programmed new content stapled onto the same flawed game was probably not what players expected when they dropped seven hundred dollars on this machine. (They got a lot of other nasty surprises with the ADAM, but that's a story for another day!)

Fortunately, programmer Eduardo Mello has a much better deal for gamers with his astonishingly close ColecoVision port of Donkey Kong, which requires only the system and a modestly priced expansion unit. What really puts this game over the top are the number of options available. If you're not happy with the convoluted American level arrangements, you can play the stages in order by switching to the Japanese mode. Tired of Mario? You can pick up a second controller and play as his brother Luigi. (No, he doesn't have that weird floaty jump from Super Mario Bros. 2.)

That brings us to the NES, and the gaming world's most puzzling mystery. How could Nintendo whiff a conversion of Donkey Kong on its own game system? Surely the machine that gave us such masterpieces as Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and Kirby's Adventure could handle a little mano-a-ape-o action from 1981, couldn't it? Well, the reality is that most of the muscle in an NES game comes from the cartridge, not the system. Later titles used what's called a Memory Management Controller to stretch the limitations of the NES, but early games had no such luxuries, and very little storage space. Donkey Kong in particular was only 24K, which explains why the fourth stage and most of the intermissions from the arcade game took a hike.

Nevertheless, the game's shortcomings didn't sit well with Donkey Kong fans, who felt that Nintendo had forsaken them for the broader horizons of Super Mario Bros. They demanded better, and after years of complaints Nintendo grudgingly offered them restitution. First came Donkey Kong '94 for the GameBoy, which offered simplified versions of the arcade game's four stages as practice for the meatier main event. Next was Donkey Kong 64, which buried a port of the arcade game somewhere in its code. All you needed to reveal it was hours of the tedious scavenging that made Rare (in)famous! Finally, there's Donkey Kong Original Edition, included in a special edition Wii released in Europe and Australia. Marketed as the genuine Donkey Kong experience, DKOE was actually just the NES game with the cement factory stage- but almost none of the missing intermissions- included.

If you're still waiting for a faithful game of Donkey Kong on a Nintendo system, with no strings attached, you'd better pull up a chair and get comfy. You're going to be waiting a while.



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Old 08-28-2011, 11:55 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

The Gameboy version was my favorite.
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Old 08-29-2011, 12:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

I wonder why Nintendo has never made the effort to bring the actual original arcade game to any of their systems for 30 years now.
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Old 08-29-2011, 11:27 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

I don't know, I've wondered that myself.
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Old 08-29-2011, 11:31 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

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Originally Posted by Seahawk View Post
I wonder why Nintendo has never made the effort to bring the actual original arcade game to any of their systems for 30 years now.
I believe there's a version hidden in Donkey Kong 64 that seems pretty accurate to me. Something more direct from the arcade into a collection or something that points it out would be more preferable.
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Old 08-29-2011, 11:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

Never played Donkey Kong 64, save for a few minutes at a friends house. It is, apparently, an accurate port within the game.

Still, I prefer the Gameboy version to the arcade version.
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Old 08-30-2011, 12:43 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

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Originally Posted by GamingWolf View Post
I believe there's a version hidden in Donkey Kong 64 that seems pretty accurate to me. Something more direct from the arcade into a collection or something that points it out would be more preferable.
Yeah I have that version, it's an unlockable that once you get, you can access it directly anytime. It's pretty good, just the level order is different than the arcade version. They're all there though, with original arcade sounds.
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Old 08-30-2011, 12:49 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

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Originally Posted by Seahawk View Post
Yeah I have that version, it's an unlockable that once you get, you can access it directly anytime. It's pretty good, just the level order is different than the arcade version. They're all there though, with original arcade sounds.
Lemme guess it's not First stage then final stage? Just like the NES version but with the pie factory right?
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Old 08-30-2011, 01:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

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Lemme guess it's not First stage then final stage? Just like the NES version but with the pie factory right?
Right.
The DK64 version goes straight through all four stages in order on every loop.

The AC version goes like this:
1st loop: Stage 1, Stage 4
2nd loop: Stage 1, Stage 3, Stage 4
3rd loop: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4

On higher loops it starts changing the order of the stages, and has more than 4 stages per loop.
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Old 08-30-2011, 02:25 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

Sounds like the N64 unlockable is Retro Uprising - Arcade - Crazy Kong and not Donkey Kong. The more I think about it I'm not sure Donkey Kong ever made it across the pond BITD. I remember seeing loads of Crazy Kong machines but no Donkey! I could well be wrong though.

Elrod's pretty hot on this Game maybe he knows?
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Old 08-30-2011, 02:37 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: All Four Stages and a Mule

The unlock-able Donkey Kong in DK64 is the Japanese Arcade version of the game. If you play that version you will see it goes straight through the 4 stages and then starts over.

The North American version goes like this:

1st loop: Barrels, Rivets
2cd loop:Barrels, Elevators, Rivets
3rd loop:Barrels, Pies, Elevators, Rivets
4th loop:Barrels, Pies, Barrels, Elevators, Rivets
5th loop:Barrels, Pies, Barrels, Elevators, Barrels, Rivets
6th loop and above till 21st loop: Same as 5th loop.
21st loop: Barrels (Kill Screen)
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