CGR Undertow – DONKEY KONG JR. review for Nintendo Wii U


Well, we just reviewed NES Remix, for the
Wii U…and we’re still playing NES Remix, pretty much nonstop. So we thought, what the
hell? Let’s dig into the Wii U’s Virtual Console, and go back to the originals. To
the ones that—for me, at least—were my introductions to this whole gaming thing.
I was already a huge fan of Donkey Kong when I found out… The monkey doesn’t fall far from the…bigger
monkey. It’s Donkey Kong, Jr. for the Nintendo Wii
U. Donkey Kong Jr. is one of my favorite games,
and especially one of my favorite sequels. Especially in retrospect. You can see in Donkey
Kong, Jr. a lot of the things that would define the next round of Donkey Kong classics. Specifically,
the Donkey Kong Country titles. So it’s like, Donkey Kong, Jr. is the bridge that
connects this franchise’s two very distinct eras. And the first way it does that…is by changing
the gameplay. In fact, that’s really one of the coolest things about this game. It
only came a year after the original, and yet Nintendo was already experimenting, and pushing
the concept further. That’s crazy. Donkey Kong was a groundbreaking game, arguably the
very first platformer. And for the second one? Nintendo was already, like, “Eh, let’s
tweak it
a bit.” So where Donkey Kong was primarily about jumping,
and really traditional platforming in the old-school sense…Donkey Kong, Jr. is more
about climbing. I mean, it’s still a platform game, obviously. But it’s an evolution of
the concept. So now, instead of jumping from platform to platform, you’re mostly climbing…from
vine to vine, from chain to chain. This really changes the feel of Donkey Kong,
Jr. even though it’s still the same genre, and it’s still using a very similar blueprint.
It’s not a radically different game, but it feels different enough to be interesting
and distinct. Which makes it the perfect kind of sequel. And again, one of the coolest things
about it in retrospect…is the game’s Donkey Kong Country-ness. Obviously, that’s due to the efforts of
Rare. And how they were able to reinvent the franchise while also keeping familiar elements
in tact. But I think it would’ve been a lot harder for them to do that without this
game’s boldness. Gone is the construction site, and the steel girders. This one takes
the Donkey Kong series to the jungle, which is where Rare picked it up a decade later.
There are those snapjaw sprites, which look very similar to Country’s klaptraps. Again, this is all in retrospect, but going
to back it…it’s cool how Donkey Kong, Jr. feels like the fulcrum that balances the
franchise. It’s a little Donkey Kong and a little Donkey Kong Country. Now, one of the things that made the original
game so influential…is that it was the first video game to really focus on telling a story.
And so it only makes sense that story would be one of the driving elements of the sequel,
as well. Donkey Kong, Jr. is perhaps best known…as being the one that turned Mario
heel. Having captured Donkey Kong in the original, Mario holds him captive. And it’s up to
Junior to save his dad from the bad guy. From Mario. How cool is that? And like its predecessor, the story of Donkey
Kong, Jr. unfolds with each level. Junior chases
them through the jungle before finally reaching Mario’s hideout, where dangerous electric
traps await him. Once he gets through, his dad’s cage is in sight. And this is one
of my favorite boss levels from any NES game. You have to push all six keys into the locks
to set Donkey Kong free, at which point…happy ending. It’s awesome because, like the original,
it tells a complete story. But also because…that boss level condenses all the things that define
Donkey Kong, Jr. into one really clever, really fun level. To me, Donkey Kong, Jr. has always been a
textbook example of how to make sequels, you know? It’s an extension of the first game,
but it’s also different enough to have its own identity. And it’s amazing to me that,
at a time when most sequels were just swapping pixels for the same gameplay, Donkey Kong,
Jr. was this ambitious. And that music rules. It’s one of the best Donkey Kong games,
one of Nintendo’s most creative early efforts…and one of my personal favorites. It’s Donkey
Kong, Jr. on the Nintendo Wii U.


9 Responses

  1. VicGeorge2K6

    August 6, 2014 6:04 pm

    Actually, it's Donkey Kong Jr. for the NES being played on a Wii U. There's nothing even remotely new about the game itself. I still like it over previous attempts to bring it to a home system, especially the weaksauce Atari 2600 version.

  2. DaveGX

    August 6, 2014 11:28 pm

    I remember this game, so frustrating, too!  All it ever took was 1 mistake and it's all over, no matter how many times you retry the level; Accomplish 1 part of the level, start again, mess up a following part and start again, mess up a 2nd or 3rd, go back and conquer 1 and 2s parts, only to mess up elsewhere. and restart….  The cycle never ends.  But alas, in the long run I'm done with DK in general. Honestly never was my cup of coco, anyway.

  3. A Black Guy Talks About

    August 7, 2014 12:05 am

    I own it on NES and beat it in ~10 minutes. I always thought I got some kind of condensed version.

  4. PixelPusha

    August 9, 2014 4:31 am

    Great review, man! I remember my brother and me spending our allowances renting this game from the neighborhood grocery store whenever we could (it was always out!). This and Gauntlet II were our most oft-rented NES titles, just behind Micro Machines.

  5. Dr.Beef

    August 24, 2014 6:28 am

    I've really never understood people. Derek, for example, has stated that this is one of the greatest platformers ever, along with the original.  They're certainly classics, but they're also very easy today, and they're single-screen games with few levels.  They've not aged well, other than for the nostalgia kick they can give.  Super Mario is easy, and rather short by today's standards, but it's far, far more expansive, difficult and innovative than these were.


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