Review: Donkey Kong (3DS Virtual Console)

5 mins read

With Donkey Kong on the virtual console, 3DS owners have a unique opportunity to turn their console into something akin to a fashion show; a before and after, if you will.

See, Donkey Kong (not to be mistaken as a port of the original arcade game, this is a complete reimagining) was the first in a series of games that has cumulated in the Mario vs Donkey Kong games; March of the Minis on DSiWare being one of the most recent entrants in the series.

The game is filled with homages to the early era of Donkey Kong… and Donkey Kong Junior

So you can now own both the original and modern take on the game. The good news for collectors is that they’re both entirely different games, which means this one is, in its own way, just as much fun as the more modern titles.

At some point, the series began to focus on the Minis – as in, lemming-like toy Marios that you had no direct control over. You could modify the environments, but the Minis themselves would just walk back and forth – right into danger at times.

Though the game was enhanced with (impressive) colour when played on the SNES console via the Super Game Boy Adapter, you unfortunately don’t get to enjoy that here. Same game, minus the colour.

With Donkey Kong, you have control over Mario himself. In most other ways, the games are similar – levels tend to be small in size, but have a puzzle focus rather than the typical Mario platforming hijinks. It starts off pretty straight forward – there’s some ladders to climb and some enemies to dodge, but it’s not exactly challenging.

Every so often though a new element is introduced. Switches need to be flipped, moving platforms navigated. Though Mario doesn’t have a massive range of moves, he can do a backflip, and that too comes into play later on. The difficulty definitely ramps up and later levels will test your patience and skill greatly.

Donkey really needs to get some pants

On the positive side, there is no end of lives to come across in the game, and death is hardly something to be feared. In each level there are three objects to collect. Do so, and you’re rewarded with a minigame that will almost certainly grant one to five bonus lives.

In addition, each level has a time limit. Every four levels (in the final one you take on Donkey Kong, who then flees again – essentially closing a ‘chapter’ of the game), the game totals up the total time you have left over from the four stages. For every 100 seconds, you’re rewarded an extra life.

The goal in each stage is to get the key, get to the door. Easier said than done sometimes

It’s not hard to get three to five lives this way. So, even if you experiment around a lot and lose a lot of little Marios, your life counter should hover around the 20-30 mark through most of the game, taking the dread ‘Game Over’ screen an unlikely circumstance.

Donkey Kong has the most content of the Game Boy games to date, but given the competition is a miniature tennis game, Alleyway, and the shortest Mario platformer in history, that’s not much competition. There’s plenty of levels to play through, and with the variety the game throws up, you won’t get bored in a hurry.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – box art was better back in the day. This is awesome


It looks good for a Game Boy game too, with big sprites and nice backgrounds. The aesthetics are let down by a painful soundtrack, though. As the Virtual Console fills up we’ll come across more of these, but the messy noise blasting through the speakers does not sit well with my definition of music or sound effects.

Still, it’s another quality trip down the nostalgia path, and Donkey Kong is a reasonable purchase for both puzzle and platformer fans.

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