Donkey Kong’s huge, monkey hand has shed fame on folks like Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell in years prior. Now, this barrel-tossing, female-stealing simian has gathered one more simple human into his orbit of fame: Me. I, Dave Funk, can now be addressed as Dave Funk, 1Up Member and Oral-History-of-Mario contributor. Behold! My debut on a media forum that people actually read!
While I plan on being the same, level-headed simpleton as before, I can’t help but feel more important than all of you, our readers. I also can’t help but use this opportunity to further explain my love of Donkey Kong ’94 for the Game Boy, one of the more under-appreciated games of the 90s. As mentioned in my blurb, I didn’t ask for this game but received it due to parental error. Maybe they also thought it would be ‘so cool’ because they remembered the days of Donkey Kong machines in bowling alleys and pizza parlors. When I was first handed the game I was intrigued, although not exactly thrilled. I had played Donkey Kong before in arcades; a quarter or two was all I was interested in feeding a game like that, and there sat a mobile cartridge featuring the angry ape for my perusal.
The game was inserted into my Game Boy because, hey, new game. I felt the disappointment wash over me when the first four levels were those I had played before in bowling alleys or pizza parlors. The game was over, I had saved Pauline. What a fucking bummer this was, until that legendary antagonist (and protagonist!) popped back on-screen and stole Mario’s lady love (?) once more, leading him on a chase ’round the world. You, the player, are whisked away to a whole new set of puzzles and platforming mayhem. An ‘overworld’ layout (this phrase is used extremely loosely) highlighted several stages within each level to defeat, while every fourth stage is either an attempt to save Pauline (who is on-screen) or a battle with DK, himself, turning his beloved barrels against him. Each time, though, Donkey Kong would grab the damsel and squeeze his large, monkey derriere through a comically-tiny door, leading you to pursue him yet again.
Beyond the great puzzle elements and platforming whimsy added to this newest iteration, Mario also has learned some new skills to help him traverse increasingly-more-dangerous traps and baddies. As I noted on the 1UP.com piece, these new moves led to staples like the backflip, used extensively in Mario 64 and subsequent later-gen Mario titles. And while the new moves and obstacles certainly make the game challenging (I’ve still never devoted the time to beating it), the game provides opportunity a-plenty to see it through to completion. 1ups are easy to come by through collecting items and playing the minigames that pop up every so often, and the game has a save feature, allowing one to save after completing an especially tough level.
I see it is available through the 3DS Virtual Console, so if you have a 3DS be sure to check it out. And if you don’t already, be sure to read 1UP.com; they run an excellent site that focuses on new games but devotes so much energy to the games of yore, which really appeals to the Brain Trust here at GameDrunk.