The original Donkey Kong is nothing short of a timeless classic. Without it, Nintendo wouldn’t be the company that they are today, as they went on to set new heights for the gaming industry and the way that we view entertainment in general. While there have been countless ports/versions of the game, I’ll be covering and comparing three in particular: the NES port, the Atari 2600 version, and the ColecoVision version. Which one of these games is most deserving of the title of the legendary arcade hit? Let’s find out, shall we?
ROUND ONE: THE LOOKS
NES – One of the things that made the original game so groundbreaking for its’ time was its’ vibrant look and detailed character sprites – at least, as detailed as they could get at the time. With that said, the NES version is the most faithful translation in that category without a doubt. Aside from a few differences in coloring, the graphics are essentially the same as the original game, the only major one being that it’s just on an NES.
2600 – Even if this is a 2600 game, I’m not sure if even that excuse could save this version from looking like a complete and utter mess! While Jumpman’s character sprite looks okay at best, Paulina and DK don’t even barely resemble their arcade counterparts. Speaking of which, why the heck do the barrels look like chocolate chip cookies? Also, for some reason your number of lives are represented by blocks that change color depending on the color of what level you’re in. I get that the 2600’s graphical capabilities were extremely limited, but c’mon Atari, couldn’t you have made them look like Jumpman heads, or at the very least, numbers?
COLECOVISION – Though it’s different from the original game in a handful of aspects, it can’t be denied that Coleco still did the best they could in order to emulate the look and feel of it. Though Paulina and DK still don’t look quite like themselves, they’re still admittedly better than their 2600 counterparts. Jumpman on the other hand is more or less identical to his arcade counterpart, which is good.
WINNER – NES
ROUND TWO: THE SOUND
NES – Like the graphics, the sound in the NES port is more or less the same as the original game. I honestly don’t have that much to say in this category, but I will say that they do an impressive job on replicating the sound and music of the original.
2600 – Though the graphics are somehow lower than the typical Atari standards, the sound on the other hand isn’t all that offensive. If anything, the most extreme criticism that I can give is that it feels a bit nonexistent, as there’s no music whatsoever and barely any sound effects. Other than that, it’s typical Atari quality.
ColecoVision – Similar to how they attempted to emulate the graphics of the original, Coleco also did a fairly impressive job in carrying over the sound effects and music. Of course, like the graphics they’re different from what they were in the original, but they still get the job done nonetheless.
WINNER – NES
ROUND THREE: THE GAMEPLAY
NES – While the translation of the graphics and sound are impressive, neither of them stack up to just how identical and faithful this port is to the original. Practically everything, from the controls, to the hammer power-up and items, and the placement of enemies show that a great amount of time, effort, and care was put into making sure that this resembled the original as much as humanly possible.
2600 – Seeing as how the graphics, especially for a game released on a system such as the 2600, leave plenty to be desired, it’s kind of important that at the very least that the gameplay is at the very least enjoyable. And while I can’t say that it’s anything mind-blowing, I will say that it does manage to bring the formula of the original into a format like this. Though the layouts of some stages have been completely re-arranged and some of the stages are missing, the controls and jumping are fairly tight, and the hammer works the way it should.
ColecoVision – In terms of which game comes closest to feeling like the original, the ColecoVision would land somewhere in the middle. The controls and jumping are on the same level of tightness as the NES and 2600 versions, and the hammer still works just fine. However, there are still some missing stages and some slight differences in the layout of them. Despite this, it’s still a rather impressive recreation.
WINNER – NES
THE RETR0PIA RATINGS:
NES – 9/10
2600 – 6/10
ColecoVision – 7/10
AND VICTORY GOES TO…THE NES PORT!