We all know Nintendo’s main protagonist mascot, Mario. Where did this plumber get his start? Some would be shocked to find that Mario actually came Nintendo’s arcade game, “Donkey Kong”. Here though, he was known as Jumpman. Only until Donkey Kong Jr. did Jumpman get the name Mario, where he portrayed an antagonist. Now in modern times, Donkey Kong is seen as a Mario character, when in fact Mario started in Donkey Kong. So here a little tribute to Donkey Kong with a little history behind this classic Nintendo character.
In 1979, Nintendo released an arcade called Radar Scope in Japan. This game was the the first game that Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Donkey Kong, Mario and The Legend of Zelda) helped develop. Radar Scope was a huge success in Japan, racking in plenty of money for Nintendo. Because of it’s great success in Japan, Nintendo decided to ship the arcade cabinets to America in 1980. The game flopped. This was very costly to Nintendo so, the company’s president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, appointed young Shigeru Miyamoto to design a new arcade game to recover.
Miyamoto was interested in the Popeye concept. Nintendo tried to obtain the licensing for Popeye but failed. Routes were changed to create entirely new characters based on that same concept. Miyamoto used the different starring characters of Popeye for his designs. Using King Kong and Beauty and the Beast to name his creations, he created Donkey Kong. This name was used for the arcade game name because Miyamoto thought it should be named for the strongest character in the game.
Miyamoto consulted Nintendo’s technicians to create his concepts. Miyamoto wanted variety within the game and wanted the characters to act in specific ways to show character. Many technicians believed that Miyamoto’s concepts were a little too complicated. Many ideas were scrapped and Miyamoto decided to use construction structures as platforms and ladders. He also thought of having his character Donkey Kong throw barrels at “Jumpman”. Though through the constant troubles, the technicians finally created the game from Miyamoto’s designs. The game’s music was then created by Miyamoto himself.
The game was then sent sent to America, as Nintendo wanted to market this game mainly to American people. Nintendo of America discredited the game for being so radically different than what most of America’s video games were seeing. Hiroshi Yamauchi was approached many times on changing the game’s name. Yamauchi was very reluctant and refused the idea.
Donkey Kong was then sent to two bars in Seattle, Washington for an official “Sales Test Run”. Everyday at both bars, the Donkey Kong machines were played about 150 times everyday. Because of the intense popularity if the games in both bars, Donkey Kong finally went on sale in 1981. Many of the surplus Radar Scope cabinets were converted to Donkey Kong cabinets. This saved Nintendo money and materials.
Donkey Kong has since then become one of Nintendo’s star icons. He has starred in many games and has had many cameos since the release of the arcade game. He has appeared on every Nintendo home console to date. Should we expect any more appearances from Donkey Kong? I’m sure we’ll still see more for many Nintendo years to come.