You’ve probably played Donkey Kong, but it wasn’t the real Donkey Kong unless you played it on an authentic arcade cabinet or downloaded a copyright-infringing arcade ROM file. If you crave that original Donkey Kong experience, it’s available for the first time in decades. However, you’ll need a Nintendo Switch and eight bucks. That could be a real bargain for people who obsess over this classic game.
Donkey Kong is one of the most iconic video games in history; it introduced us to two characters that still star in their own games all these years later. The original 1981 version was never released again after the arcade era. Nintendo contracted with another Japanese to produce and program the arcade cabinets, but demand for the game far outstripped initial supplies. Nintendo started manufacturing arcade cabinets on its own, and eventually wanted to make a sequel. It hired a firm to reverse engineer the code so it could create a sequel. The original manufacturer insisted that it owned the code, and the ensuing court case stretched into the early 1990s.
Before the court case wrapped up, Nintendo developed new code bases for Donkey Kong, which has appeared on several platforms over the years. There were versions on the NES and Gameboy years ago, and the late 90s saw a very good copy of the original included in Donkey Kong 64. The new Switch release is part of Nintendo’s Arcade Archive series, and it’s the first modern release that is based on that original version.
The game is out in the Switch eStore for $7.99. The game includes three distinct versions pulled from original code. There’s the original Japanese version (complete with glitches), the fixed Japanese version, and the international version that debuted in the US. You can jump over those barrels and save the damsel just like they did in the 1980s. Publisher Hamster Corporation has added some modern features like an online score leaderboard as well.
The Switch version can be played in landscape orientation with black bars on the left and right sides of the screen — the original arcade version had a square display, and the Switch is 16:9. You can also rotate your switch 90-degrees to play vertically, which is a closer match for the original arcade cabinet. That’ll probably be a little ungainly, though.
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