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3DS  header logo

Donkey Kong Jr.

For: 3DS

The king of Kong

Product: Donkey Kong Jr. | Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: 3DS | Genre: Adventure, Platform, Retro | Players: 1-2 | Networking: on one device | Version: Europe
Donkey Kong Jr. 3DS, thumbnail 1
I have something to say that goes a little bit against convention. Come a little closer to the screen. Closer. That's it.

I think Donkey Kong Jr. was always far better than Donkey Kong.

There, it's out there. The original game may have the distinction of being a Miyamoto masterpiece, featuring the first appearance of Mario, and enjoying all that attention from the King of Kong documentary, but for me Donkey Kong Jr. is simply the better title.

And this NES port, re-released on Virtual Console, absolutely does the arcade original justice.

Snapjaws, Nitpickers, and curly moustaches

In a (now inconceivable) role reversal, you're pitted against the dastardly Mario, attempting to save your father from his whip-bearing clutches. As the eponymous hero, it's up to you to surmount level after level and loop after loop of single-screen platforming, avoiding enemies and hazards along the way.

Be under no illusions: it's a very tough game. The NES port made things a little easier with two difficulty options, but it's still unlikely that you'll see all four levels in your first attempt. Your timings of jumps need to be spot on, with any error resulting in death.

Then there are the Snapjaws and Nitpickers that scamper about each level, ready to catch unawares any little monkeys not paying attention. They're only small on the screen, but at times they seem like they're everywhere, and their presence requires a cautious approach to movement.

Each area feels less like a platformer in the modern sense than a themed obstacle course. Some prioritise climbing, some learning enemy paths, but all four offer different gameplay.

Their constant looping (whereby levels are played over and over for high scores) can feel like a marathon. If you want a lot of variety, this title won't be for you.

Next generation

The real beauty is in how you come to learn Donkey Kong Jr.'s nuances. Climbing is faster when you use two ropes at once, while descending is faster on just one, and there are shortcuts aplenty for those willing to take risks.

There are hints of Nintendo's later Mario games to be found in its visual design, and each pixel is set with real purpose against the black backdrop. Its short soundtrack isn't great, but don't hold that against it, as the hyperactive sound effects more than make up for it.

Donkey Kong Jr. is still better than the original, still supremely playable, and still gorgeous. If you want an old skool score-chaser that's brimming with great ideas, you should make a visit to the eShop immediately.
Donkey Kong Jr.
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 31 August 2012
A triumph of design at the time, and still a phenomenal minimalist platformer. It's a tough game, but persevere and you'll be richly rewarded
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