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Donkey Kong Jr. Review

Arcade SeriesAs many of our readers no doubt know by now, the Japanese version of the NES (the Family Computer – or Famicom for short) launched back in July of 1983. What’s interesting is that the three games that released alongside it were: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye – all ports of Nintendo’s arcade line. This made perfect sense because these games were still relatively new in the arcades and the Famicom’s processing power was put to good use in creating pretty accurate renditions for the home console.

Only now, 9 months after the NES debuted in New York are we finally getting these arcade conversions in the U.S., a whole three years after they debuted in Japan. That’s a long time in the technology sector, and they are definitely showing their age. This is especially true since some of the launch games for the NES, like Super Mario Bros., feature cutting edge graphics, music, and huge sprawling levels, littered with secrets to discover. Single stage games just don’t have the same appeal as they once did. Having said that, Donkey Kong Jr. fares a bit better than its father.


Donkey Kong Jr. is a game that everyone has probably played in one form or another over the past few years. The NES version is probably the closest you’ll come to experiencing the real thing at home, unless of course you buy the arcade machine. The NES Game Pak is the much cheaper option, and I’m impressed with how closely it emulates the arcade. Unlike Donkey Kong, Junior has all four of the stages included in the NES cartridge. All of the various enemies, from Snapjaws, to Sparks, to those annoying flying Nitpickers are here to try and prevent Donkey Kong Jr. from rescuing his Papa, Donkey Kong. That’s right, for those two people out there who haven’t played this game, you no longer control Mario in his quest to save Pauline. The tables of turned and he’s now the bad guy, having imprisoned the big ape in a cage. Now Junior must climb to the top of each level to unlock Donkey Kong from his prison.


All of the gameplay mechanics that you’re familiar with from the arcade are well represented in the NES rendition. You control Junior with the Control Pad, moving him left, right, up and down. He will be able to climb vines and chains to move about the various single-screen levels. Jumping on a vine will allow him to slowly shimmy upwards. If he’s close enough to another vine, pressing the controller in the direction will let him use both hands to quickly ascend them. While DK Jr. is busy moving about the stage, there are plenty of enemies scattered about to try and impede his progress. Because of this, he will need to constantly be moving from vine to vine and going up and down to avoid the various baddies. Keep in mind that to quickly move down a vine, he will need to take hold of a single one with both hands and slide down.


The first three levels have the same objective: make it to the top without being touched by an enemy and nab the key to unlock Donkey Kong from his cell. Points are awarded by jumping over certain enemies and also by collecting fruit that’s scattered about the environment. Bonus points can be earned by nabbing a piece of fruit just as an enemy moves by underneath. If the piece of fruit falls and hits the bad guy, you earn more points. In addition, there’s a bonus score clock that is ticking down at the top of the screen. So, the quicker you get things done, the more points you can earn. If you hit 20,000 points you’ll get an extra life. Keep in mind that as soon as you turn off the NES you’ll lose all your high score data, which really is a shame as that’s usually what drives competition in these sorts of games. After you clear all four stages, the game loops back around and you can go at it again. Each loop increases the difficulty of the game. For those seeking an additional challenge, there’s a Game B mode that instantly starts off the game with faster, more devious enemies.


As far as presentation is concerned, Donkey Kong Jr. holds up rather admirably to its arcade counterpart. Most of the animations and music are faithfully reproduced in the home version. There aren’t any intermission screens like the arcade version has, but that really doesn’t have a negative impact on the game. The NES version is by far and away the best home conversion you can buy.


Only super fans of Donkey Kong Jr. really need to shell out the money for this Game Pak. While it does a great job emulating the arcade version, if you’re any good at it you’ll have seen all four stages in a matter of minutes. These short experiences just don’t hold up as well as they used to with more complicated software coming out for the system. If you can find it for under $20, it might be worth a purchase. For most gamers out there, I’d pass unless this is one of your favorite games of all time.


Donkey Kong Jr. Review
  • 6.5/10
    Graphics - 6.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Sound - 6.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Gameplay - 7.5/10
  • 4.5/10
    Lasting Appeal - 4.5/10


I enjoyed Donkey Kong Jr. a little more than Donkey Kong. The levels were fun to play through and the NES conversion is as close as you’ll get to having an arcade machine in your home. The game has little to no replay value, however, so only true DK Jr. aficionados need purchase this Game Pak.

User Review
8/10 (2 votes)


Added on August 15, 1986

Computer Entertainer Logo

Taken from the August 1986 issue:

Computer Entertainer - DKJr

Computer Entertainer awarded Donkey Kong Jr.  3.5 out 4 for graphics and 3.5 out of 4 for quality of game play and entertainment value. It received a Recommended rating.

Computer Entertainer Review Guidelines:






♦ = ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMS (1st set of diamonds = quality of graphics; 2nd set = quality of game play and entertainment value)

Any program for a given system is compared only to other programs for the same system. In other words, all C64-compatibles are judged separately from Apple. Some programs, which are virtually identical for multiple systems, will be so noted. When we review software for more than one system, we will note differences and which system we reviewed.

Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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