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Nintendo Continues to Ignore its Own Legacy

Don't be fooled by Nintendo's latest "historical" offering.

In the PixlBit mailbox, we get a lot of press releases.  Some are informative, some are hilarious, and some are just junk.  Rarely do I dismiss one from Nintendo outright, but when they sent over a release about Art Academy and Crosswords Plus I did just that.  I could barely read the title of the email without nodding off.  Come to find out, buried at the very bottom is a huge slap in my face and yours too. Nintendo is once again trying to pass off the NES version of Donkey Kong as the true form of the game, while continuing to ignore the arcade version - the game responsible for shaping the company.

If you buy either Art Academy or Crosswords Plus and are a Club Nintendo member, you earn a free download of Donkey Kong: Original Edition.  What’s wrong with free, you ask? Well, nothing’s wrong with free, but this particular free game is another reminder of Nintendo’s inexplicable avoidance of their arcade heritage. Donkey Kong: Original Edition is hardly original, it’s simply the NES version of the game complete with the cement factory level that was initially left out.  Nintendo is clearly trying to make everyone think that the NES version (with a stage added) is the true version of Donkey Kong, while the arcade version gets no recognition.

Long before Nintendo became a household name because of their titular entertainment system, they made tons of games for the arcade.  You know this, I know this, but Nintendo is ignoring it.  Nintendo cabinets filled arcades during gaming’s golden era, from lesser known instances like Heli Fire, to the famous Donkey Kong, and the completely oddball Arm Wrestling.  Anyone born after about 1990 might very well not realize that any of those games ever existed in any form outside of the not-quite-right ports to home consoles. This is simply because despite all of Nintendo’s excitement about Virtual Console on both Wii and 3DS, none of their own arcade games are available there. In fact, they aren’t available anywhere for purchase.

Why does Nintendo continue to avoid releasing these particular games when they are perfectly happy reselling us Super Mario Bros. as many times as possible? It is truly baffling. Getting to experience any of Nintendo’s arcade games is a challenge for anyone with an itch to try one. If you want to play a game of Donkey Kong as it was originally sold, your options are to either find an arcade cabinet, download the game on MAME, or unlock the game in Donkey Kong 64.  None of these are particularly easy, legal, or enjoyable things to do.  And that’s Donkey Kong - the game that transformed the entire company and started it on the road to a level of success never imagined back in the Hanafuda card days.

If you want to play the arcade versions of Nintendo’s lesser known titles like Punch-Out!!, Arm Wrestling, Heli Fire, Donkey Kong 3, and Radar Scope, it’s even more difficult than playing Donkey Kong since they aren’t available as unlockable bonuses in other games. Many of these other Nintendo arcade games haven’t even been ported to a home console at all. Realistically,  some of these aren’t going to be huge hits with modern players, but we should be given the opportunity to give them a try and Nintendo has every reason to give us that chance.

Releasing a big compilation disc like every other arcade company would be a huge money maker, and they could probably make even more cash by doling the games out piecemeal on their own Virtual Console service. If we’re not going to actually get to play the games, could Nintendo try to put some effort into a bigger celebration when Donkey Kong hits its next milestone? The thirtieth anniversary “celebration” was nonexistent. Even without a big party, at least give us some acknowledgement that these arcade games existed, are still sought after by aficionados, and are an important part of our hobby. The first thing Nintendo needs to do, though, is to stop misleading consumers that “Donkey Kong: Original Edition” is the original version of anything.



Our Take

Nick DiMola Director

10/03/2012 at 11:25 AM

Nintendo Arcade Compilation? That would be amazing!

I must agree, however, that it's fairly odd how Nintendo chooses to ignore its arcade heritage - even with more recent releases like the Mario Kart Arcade GP games. People have been calling for home console releases, but they just never happen. Not sure why there's such a strong division there for Nintendo, but it sure would be nice to see that change at some point in the future.


10/03/2012 at 11:48 AM

The ironic thing is of course that the extra stage is from a version of the arcade game that never made it to the U.S.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

10/03/2012 at 11:57 AM

The cement factory a.k.a. "pie factory" is in the US arcade release. Our levels are just in a different order than they were in Japan, which had a very straightforward level sequence.

Our Take

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

10/03/2012 at 04:19 PM

They should include the Coleco Vision version. It looked almost exactly like the arcade version and I'm 99.9% sure it had all the levels as well. That would be a humorous "original" edition. 

Our Take

Matt McLennan Contributing Writer

10/03/2012 at 08:30 PM

Ok, first, why are you getting so bent out of shape of a freebie not being a true "version" of the Donkey Kong game? I know people are so high strung about collector value this and that, but let's get real here: the game has not aged well at all, even the arcade version itself. Also, I really don't want the original arcade aspect crumpled down on the 3DS screen, that would look awful.

Also, while you want a collector's set with all the games you listed on them, who else would really give a damn? Alot of people have fond memories of the Nintendo console games (like Super Mario Bros. 1) because they ARE GOOD GAMES, great games. Those arcade games, while can be fun at moments, are not overly great and have been trampled upon by their console successors. People remember the NES Punch Out more then the arcade version, hell even the SNES version is more well known and that one is considered inferior to most people!

If I wanted an arcade collection of old games from the early 80s, I would highly prefer Namco, Capcom, Konami and Taito's arcade games over Nintendo's pre-Famicom era games. Those games AGED WELL. The arcade games from Nintendo have not, historical value or not.

Also, NintendoLand has a attraction from a obscure Famicom Disk Game. Wario Ware has tons of references to Nintendo produces from the 70s. If this company is so intent on ignoring their own legacy, why do these references continue to pop up in their games from time to time?

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

10/03/2012 at 10:11 PM

It's not that the freebie isn't the arcade version, it's that the freebie is being touted as the original version.  It's just one more instance of Nintendo being completely mum about their arcade roots.  Yes, more people played NES games than Nintendo arcade games, but so what? Even if their accountants say re-releasing the games will lose them money, they at least need to acknowledge that the games exist.  

Maybe you think these games haven't aged well, but plenty of people still love them (myself included) and think it's a shame that they aren't more accessible.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

10/04/2012 at 12:14 PM

The answer to that would be a comprehensive collection that includes the arcade and home versions of these games. Nintendo could get away with multiple volumes that way, like the Namco Collections on the PSX.

I agree that some of these games were more enjoyable on the NES such as Punch Out!!, but there are a lot of Nintendo fans out there that would get a kick out of experiencing some of the history of the company. Nintendo has famously dropped the ball with celebrating their past when compared to other companies.

A series of well produced, archival collections jam packed with bonus material would be awesome to see. And seeing Donkey Kong 3 in this article made me smile. I can't pass that cabinet up without putting a quarter (or 4) in.


10/04/2012 at 02:30 PM

Isn't the arcade version the same?

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

10/04/2012 at 04:30 PM

Adding back this missing level corrects the biggest difference, but there are more. Most obvious is that the NES version is set up for a horizontal monitor (a TV) and the arcade is vertical. There are other differences that probably only bother picky DK players. Again, the big issue here is Nintendo's silence about ALL of their arcade games, not just DK.

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