Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong
July 9, 1981
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In a 1984 commercial promoting Donkey Kong-brand cereal, Mario can be heard with a distinctly Italian accent, even saying what would become one of Mario's catchphrases "Here We Go". This predates Charles Martinet portraying Mario with an Italian accent by 7 years.
subdirectory_arrow_right Mario (Franchise)
Attachment While Mario's mustache, red shirt and blue overalls were described by Miyamoto as the result of technical limitations, there's a possibility that they were also inspired by an issue of the Japanese men's fashion magazine Popeye, named after the fictional character that Mario was already partly inspired by. The March 1980 issue of Popeye magazine features cover art of a man with a mustache wearing a red shirt with blue overalls.
The development team behind Donkey Kong had concerns that the game had "no dream", in that the theme of construction sites and carpenters lacked a "sense of beauty which inspires you to dream about the future."
subdirectory_arrow_right Radar Scope (Game)
Some concepts considered for alternate games to use unsold Radar Scope cabinets for if Donkey Kong couldn't be developed were a Jack & the Beanstalk game, a fishing game, a space shuttle construction game due to space shuttles being a hot news topic at the time, and a game about fighting a disease in the human body, based on a movie (likely Fantastic Voyage).
subdirectory_arrow_right Donkey Kong Junior (Game)
The development of the first Donkey Kong game was outsourced by Nintendo to Ikegami Tsushinki, a company who is believed but not confirmed to have previously worked with Nintendo on several of their early ventures into arcade games. They produced and sold to Nintendo somewhere between 8,000 and 20,000 printed circuit boards for Donkey Kong, and it is believed that Nintendo went on to copy an additional 80,000 boards from this batch without Ikegami's permission. Despite the sale, because no formal contract was known to have been signed between the two companies, Ikegami owned the source code to Donkey Kong as they had created it, and never sent it over to Nintendo.

In order to create a sequel on the coattails of the success of the first game, Nintendo employed subcontractor Iwasaki Giken to reverse-engineer Donkey Kong so Nintendo’s staff could develop the game's sequel, Donkey Kong Jr. Should this narrative be verifiably true, this would make Donkey Kong Jr. Nintendo's first "in-house" video game created by themselves without any assistance from outside development companies. Ikegami viewed this use of the source code as blatant copyright infringement, and sued Nintendo in 1983 for ¥580,000,000 (around $91,935,800). A trial in 1990 ruled that Nintendo did not own the source code to the original Donkey Kong, and the parties settled out of court the same year for an undisclosed amount.
There are five unused audio files within the game, An alternate Pauline theme, two unused pieces for cutscenes, and two voice samples of what appears to be Pauline saying "Thanks" and "Help". These sounds weren't discovered until 33 years after the game's release.
subdirectory_arrow_right Popeye (Franchise)
Attachment Shigeru Miyamoto originally wanted to do a Popeye game, specifcially based on the 1934 cartoon A Dream Walking, where Popeye and Bluto fight over Olive Oyl as she sleepwalks through a construction site, but couldn't get the license. He would later use the characters as inspirations with Mario taking the role of Popeye, Pauline as Olive Oyl and Donkey Kong as Bluto. Nintendo would eventually release a Popeye game a year after Donkey Kong in 1982.
person Bean101 calendar_month March 24, 2013
subdirectory_arrow_right King Kong (Franchise), Kirby (Franchise)
When Donkey Kong became popular, Nintendo was sued by American film company Universal Studios over allegations that Donkey Kong was plagiarizing their 1933 film King Kong. Lawyer John Kirby, defending Nintendo, pointed out that Universal was aware of and had previously argued in court that the story of King Kong was in the public domain due to the film's novelization, which came out before the film and marked the first non-promotional appearance of the character, failing to have its copyright notice renewed. As a result, Universal lost the case. Nintendo lavishly awarded Kirby by taking him, his wife and some associates to dinner at a fancy Manhattan restaurant, giving him a sailboat named "Donkey Kong" and the exclusive rights to the name Donkey Kong for sailboats as a strange show of gratitude.

In a 2011 interview with Game Informer, Shigeru Miyamoto stated that "Kirby" was one of many candidates on a list of names that were proposed for the then-in development video game character, and upon seeing it, he recalled John Kirby and felt that a connection between the two would be amusing. However, the name was picked not as a tribute to the lawyer, but rather because the harsh-sounding nature of the name was a comedic contrast to the character's soft, cute design.
person DidYouKnowGaming calendar_month March 14, 2013
Original DidYouKnowGaming blog post:

2011 Game Informer interview mentioning Kirby's name origin:

[Below links provided by Rocko & Heffer.]

Legal files:

Sail boat:
David Sheff - "Game Over: Press Start to Continue: The Maturing of Mario" (1999). Wilton, Connecticut: GamePress. (Page 126 in the book):
Attachment According to court documents related to the 1983 legal case Universal City Studios, Inc v. Nintendo Co., Ltd., 19 alternate names considered for Donkey Kong included:

Funny Kong
Kong the Kong
Jack Kong
Funky Kong
Bill Kong
Steel Kong
Giant Kong
Big Kong
Kong Down
Kong Dong
Mr. Kong
Custom Kong
Kong Chase
Kong Boy
Kong Man
Kong Fighter
Wild Kong
Rookie Kong
Kong Holiday

The name "Funky Kong" would coincidentally re-emerge as a character in Donkey Kong Country.
subdirectory_arrow_right Crazy Kong (Game)
Crazy Kong was an officially licensed clone of Donkey Kong released by Falcon Inc. to compensate for Nintendo's inability to make enough Donkey Kong machines as there was demand for. However, Crazy Kong was only allowed to be distributed in Japan, but Falcon released the game abroad anyway with Elcron Industries, leading to a lawsuit where Nintendo won.
Attachment The Donkey Kong start theme is plagiarized from the 1950s police drama Dragnet.
subdirectory_arrow_right Mario (Franchise)
Attachment In 1983, an album was released on vinyl by Kid Stuff Records titled Donkey Kong (alternatively called Donkey Kong Goes Home), retelling the story of the video game of the same name. It is notable for not only potentially being the first time Mario was voiced (having an unknown release date in 1983, which was also the debut year of Saturday Supercade), but also giving Mario a stereotypical Italian accent with an "-a-" verbal tic as opposed to the gruff Italian-American accent that would be used in multimedia projects for the rest of the 80s (including Saturday Supercade), predating Charles Martinet's debut as Mario in Mario Teaches Typing by 8 years. According to Kid Stuff Mario voice actor Pat McBride, the reasoning for this voice direction was

"He was Mario, he had that Italian background, we knew what his occupation was, and we knew he was a really good guy, in my brain, if there were kids in the neighborhood, he’d always pat them on the head and say hi. He’d look out for everyone, so he became the real good guy."

Nintendo never gave the team behind Donkey Kong Goes Home any form of guidance for the project, and did not give any word - positive or negative - about the finished album beyond approving it.
person Rocko & Heffer calendar_month October 11, 2023
subdirectory_arrow_right Donkey Kong (Game)
Attachment The earliest version of the "cross" design for a directional pad, developed by Gunpei Yokoi and named by the patented inventor Ichiro Shirai as the "Multi-directional switch", was first developed, patented and introduced for the 1982 Game & Watch port of Donkey Kong.
In the Japanese version of the game, the message is "How high can you try?" This was changed to "How high can you get?" in the North American Release.
Attachment An unused Ikegami Tsushinki Co., Ltd logo can be found along side the title graphics in the game's data. ITC developed the hardware and program code for the Arcade version of the game.
The tune that plays while you have the hammer is based on the "Charge" bugle call that plays when a cavalry or troops are about to rush towards their enemies.
If the "INTEND" part of the "NINTENDO" string (the data used to display the name) is altered in anyway in the game's code, the game will freeze after approximately 4 seconds. This is a form of copyright protection used to protect the game's data.
The twenty-second board is the final level of the game; Mario instantly dies within eight seconds of playing in the level, regardless of how many lives the player has left. This bug, known as a kill screen, happens due to a programming oversight which causes the game to set an impossibly short time limit.
subdirectory_arrow_right Radar Scope (Game)
Attachment Donkey Kong started off as a game called Radar Scope. Radar Scope was a success in Japan, but failed to sell successfully in North America. They reused some of the unused arcade machine in order to avoid any financial loss.
The game originally didn't have a jumping mechanic. It was implemented as a way to avoid obstacles when Shigeru Miyamoto and his team thought "If you had a barrel rolling towards you, what would you do?"
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