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Video Game / Donkey Kong '94

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It's like Donkey Kong, only much, much bigger.

Donkey Kong '94note  is a Puzzle Platformer released on Nintendo's Game Boy handheld in 1994. It is the first game to have Super Game Boy enhancements: color support, some enhanced audio, and a custom border designed to look like an arcade cabinet. It is also the final game to prominently feature the original version of the title character, before Rare’s take on the character the same year would go on to define him since.

The game starts with the pretense of being a straight Updated Re-release of the original 1981 Arcade Game. The exact same Excuse Plot is used here—Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline, and Mario must chase him down. The game even opens with the same four levels of the original, but after the fourth level is beaten, the arcade ending begins, and is immediately subverted when Donkey Kong immediately recovers and takes Pauline again. What follows is 97 levels of lock and key puzzles spread across nine more worlds.

Every four levels, you face off against Donkey Kong himself, occasionally accompanied by Donkey Kong Junior. The last stage of each world is a direct boss battle against the big guy where you get to throw the barrels back at him.

Several game mechanics are in play:

  • Of course, all the challenges you'd expect from a Platform Game. This includes moving platforms, climbing vines, swinging from ropes, conveyor belts, wind, etc.
  • The aforementioned Lock and Key Puzzle. No explanation necessary. Sometimes Mario will be forced to drop the key for a while so he can do other things, but if it's left alone for too long (about ten seconds), it will warp back to where it started.
  • Boxes that, when Mario touches them, will allow the player to place temporary walkways, ladders, single blocks, or springboards. Quite a few levels hinge around placing these and racing the clock to cross them before they disappear.
  • Levers that manipulate various aspects of the level, such as opening gates or controlling moving platforms.
  • The hammer from the arcade Donkey Kong is still here. This is the only way to kill Mooks besides throwing stuff at them. There is also an enhanced, respawning hammer used for breaking certain blocks.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong for Game Boy Advance was originally planned as an remake of this game; the working title was Donkey Kong Plus, and it was to feature Nintendo GameCube connectivity and a Level Editor.

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Donkey Kong Country, which also released in 1994.

Donkey Kong '94 provides examples of:

  • Acrofatic: While high jumps are expected from Mario, his acrobatic prowess in this game is something you have to see to believe. His gymnastics here may have been the inspiration for his abilities in Super Mario 64.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Donkey Kong is much more persistent compared to the arcade version. As opposed to four levels across a single construction site, it takes chasing him through ten entire worlds and beating him in ten boss fights before he finally admits defeat. Even then, DK turns himself into a giant for one last showdown beforehand.
    • While Mario still is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, he can survive falls from greater heights compared to the original game. He's also capable of doing one hell of a lot more than he previously could, to the point where you can have Mario backflip to the top of the original game's first level in under three seconds.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Donkey Kong Junior. Justified, as you're playing as Mario this time around.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Pauline was changed from a blonde to a brunette for her current look, presumably to differentiate her from Princess Peach.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Remember, "94" is a designation mostly used by fans — it need not be confused with the arcade original due to the sheer amount of additional level content.
  • Art Evolution: Donkey Kong is given his red "DK" tie in this game which was carried over to Donkey Kong Country — although technically it's still the future Cranky Kong in this game, which would explain where the current DK got his one from — while Pauline now sports her current brunette look.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Perhaps as an Homage to the original Donkey Kong / King Kong trademark infringement lawsuit, the final boss is Donkey Kong grown to giant size attacking Mario. Downplayed in the ending when Mario assumes his Super Mario form for what is implied to chronologically be the first time, courtesy of a Super Mushroom from Pauline, to catch a falling Donkey Kong after said boss fight.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: The penultimate boss theme, stylistically.
  • Bloodsucking Bats: It's implied that the bat enemy is vampiric, as it makes a sucking noise when it touches Mario.
  • Book Ends: The first level is a single screen remake of 25m. A few levels before the end boss is 9-5, which is essentially 25m again, but properly scaled for Mario's abilities. The last platforming stage, 9-7, is also a series of slopes leading up to DK, much like 25m, but with no ladders.
  • Border-Occupying Decorations: Playing on the Super Game Boy fills the borders with a cabinet that resembles the original arcade, but with small tweaks to use colorized in-game graphics instead.
  • Boss Bonanza: The last world, Tower, has a boss fight against Donkey Kong on every stage.
  • Boss Remix: The final boss theme is basically an extension of the jingle that played in the original arcade version when Donkey Kong climbed the ladder; it's played in this game when a boss level is selected.
  • Call-Forward: Mario, Donkey Kong, Junior, and Pauline all end up in the Mushroom Kingdom. DK uses a bunch of Super Mushrooms to make himself grow in the final battle, and Mario takes one for himself in the ending cutscene.
  • Catch and Return: If Mario is doing a handstand, a barrel that hits his feet will land harmlessly to the side, allowing him to pick up the barrel and throw it back.
  • Collapsing Ceiling Boss: A few battles against Donkey Kong have DK cause debris to rain from the sky, which Mario must dodge as he climbs his way to DK and Pauline.
  • Cranium Ride: Used as a key part of many levels.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The huge head in Donkey Kong's likeness that sits atop the Tower changes from a grumpy frown to a Slasher Smile before the Final Boss.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Although the button layout is what a veteran of Mario games is used to, the game engine is similar to the original Donkey Kong, so Mario's movement is different (particularly relating to stopping from a run) than in the Super Mario Bros. games. He also lacks the ability to safely land from falls of any height, although he can fall further safely than he could in the arcade game.
  • Death Mountain: "Rocky Valley" is the penultimate world and the one revolving around the final "Tower".
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Judging by the happy photo of them all together shown in the ending, Mario and Pauline make amends with Donkey Kong and Junior after defeating them.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Like the arcade game, Donkey Kong appears to fall to his demise after beating the last of the original four stages, only to get right back up and kidnap Pauline again.
    • This is what happens to Donkey Kong at the end of 9-8 battle, he lands in a pile of mushrooms that make him giant. He falls again after being defeated.
  • Dramatic Disappearing Display: The display completely disappears during the final level, allowing a full view of the final showdown.
  • Drop the Washtub: In most of the boss battles, Donkey Kong pounds the ground and causes debris to fall from the sky, including tires, barbells, 16t weights, bricks, and washtubs. Like with barrels, doing a handstand will protect you from getting crushed by any of them.
  • Easy Level Trick: Most levels have at least one shortcut that helps shave off seconds.
  • End of an Era: This would prove to be the last "classic" Donkey Kong game prior to Rare radically revamping his appearance and character later the same year with the release of Donkey Kong Country. He's been consistently portrayed in his new appearance since the latter game, and is typically the star of his own games rather than an antagonist to Mario, save for some deliberate throwbacks such as the first Mario vs. Donkey Kong.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The final world, simply named "Tower". Donkey Kong apparently personally owns it, as it has his face on it.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The first four levels make you think the game is just another port of the original arcade game — but then the arcade version's ending is undone and the game keeps going.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Like in the original Donkey Kong, Mario can get killed if he drops from too far high up, though the distance to do so has significantly increased. If you don't swerve and turn it into a roll — which helps negate the fall damage — you get the grisly image of Mario smashing his head on the ground before he enters his classic death pose; with a comedic jingle just to rub it in.
  • Final Boss: Giant Donkey Kong.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • You can see the final tower world off in the distance in the jungle levels.
    • A number of cutscenes allude to future gameplay mechanics or give you tips on how to play the game. The cutscene after 9-4 shows what Mario needs to do to defeat Donkey Kong in 9-8 since the barrels don't stop on their own unless Mario catches them with a handstand.
  • Fragile Speedster: While Mario is faster, more nimble and resists falls better than he did in the original game, he's still defenseless against enemies without a hammer to hit them or without any barrel or key to throw on them, and because this game doesn't have any powerups, touching these enemies or failing to dodge one of their projectiles steals him a life.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: One cutscene has Mario fall into lava and live. Needless to say, falling into lava in gameplay is lethal. The same goes for Mario surviving falling on his head from a great distance when Donkey Kong steals back Pauline at the end of World 0. If the same happens to you in-game, you're toast.
  • Giant Hands of Doom: How Donkey Kong primarily attacks during the final showdown.
  • Going Through the Motions: It has a few more than a player might expect for this type of game.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Among the aforementioned stuff thrown at mooks to kill them is other mooks.
  • Half-Truth: Page 8 of the game's manual claimed that "Mario cannot use some of these new actions at first, but as he continues along the quest, he will acquire the skills to use them." This would seem to imply that some of Mario's moves had to be unlocked; in reality, all the moves are usable from the beginning, and the only things you can't do involve level elements (e.g. levers) that don't show up until later. Most likely, the manual's writer was tripped up by the existence of cutscenes that illustrate moves being shown every few levels, which might make one think that you can't use those moves until you've seen them in the cutscenes, even though that's not the case.
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: You only go up in the Tower.
  • Jock Dad, Nerd Son: While Donkey Kong uses his physical strength and barrels to antagonize Mario, Junior manipulates conveyor belts and throws Poison Mushrooms on strategic places.
  • Jungle Japes: The fourth world of the game, the Jungle, also seems to be Donkey Kong's living considering Junior starts to help him from here.
  • Lazy Artist: The Poison Mushrooms that shrink Mario and the Super Mushrooms that make DK giant in the final level have the same sprite. Strangely when Pauline gives Mario a Super Mushroom later it has a flashing animation, which raises the question of why they didn't just do that earlier.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Although Donkey Kong Jr. isn't as good at antagonizing Mario.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: After the initial arcade-based platforming levels in World 0, the rest of the game takes the form of these. Get to the Key and bring it back to the Door DK and Pauline went through, and there's plenty of tricky platforming and puzzle-solving between you and it.
  • The Lost Woods: The "Forest" stage, which is a dense forest that introduces you to vines you can climb in the style of Donkey Kong Junior. The first DK encounter there is even a remake to that game's first level.
  • Make My Monster Grow: The Tower boss battle has Donkey Kong do this to himself, eating several Super Mushrooms to turn into a screen-filling giant and fight Mario one last time.
  • Man on Fire: Touching anything hot — like fire or lava — instantly burns Mario to a crisp.
  • The Many Deaths of You:
    • Unlike the original Donkey Kong (and most of the other platforming Mario games), there's a wide range of death animations for the many, many ways Mario can purchase the agricultural facility. And most of them have their own little ditty; the original death animation and its corresponding music are still in the game, though.
    • For example; touching fire or magma immediately causes Mario to burn to a crisp, and if you get too close to Donkey Kong in the levels he appears in, the ape will grab Mario by the head and bash him against the floor several times, before chucking him away like a ragdoll.
  • Meaningless Lives: Almost every level has a 1-Up Heart floating around somewhere. In addition to this, every four levels you get one extra life for every hundred points made in those levels (usually at least five), and then there's the bonus games at the end of each level if you collect all of Pauline's accessories. To top it all off, the game saves your progress every four levels, and since levels are quite short, it's usually not a huge loss to get a Game Over.
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: Donkey Kong himself does a one-sided version of this to Mario if you're foolish enough to get too close to him in the levels he appears in.
  • Nostalgia Level: In addition to the first four levels, the game contains stages designed to resemble the levels from Donkey Kong Junior - In fact, Stage 9-4 is basically Donkey Kong Junior's final stage - except the keys are locking Junior in the cage. As you might guess, it's the last stage where he appears. Stage 9-5 is also a full remake of 25m.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…:
    • Mario can die if he falls far enough - unless you can manage to grab a vine in time.
    • Mario also has a rolling manoeuvre if he's moving diagonally, which prevents him from being stunned like he normally would if he falls far enough. If he completely inverts during the fall though, he will land on his head and die immediately on impact.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: In the end cutscene, Mario and Pauline somehow make it to the bottom of the tower and have the time to find and use a Super Mushroom before DK falls all the way down.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • One cutscene in the Jungle has Mario come after Donkey Kong and his son with a hammer. They both briefly freak out before making a quick escape.
    • Donkey Kong Jr. panics when he realizes Mario has trapped him in 9-4.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Mario will die from hitting just about anything. However, if he's hit while holding the key, he'll only be stunned and drop the key.
  • Papa Wolf: Donkey Kong is understandably displeased when Mario imprisons his son.
  • Poison Mushroom: Donkey Kong and son will throw these at Mario to shrink him on rare occasions.
  • Pushy Mooks: The fittingly-named Sir Shovalot charges at Mario with its shield as soon as it sees him. While they can be useful to get through tight gaps, if they push Mario against a wall, he'll be Squashed Flat and lose a life.
  • Puzzle Platformer: The final level of the original arcade game already had a puzzle element thrown in and almost every new level after it continues the trend.
  • Recurring Boss: Donkey Kong is the only boss fought in the entire game, and he has ten boss fights.
  • Rule of Three:
    • The three bonus items in each level. Collecting all three will allow one to play a bonus game for extra lives.
    • Donkey Kong takes three hits with barrels to defeat. Except in the final battle, where it's six hits.
    • Every set of levels has three normal levels, punctuated by one boss level.
  • Save Point: Every four levels.
  • Save the Princess: Pauline isn't actually a princess, but still.
  • Scary Scorpions: An uncommon enemy, they don't go out of their way to attack Mario.
  • Schmuck Bait: In one of the last levels, you have to swing from one of the ropes to reach Pauline. Many players will make the mistake of fully charging up their swing which will make them land right into Donkey Kong's hands, making them lose a life.
  • Sequence Breaking: The game has one instance of this in Forest Level 3. You start right next to the exit door with the key to it also in easy access, but a lock closes in front of it, requiring you to go through the whole level to unlock it before grabbing the key and then leaving. Thing is, there's also one of the summon-able ladders right next to you as well. You're supposed to use it to start on the path up through the level towards the unlock switch... but you start so close to it that you can just as well place it in the path of the lock before it closes, keeping it from closing for a few seconds while you grab the key, scoot on through, and end a three-minute level in three seconds.
  • Shifting Sand Land: The "Desert".
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The appropriately named "Iceberg".
  • Squashed Flat: One of the many ways Mario can die. In fact, there's three ways this can happen; being crushed by a Crusher block, by being pushed into a wall by a Sir Shovalot, or being flattened by Giant Donkey Kong's fists.
  • Stalactite Spite: Icicles that only fall when Mario passes under them.
  • Stealth Sequel: Depending on your viewpoint, as this is a retelling of Mario's first adventure, and in the ending sequence, it appears that World 1-1 from the original Super Mario Bros was on the other side of that Tower. Not only that, but it seems Pauline introduces Mario to a Super Mushroom.
  • Stern Chase: Lots of damage is taken by both parties, the obstacles are many and the locations get more ridiculous as it goes on.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: It made sense in the original game, when Mario could only barely clear them, to constantly throw barrels at the plumber. But now that he can jump higher and Catch and Return them? Not Donkey Kong's best move. Of course, since he's merely a gorilla, and Mario still goes down instantly if a barrel actually hits him, it's at least justifiable.
  • Tech-Demo Game: It was the first game to support special functionality for the Super Game Boy, and it goes all out with it. Not only does it include the usual custom border, it also features dynamic color palettes that avert the usual Color Wash problem the add on was known for (the palettes tend to have four distinct colors instead of just four shades of the same color), Pauline's cries for help are played through the SNES instead of the Game Boy so they come in much clearer, and the world maps are all individually colored with more than four colors using the tricks the system was capable of.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Donkey Kong uses this even more and Mario does too.
  • Wall Crawl: Many enemies can do this. Occasionally you need to stand on top of them to get where you need to go.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!:
    • The game opens with the four levels from the original arcade game, leading players to believe that it's just an ordinary port. Until one beats the fourth level and the arcade ending is subverted. Then everything changes.
    • Yet another one after Stage 9-8. Wait, Stage 9-9? Oh dear...

Alternative Title(s): Game Boy Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong 1994