Welcome back to another entry in Warped Pipes, the series where I waste my time, and yours, sorting out the continuity of a franchise that was never meant to have one. See the first article to learn about my approach.
This time around, let’s talk about 1982's...
Donkey Kong Jr.
First let’s check out the NES version’s manual for a story description:
DK Junior is on a mission to rescue Donkey Kong from Mario’s cage. Jump from vine to vine collecting bonus fruits and avoiding lethal snapjaws. Then move on to tougher stages. Jump platforms, dodge sparks of electricity, and watch out for those birds. Use your skills to get the key that will set your Papa free.
I was also able to find the text of the Coleco game manual which states:
Donkey Kong has been captured and chained by Mario? Donkey Kong Jr.™ goes to papa’s rescue with key he needs to open the locks on the chains. Junior is attacked by fierce birds. He uses umbrellas to leap from heights, and balloons to get up there, opening the locks on the way. When he opens all 4 locks, papa is free.
If you have other documents that can help shed light on the events of Donkey Kong Jr., please share them in the comments.
So far the scenario seems pretty clear. DK Sr. survived his fall at the end of Donkey Kong and, in his weakened state, Mario was able to cage the raging ape. While Mario is portrayed as the villain in this case, it’s easy to understand his motivation. DK Sr. just kidnapped Pauline and carried her to the top of a construction site while trying to kill Mario, it seems pretty reasonable to lock him up before he can do more damage.
However, it seems that Mario wasn’t aware of, or at least wasn’t accounting for, DK Jr. who recognizes that his “Papa” is in danger and rushes in to help. Let’s look at what happens in...
The Events of the Game
User “living on video” pointed out in the comments something that I had initially overlooked. In the game’s intro, there appear to be two Marios lifting DK Sr. This “other Mario” is not seen from again in the game.
The most likely explanation for this double is that it is another construction worker who works for the same company as Mario and thus dons the same uniform. As to why he has the same hairstyle and mustache, there isn’t a clear explanation. One strong possibility remains that this character is Luigi before he decided to mix things up by putting on a green outfit.
Overall, this strange addition doesn’t do much to change the interpretation of the story so far but I will keep it in mind going forward.
Interestingly, the game begins in a jungle, seemingly far removed from the city construction site of Donkey Kong. At first Mario has DK Sr. locked up on a platform that overhangs some small islands. While DK Jr. climbs the vines that hang off this platform in order to get to his entrapped father, Mario tries to fend him off by releasing “Snapjaws”, small automatons that resemble bear traps. Ultimately, DK Jr. makes his way to the top, gets the key, and goes to open the cage. Mario manages to push DK Sr. further onto the platform before this can happen and DK Jr. continues the pursuit.
Now further onto the jungle platform, the vines are replaced by chains. This area also seems to be up higher since we can no longer see the water below. Mario tries using birds called Nitpickers to stop DK Jr. this time but the ape child is able to defeat them by dropping fruits on the birds. Once again, he reaches DK Sr. who is then airlifted by a helicopter. DK Jr. pursues using a parasol and we are told “Keep Going to Mario’s Hideout.”
The game picks up in what would appear to be Mario’s Hideout, which consists of solidly constructed platforms attached by poles. Guarding this hideout are Sparks; small globes of sentient electricity similar to Donkey Kong’s sentient fireballs. Once again, DK Jr. grabs the key and reaches the cage, only for Mario to push it further into the complex.
Mario now has DK Sr. in a cage tied down to rivets on top of a large structure, not unlike the construction site of Donkey Kong. In a last ditch effort, Mario releases both Snapjaws and Nitpickers but DK Jr. is still able to climb the chains hanging from the structure and unlock the rivets, freeing DK Sr. The structure collapses but DK Jr. catches his father while Mario falls to the ground and is injured. The apes flee and appear to get away.
Mario appears to have taken DK Sr.’s actions extremely seriously, to the point of building a secret lair to contain him. This lair is trapped with Sparks and collapses if the cage is unchained, possibly as a fail safe measure to prevent DK Sr. from escaping. Interestingly, this lair seems to be built in a jungle. I believe that this is the same jungle that both DKs originate from. It is unclear if this was intentional on Mario’s part or just because the jungle borders the city.
As Mario finishes up construction on the lair and begins moving DK Sr. to his new prison, DK Jr. investigates and finds his father in chains, leading to the events of the game.
The game gives us several new insights into this world and the characters therein, including:
- Mario appears to be a master craftsman, capable of building vast structures and handling dangerous automatons
- The apes continue to show a high intelligence; having traditional familial relationships, sometimes wearing clothes, and having clear problem solving skills
- Sentient elementals seem to be incredibly common in this world
- Modern vehicles such as helicopters are present in this world
Overall the game presents an archetypal conflict between nature and industry: the apes and their jungle home vs. Mario, master of construction and technology, and his towering secret base. Ultimately, it is nature that wins out this time.
A Note on Donkey Kong II
Although technically a separate release, the Game & Watch handheld entitled Donkey Kong II contains essentially identical story and gameplay to sections of Donkey Kong Jr. Thus, Donkey Kong II will be considered concurrent with Donkey Kong Jr. in the timeline and not a separate entry.
The Timeline So Far
So far, the timeline remains uncomplicated. Donkey Kong Jr. is a clear sequel to Donkey Kong and continues its story.
Next time we’ll take a detour from the story so far and meet an entirely new character, Stanley the Fumigator, in 1982's Greenhouse.