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Donkey Kong 3 (NES) artwork

Donkey Kong 3 (NES) review


"What this means is you can't leave a section of the screen unwatched. Do so and you're likely to lose a life. You have to guard the flowers but generally the path to success is avoiding bugs while you pelt the ape with spray until he is backed up against the top of the screen. When he reaches the top, the stage is over and you can advance to the next. The problem is that your spray is rather weak, as a general rule."



In the modern age of games, a franchise means a lot. You see Mega Man X6 and you think of a blue bomber running through narrow corridors, blasting away at foes with a weakened form of what the last boss used to nearly end your career. Or Lara Croft peers around a corner in a dark tomb, chest heaving, guns at the ready. This is a franchise in the new millenium. Oddly enough, though, things weren't always that way. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than with Donkey Kong 3, one of Nintendo's early releases that proves some developers were willing to implement sweeping changes to a franchise in as little as a year or two.

The story of Donkey Kong 3, which is described only in the instruction manual if you manage to find the game and such a thing, consists of Stanley the gardener. He's a cheerful lad, from what I can tell, who has one problem: a giant ape has broken into the greenhouse and is stirring up trouble. The ape, of course, is Donkey Kong (also known for kidnapping Mario's girlfriend, taking her to the top of a construction site or four, and giving us one of the most beloved heroes video games have ever seen).

Your goal, then, is to stop Donkey Kong by working through repetitive levels. Your weapon is bug spray. Your enemies are the ape himself, caterpillars, and various flying insects. These include bees and flies, for the most part. The insects are intent on two things: stealing flowers and killing you. When a level starts, five flowers are at the bottom of the screen. You must protect those to complete a stage and earn more points. At the same time, you're keeping an eye on the ape. He's sliding down two vines and stirring up bees and such as he does so.

What this means is you can't leave a section of the screen unwatched. Do so and you're likely to lose a life. You have to guard the flowers but generally the path to success is avoiding bugs while you pelt the ape with spray until he is backed up against the top of the screen. When he reaches the top, the stage is over and you can advance to the next. The problem is that your spray is rather weak, as a general rule. From time to time, powerful spray will appear on a vine and Donkey Kong will knock it down if you push him up far enough. With that in hand, getting through another stage or two is a simple matter of jumping up just beneath the ape and letting loose with your spray.

As you progress further, new obstacles appear. Donkey Kong can drop a hive on you. Caterpillars, when hit by normal spray, will form barriers that prevent you from nailing your opponent. Bees explode when shot and you have to avoid what amounts to shrapnel. Also, the three platforms forming a period leading up to the ape's crotch will have spaces in them, meaning you not only have to avoid attacks but also find sure footing.

It's all a fun little excercise...for a limited amount of time. Sound is about what you would expect, a few blips here and there to remind you the volume is turned on. Mostly, there's just the sound of points ticking off as you finish a screen.

Visuals are simple, too. This must have been an easy game to make. There are palm frands, blue ledges, the beehives, the flowers, Donkey Kong, you, and the insects. Everything looks appropriate, with the caterpillars oddly seeming the most expressive, but nothing really stands out. This is a simple game, folks. Nothing more and nothing less.

What Donkey Kong 3 does have in its favor, of course, is the play control. Stanley controls like a dream. Only occasionally is there a small lag between your request and his actions. 'A' and 'B' shoot. The 'up' button jumps. The 'down' button drops down a level, if possible, and 'left' and 'right' take him in the obvious direction. It's nice not to have to stop and think about the controls, and it's nice that you can't really blame a sudden death on poor design.

In the end, though, is this game worth a purchase? For a collector, it's an obvious 'yes.' This game has vintage value, even if it's not a terrific experience for more than about 5 or 10 minutes by today's standards. If you have all the obvious ones in your collection, by all means seek this one out. Otherwise, add it to that long list of titles you wouldn't mind owning if a game just dropped through the ceiling for no apparent reason.

Rating: 4/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (November 25, 2002)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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