Here’s a quick thought experiment to test your 1980s acumen — can you name the original Donkey Kong characters?
Sounds easy, but the Nintendo staple has grown and mushroomed and morphed so much over the years that it’s hard to tell the Donkey Kongs from the Juniors from the Marios from the Brothers from the Supers.
But the original game was simple in concept — boy loses girl to gorilla … boy tries to get girl back.
And that pretty much sums up the original Donkey Kong characters, but we can at least drive down memory lane a little with each of our three founding parents …
Mario, AKA Jumpman, AKA Mr. Video
Of course, the star of the whole universe is none other than Mario himself.
In the original game, Mario finds himself in the unenviable position of having a giant gorilla — that would be Donkey Kong — kidnap his beautiful girlfriend … that would be Pauline.
Playing as Mario, you — the game player — have to decide whether to give chase, risking life and limb, or just set the joystick aside and go read a Judy Blume book, or something.
Naturally, you go after your girl.
But it’s not easy going, because DK hauls Pauline to a construction site and starts climbing up, up, up. You have to follow, and not look down lest you fall, climbing beams and ladders and elevator shafts and the like.
All the while, Donkey Kong is hurling barrels and other such debris at you. Some of it’s on fire.
If any of the primate’s slings and arrows touch you, or if he does, or if you fall … well, you’re dead.
Mario was originally an unnamed character who eventually took on the title of “Mr. Video,” and then “Jumpman” within the Nintendo vernacular, supposedly as a means to evoked thoughts of Pac-Man and Walkman.
Mario became “Mario” when Nintendo rented a warehouse from Mario Segale in the Seattle area beginning in 1981. Becoming irate during a visit one day to collect overdue rent, Segale evidently struck a chord with Nintendo big wigs, and they immortalized him as their unflappable hero.
Actually, they dubbed him “Super Mario.”
Hey, that’s catchy!
Pauline, AKA Lady
A dude working hard to save his lady would be nothing at all without … well, without the lady.
And so Nintendo wrote into the Donkey Kong script a lady named … *drumroll* … “Lady.”
Lady is, of course, the girl who Donkey Kong nabs and drags toward the top of the construction site … which just seems to go on level, after level.
But you can’t really have a popular figure like this remain just “Lady” forever unless that’s actually her name.
And, by 1982, Lady was showing up in at least one series of ads as “Louise.”
By 1983, though, she was appearing in cartoons as “Pauline,” and she also had that name in the manual for the 1985 NES release of Donkey Kong … so, you know, it was sort of official by then.
As for the origin of the “Pauline” name, there is some disagreement, though many of the theories eventually lead back to Polly James, wife of yet another warehouse owner.
In any case, Pauline pretty much spends the entire story line of the original Donkey Kong game as a helpless damsel, waiting for her diminutive man to rescue her from the brutish beast.
Oh, she does also sometimes blurt out a most encouraging, “HELP!”.
Donkey Kong, not AKA Monkey Kong
OK, so maybe I misspoke up there when I said Mario is the star of this game.
I mean, the game is named “Donkey Kong,” and so is the gorilla who takes Lady/Louise/Pauline.
Sure, DK is the bad guy here, but in subsequent games, he becomes more of a friendly rival for Mario than an outright villain.
There are even settings where he’s sort of the hero,or at least the protagonist.
So, even though Donkey Kong kidnaps a girl here and tries to kill a dude (Mario, if you’re keeping score), he’s probably not all bad.
Just like that other Kong gorilla dude … King Kong.
So, yeah, Donkey Kong is a star in his own right, and this game — and the series that followed — couldn’t exist without him.
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End Date: Monday 03/29/2021 11:49:44 EDT
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