An extremely rare, officially-licensed Donkey Kong game has finally been released to the Internet, and now the entire world can experience the bizarre journey of Donkey Kong 3: The Great Counterattack.
In the early 1980s, Nintendo licensed some of its properties to developer Hudson Soft, which released versions of Nintendo’s arcade and NES games for Japanese personal computers. While most of these oddball footnotes of Nintendo history have since been “dumped” off of the computer disks and released to the Internet to be played via emulators, 1984's Donkey Kong 3: Daigyakushuu has remained trapped on Japanese magnetic media for over 30 years.
In December, a group of fans pooled their money to purchase a rare diskette containing of the Sharp X1 computer version of the game on Yahoo Auctions for about $415. They then went through an elaborate process of extracting the data off the disk (which you can read all about if you are so inclined), and the result is a game image (linked at the bottom of that piece) that can be played on an X1 emulator.
Like most of the other Nintendo games that Hudson made computer versions of, Donkey Kong 3: The Great Counterattack is loosely based on the original but has some significant gameplay changes, likely because the PC formats weren’t built to handle complex arcade game designs. Hence the new subtitle, which positions The Great Counterattack as something of a sequel to Donkey Kong 3.
The original game took place in several greenhouses, with protagonist Stanley The Bugman jumping on tiered platforms to shoot bugs and keep Donkey Kong from climbing down to attack him by shooting bug spray directly up his butt. The Great Counterattack puts Stanley on a single flat platform at the bottom of the screen, and rather than climb down vines or pulley systems, Donkey Kong simply floats down on a pair of balloons.
Perhaps to make up for the simplification of the gameplay, The Great Counterattack takes Stanley and Donkey Kong far outside the greenhouses, on a journey that crosses not only the world but indeed the entire universe:
Apparently, there are 20 stages in all, but the game is so difficult that no footage has ever been publicly seen of most of them. Now that it’s available for all to play, that probably won’t be the case for much longer.
It’s great to finally see an incredibly obscure game dumped, but the work isn’t over for true Donkey Kong 3 completists—the X1 game is but one of three versions of Donkey Kong 3: The Great Counterattack that Hudson released, and the versions for the PC-8801 and PC-6601 computers remain at large. They do show up for sale occasionally—it’s just a matter of, as happened here, making sure they’re purchased by those who want to share them with the world instead of keeping them locked up.