Jr. was the culmination of ideas Miyamoto had for Donkey Kong but was unable to incorporate due to graphical limitations of the time. It was a departure from the previous game, as it focused on Donkey Kong’s son, Junior, who had to rescue his captured father from Mario. This marked the first and only time that Mario was a villain in a video game. The reason Junior was made the star was because Miyamoto wanted the player to be able to play as Donkey Kong, but again graphical limitations prohibited the use of such a large character in an action game. The style of platforming was also different as this time around Junior had to climb a series of vines in order to reach Donkey Kong’s cage at the top while knocking objects onto enemies to destroy them. Like its predecessor, it featured four distinct levels repeated with increasing difficulty. The game would end after the player lost all their lives or reached the level 22 kill screen.
Donkey Kong Jr. was released to arcades in August 1982, just weeks apart in both Japan and North America. The game proved as successful as its predecessor, earning the 1984 Arcade Award for “Best Video game Audio-Visual Effects”. It was selected among five arcade games for history’s first official video game world championship in January of 1983, filmed at Twin Galaxies in Ottumwa, Iowa by ABC reality program That’s Incredible! Like its predecessor, Jr. was ported to the home consoles, with the Coleco Adam version gaining an exclusive fifth stage, and to the Game & Watch series of handheld games which reproduced the first level. The third and fourth levels of the game were reproduced in the follow-up, Donkey Kong II. Jr. also had its own direct sequel in the form of educational game Donkey Kong Jr. Math for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game, however, was poorly received and future entries in the series were quickly cancelled.
|1983 ad for the CBS line-up.|
In 1983, CBS was looking to get in on the video game craze and to combat ABC’s Pac-Man produced by Hanna-Barbera. Figuring to hedge their bets, they licensed several gaming properties and commissioned former Hanna-Barbera employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears to handle it through their company Ruby-Spears Productions. The resulting series was Saturday Supercade. Making up the Supercade every week were segments based on Frogger, Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., while Q*bert and Pitfall! rotated weekly.
|Junior and Bones.|
Donkey Kong Jr. aired concurrently to Donkey Kong and featured Junior (Frank Welker) travelling from the jungle to see his father, Donkey Kong (Soupy Sales), in the circus. Learning of his escape and desperate to find him, Junior partnered with clumsy biker, Bones (Bart Braverman), and took off on Donkey Kong’s trail. Ken Boyer and Patrick A. Ventura created the character models that adapted the cabinet artwork easily animated television stars. The theme music was composed by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban.
|Height comparison character model sheet.|
Junior and Bones would often end up following a false lead and instead find some kind of trouble they would get involved with; be it foiling a robbery or protecting children from bullies. Junior was the most headstrong of the pair, always charging forward into situations and even taking over the operation of Bones’ own motorcycle. Bones generally stood to be the voice of reason and usually ended up taking the fall when Junior’s schemes went awry. Junior’s battle cry was “Monkey Muscle!”, which he exclaimed whenever they were about to encounter a problem or felt Bones needed a bit of encouragement.
Although the Supercade ran for two seasons, Jr. wasn’t carried over and ended after its 13-episode run. It, along with Frogger and Pitfall!!, were removed and replaced with Space Ace and Kangaroo. Like most of the Supercade, rights issues regarding the various properties have prohibited much in the way of home media releases, although Warner Archive had reportedly begun investigating the possibility of doing so back in 2010. While Junior in his established form wouldn’t be a starring character again, he was continually featured as a character in compilations and re-releases of Donkey Kong and other Nintendo games, such as Super Mario Kart. However, it has been heavily implied that the Donkey Kong that debuted in the Donkey Kong Country series of games was a grown-up Junior or the son of Junior.
Originally posted in 2017. Updated in 2020.