In 1981, Nintendo released a game that pushed them from a small toy/arcade company into one of the leading names in the industry. This game was Donkey Kong, the story of a carpenter by the name of Jump Man who has to rescue his girlfriend, Lady, from the grubby hands of the titular ape. The game was a massive success and Donkey Kong and Jump Man, later renamed to Mario, would become icons. Naturally a game so successful would get a sequel or two, but rather than just expand on the original with more levels, Nintendo decided to throw Mario into the villain role and creating a new star, the son of the big Kong himself: Donkey Kong Jr.
Donkey Kong received two sequels in the arcades and a string of Game & Watch titles. The 3 arcade games were eventually ported onto Nintendo’s NES home system as well as an odd edutainment game called Donkey Kong Jr. Math. All of this accumulated on the original Game Boy with Donkey Kong ’94, a game that took elements from both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. After this, the original Donkey Kong series went quiet until the Game Boy Advance title Mario vs. Donkey Kong appeared. While this title did a good job in capturing the game boy titles feel, the series went off in an odd puzzle direction and now looks nothing like the original Donkey Kong games.
So what happened to the original Donkey Kong and everything associated with it? Why did a game title so famous eventually have its series disappear? Well the biggest reason for this is the separation of the games two rivals, Mario & Donkey Kong, into their own franchises: Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong Country respectively. Both of these platform titles received critical acclaim and went off to spawn more sequels than the original Donkey Kong ever did. It is these series that we have stuck with until today and the series that gets the most recognition in Super Smash Bros. Both Mario & Donkey Kong take cues from their individual franchises and basically nothing from their origin game. That is not to say the original Donkey Kong series is not represented in any way. Both the Hammer item from Donkey Kong and the Spring item from Donkey Kong Jr. have been a recurring presence in the series and the game saw a level in the form of 75m in both Super Smash Bros Brawl and Super Smash Bros for Wii U. A playable character has not appeared yet. However, this does not mean there is not a good representative out there. A possible candidate is Donkey Kong Jr, as he is the other major player in the original Donkey Kong series.
Who is Donkey Kong Jr?
Gimmick: Donkey Kong throwback
Niche: Unexpected retro hero
With Donkey Kong’s main hero and villain having their own popular series, it can be understandable why the series does not have playable representation in the Super Smash Bros franchise. Because of this, I feel like Donkey Kong Jr. is the best possible candidate for a classic Donkey Kong rep. He was the star of the original Donkey Kong’s sequel, named after its protagonist. His appearance threw a wrench in the works, making Mario the villain who has captured Donkey Kong and Jr. as the hero must travel through 4 levels, making it to the top of the stage, much like Mario did in the past, in order to rescue his father.
The third game in the series, Donkey Kong 3, removed the boy ape from the picture and introduced another hero, Stanley the Bugman. Despite being removed from the limelight, his presence still lived on for nearly 20 years. Donkey Kong Jr. starred in the NES port of the arcade title but was also the hero of a maths based title called Donkey Kong Jr. Math, as well as a scrapped music based title for the NES. He also appeared as the hero of his own Game & Watch title which would later get ported into the Game & Watch Gallery series and see him star alongside other Mario characters on the GBA. DK Jr. got his only role as a villain in Donkey Kong ’94 where he assisted his father against Mario.
Outside of his own series, Donkey Kong Jr. has made various cameos in the Super Mario franchise. He was a racer in Super Mario Kart on the SNES, and was a secret, unlockable character in Mario Tennis on the N64. Donkey Kong Jr. also appeared in Super Mario Maker as one of the hidden unlockable costumes alongside both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong. Beyond being a playable character, Donkey Kong Jr. has often made cameos appearances in titles like Super Punch-out!, Super Mario Advance 4 and Mario Kart Double Dash. He got a trophy in Super Smash Brothers Melee and a sticker in Super Smash Brothers Brawl however, dataminers found evidence that his trophy was planned to return in Brawl but was scrapped along with various other Donkey Kong series trophies. So while Donkey Kong Jr. has been missing from the spotlight for a while now, he still has some kind of presence and acknowledgement from Nintendo, even if it does appear to minor.
History & Importance to his series/Nintendo.
Donkey Kong Jr. was one of Nintendo’s early protagonists and the first of the Kong family to become playable. As stated above, he had a big presence in the classic Donkey Kong series of games, leading all the way up to Donkey Kong ‘94. Unfortunately, this game would be the last time Donkey Kong Jr. appeared in his own franchise. The Mario vs. Donkey Kong series that followed essentially scrapped the character to focus on the DK from the Country universe, and his absence in this universe was specifically because of the introduction of Diddy Kong.
In the original Donkey Kong Country designs, the team at Rare decided to have Donkey Kong Jr. as the partner character but had planned to completely redesign him. Gregg Mayles, a designer for Donkey Kong Country, recently unearthed some original design documents that show what the redesigned Jr. may have looked like. However, Nintendo was unhappy with the redesign of one of its original mascots and told the team to keep the original leotard design or make a new character entirely; they went with the latter and Diddy Kong was born. This caused Donkey Kong Jr. to have no place in the Donkey Kong Country series and, with this, would disappear from mainstream view.
Despite what happened to the poor Kong in the country series, Donkey Kong Jr. was still a very important character in the Donkey Kong franchise. He was the original Hero Kong from the series second ever game. Where the original Donkey Kong games are concerned, he is more prominent than Mario, appearing in more games from the series than Nintendo’s icon and the protagonist of the same amount (if we ignore the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series of course). Add on that both Mario and Donkey Kong have already appeared in the Super Smash Bros. series and you can understand why I believe Donkey Kong Jr. is the best representative for the olden days of the Donkey Kong franchise.
How will he play?
In every Super Smash Brothers title, starting with Melee, Sakurai likes to surprise people with an unexpected character from Nintendo’s History. In Melee we got Mr. Game & Watch, in Brawl we got ROB and in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS we were given Duck Hunt Duo. Donkey Kong Jr. falls into this category and is honestly one of the most likely candidates for it. There are not many other icons from Nintendo’s past that really fills this role unless you begin to reach into the more obscure or the Japan-only line. I just want to make it clear that this character role is not the same as Pit or the Ice Climbers. Characters like Takamaru, Balloon Fighter & Mach Rider all fall under a different category of retro. They are not old-Nintendo icons and do not represent something about Nintendo’s history such as ROB and his relationship with the NES or Duck Hunt Duo being used to represent not just Duck Hunt but Nintendo’s Light-Gun series of games. Donkey Kong Jr. represents the old Donkey Kong series, the original series that made Nintendo famous and birthed their mascot. That is something worthy of representation and i am sure Sakurai would agree. Now onto some statistics:
- Can he Crawl: No
- Can he Wall Jump: Yes (he can also cling)
- How many jumps do they have: 2
- Is there any exclusive abilities he has*: No
- Weight Class: B
- Height Class: B
- Speed Class: C-
- Is he mirrored when he faces the left: Yes
*For example, Peach can float
The biggest struggle with bringing Donkey Kong Jr. into the Smash universe was not making his moveset fun or unique but making him stand-out from Donkey Kong himself. One reason why I believe Donkey Kong Jr. has not appeared in Super Smash Bros before is because he is very similar in appearance to Donkey Kong, however I believe that the two share enough differences to be able to make them stand out clearly from each other. The most obvious difference is the white leotard that Donkey Kong Jr. wears. This makes his main body a different colour from his arms and legs unlike Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong’s idle pose is based on his Donkey Kong Country appearance and his chest is hardly seen but Donkey Kong Jr would face more to the front, revealing the leotard and ‘J’ on his chest. I believe he would walk and stand more upright than Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong is hunched over and walks on all fours whereas Donkey Kong Jr. could easily get away with just walking on his hind legs and having his arms swing by his side, only going down for support when running.
Donkey Kong Jr. is also missing the stylish tuft of hair that regular Donkey Kong has, as well as having larger eyes. I believe a good way to take Donkey Kong Jr. is to give him a more cartoonish look, similar to what they did with Duck Hunt Duo. In the Super Smash Brothers franchise, Donkey Kong is comparable to very realistic gorilla’s from his voice clips to his actions. Donkey Kong Jr. could instead go for a more cartoonish depiction of Gorillas in the way he looks, acts and sounds. A lot of his artwork depicts this too.
Lastly there is size. It is this factor that prevents Donkey Kong Jr. from just being a costume swap or Smash 4 styled clone. Although some artwork depicts him as being rather large, when compared to Donkey Kong in game, he is always smaller. Sometimes he is about the size as Mario but other times he is just a bit larger than him. In Super Smash Bros. I believe he would be a tiny bit taller than Mario as Donkey Kong is not that much taller by default. I think a good comparison is Mario Tennis 64 where we can clearly see that Donkey Kong is only slightly taller.
I think all of these differences would make Donkey Kong Jr. stand-out on his own. With the hardest part out of the way, it is time to focus on how he plays and what his moveset might be. His moveset takes inspiration from the original Donkey Kong series as this is what he represents. It is not just Donkey Kong Jr! There are elements of the original Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong 3, Donkey Kong ‘94, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong and even Donkey Kong Jr. Math. I tried to avoid giving him a moveset based on punches as that is what Donkey Kong has. He still has some punches and kicks but these are reserved mainly for jabs and aerials. So, let’s jump into more details:
|Move Name & Action||Image||Description|
|Walking||This time I decided to talk about general animations. I have only done this so I can illustrate my point better about how he may differ from Donkey Kong.|
|Running||His running animation is very similar to Donkey Kong’s but that is only one of the few similarity between the two.|
|Jump||His jump is more in line with Mario than Donkey Kongs. It will be based on his Donkey Kong Jr. jumping sprite.|
|Falling Animation/Damage||This could be used for either his falling or his damage animation. I think this illustrates how cartoon-like Donkey Kong Jr. could be.|
|Neutral/Jabs||Donkey Kong has two jabs, in the first he punches forward and in the second he follows up with an uppercut. Donkey Kong Jr. would do punches that are exaggerated to fit with this cartoon style he is going for. He would have three jabs, the first two being simple swings, starting with the arm closest to the screen, but his third jab would have him pull back his fist, pull an angry face and punch forward, knocking back any opponent it hits.|
||His forward tilt makes reference to the Crash Kong toy from Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2. It is an ape toy with a pair of cymbals that references the real life toy. It also makes a sly-nod to the cancelled DK Jr. music game.|
|Up-Tilt||For his up-tilt, Donkey Kong Jr. pulls out some bug spray and spray upwards into the sky. This is a direct reference to Stanley, the 4th and final, playable, classic Donkey Kong protagonist. The move is not very strong but it can be used repeatedly and you can even move while using it.|
|D-Tilt||This move is very similar to the up-tilt in terms of strength but you cannot move when this one is being done. It also only sprays in front of Donkey Kong Jr.|
|Dash Attack||This dash attack is a reference to mario’s handstand ability from Donkey Kong ‘94 but rather than use it to launch yourself higher, Donkey Kong Jr. will use the momentum to launch himself forward, feet first, and deliver a powerful drop kick to opponents. This move has noticeable ending lag however as it ends with Jr. hitting the floor.|
|Up Smash||His Up-smash has him pull out one of the keys from Donkey Kong Jr. and stab upwards. The move does stabbing damage and knockback. It is very strong.|
|Down Smash||His down smash is a reference to the classic Donkey Kong chest bumping pose. Donkey Kong Jr. will stomp his feet into the ground doing low damage while simultaneously swinging his arms, doing high damage.|
||This is similar to Donkey Kong Jr.’s up-smash but to the side. I debated whether or not to use the key from Donkey Kong ‘94 as it looks more like a key, but this one is more in-line with Donkey Kong Jr.’s origin game.|
|N-air||His neutral air is a reference to his vine climbing pose and also what is probably considered his most iconic pose. It is the one used in his Melee trophy after all.|
||Donkey Kong Jr. swings a vine in front of him, similar to a lasso. He does not use it to grab people but it can draw people in before throwing them in a random direction.|
|B-air||Donkey Kong Jr. throws both of his hands back and knocks backwards anyone who is behind him.|
||Donkey Kong Jr. does a backflip, kicking people above him and meteor smashing people below him when he finishes the flip. This move references Mario’s spinning ability from Donkey Kong’ 94.|
|D-air||With this move, Donkey Kong Jr. does one heavy stab downwards. While holding onto the key he drops and can meteor smash anyone he comes into contact with.|
||Donkey Kong Jr’s grab is a reference to Mario when he holds an item above his head in Donkey Kong ‘94. Just replace an item with a player. Unlike Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. will not be able to move while holding someone.|
|Pummel||Donkey Kong Jr. will hold his opponent in front of him and just slap/punch him.|
|F-throw||His forward throw references Donkey Kong’s throwing animation in Donkey Kong ‘94. This animation is also used for his side-special.|
|B-throw||Donkey Kong Jr. just throws his opponents behind him. It does not reference anything.|
||With his up throw, he launches opponents skyward and causes them to spin like a wheel. This is a reference to Mario in Donkey Kong ‘94 when he throws items like the key and hammer above him.|
|D-throw||His down throw is a reference to the original Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong ‘94. In the games opening, Donkey Kong breaks the stage apart by jumping up and down, slamming the floor. Donkey Kong Jr. will do just this but over opponents before kicking them away.|
|Neutral Special 1: Bouncy Fruit||Now onto the specials. Donkey Kong Jr.’s neutral special is similar to Pac-Man’s neutral and Peach’s turnips but the fruit can not be held by him initially. This is because Donkey Kong Jr. instead whips a vine with the fruit on the end. This gives his initial attack some more strength to hurt anyone close to him. The animation is a reference to Mario from Donkey Kong Jr. The fruit on the end of the vine whip will come flying off and based on what fruit it is, the properties can change. The banana bunch is the most bouncy but is the weakest. The apple will bounce but not nearly as much. It has mid strength. The nut is the most powerful but does not bounce at all. The order these fruit come at is random much like Peach’s turnip, but the apple is the most common.|
|Neutral Special 2: Flying Fruit||His second custom involves changing the distance of the fruit. Rather than it bouncing it now flies a distance. The nut does not go as far and the banana’s go the furthest. The fruits are still random and the downside here is that enemies can duck under the attack. However, they lose the ability to pick up the fruit and throw it back.|
|Neutral Special 3: Nuts-on-the-vine.||With the final custom, the fruits actually stay attached to the vine. The move loses its projectile nature but to make up for this only Nuts appear allowing for a hard hitting special.|
|Side Special 1: Snapjaw||
|Donkey Kong Jr. throws a Snapjaw enemy far in front of him. These enemies move along the ground and will latch onto the first opponent they come into contact with, doing damage over-time, similar to the Pikmin. Eventually they will just disappear. On the occasional random instance, Donkey Kong Jr. will throw a poison mushroom. This is a reference to Donkey Kong ‘94 where he would throw Poison Mushrooms to try and shrink Mario. This random effect happens with all of the customs.|
|Side Special 2: Homing Snapjaw||
||With this custom, Donkey Kong Jr. throws a blue Snapjaw enemy instead of a red one. The difference with this Snapjaw (apart from colour) is that the blue ones will chase the nearest opponents, even up ladders! But, they are not as strong as they red ones, to make up for this.|
|Side Special 3: Mini-Snapjaw||
||The final Snapjaw custom is from the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong series. The Snapjaw toy here does not latch onto opponents. Instead, they are bigger, with spikes on them and just plow through opponents. They can not climb ladders though.|
|Up Special 1: Charging Spring-board||Donkey Kong Jr. summons a spring board underneath him. This spring can be charged up and the longer it is charged, the higher up Donkey Kong Jr. will go. It is also not left behind after he uses it but instead just disappears. This is all done to make it different from Sonic and Mega Man’s spring recoveries.|
|Up Special 2: Instant Spring-board||In contrast to the above, this move is like Sonic & Mega Man’s recovery. There is no charge up and so only one height of recovery that is worse than the aboves max charge but better than it’s lowest charge. The spring is also left behind afterwards.|
|Up Special 3: Nitpicker||Donkey Kong Jr. grabs onto the bottom of a Nitpicker enemy. It is similar to Mega Man’s Beat recovery or Duck Hunt Duo’s recovery. The Nitpicker’s design is based on the official artwork from Donkey Kong Jr.|
|Down Special 1: Power of Math||Donkey Kong Jr’s down special is an interesting one because it acts as a buff or a nerf. The idea is that when his down special is used, Jr. will hold up a sign with either a ‘+’ or ‘-’ sign and then a number from 1-9. What this decides is whether or not Donkey Kong Jr. will get a buff to his power or a nerf. So for example, if Donkey Kong Jr. throws a ‘+9’ then his power will temporarily increase to its max possible state whereas if he rolls a ‘-9’ his power will drop considerably. This move would require a lot of balancing to know exactly how much of Donkey Kong Jr’s power is increased or decreased based on the number he gets. There is an element of randomness in this as you cannot decide which numbers or signs appear but it is not entirely random. Much like Wario’s waft, the longer you hold of using it the better it will be. Your chances of hitting a positive number increase based on the infrequency of which you use the move, and the reverse can also be said. The more you spam the move, the more likely you are to get a high, negative number so it is advised not to do this. If you get a bad roll, then deal with it, the buff or nerf is only temporary. Donkey Kong Jr. will shine when he is under the effect of this buff/nerf.|
|Down Special 2: Risky Math||With this custom, Donkey Kong Jr. can only roll a high number (5-9). However, his chance of rolling a negative number is greatly increased as well to balance things out.|
|Down Special 3: Safe Math||With this custom, Donkey Kong Jr. can only roll a low number (1-4). However, his chance of rolling a positive number is greatly increased as well to balance things out.|
|Final Smash: Donkey Kong’s Revenge||
|Donkey Kong Jr.’s final smash is a cutscene final smash similar to Captain Falcon’s and Duck Hunt Duos. It is activated by having a cage fall in front of Donkey Kong Jr. and any opponents trapped in the cage enter a cut-scene where they look around and a big shadow starts to loom over them. The camera turns around to a giant 8-Bit donkey kong from Donkey Kong looking over the ones trapped. Dk Jr is hanging on his back. Donkey Kong pounds his chest, smiles and a gleam is in his eye appears. It zooms into his eye and then returns to the game where anyone in the cage goes flying.|
|Up Taunt||Donkey Kong Jr. pounds his chest. A bit like Donkey Kongs but he doesn’t swing his head back. It is more like the classic Donkey Kong. He does not slam his feet like his down smash and it is not as aggressive.|
|Side Taunt||Donkey Kong Jr.’s side taunt is based on his dance from Donkey Kong ‘94.|
||Donkey Kong Jr. falls back onto his but, puts his finger to his mouth and looks up as if thinking of something.|
|Victory animation 1||Donkey Kong Jr. performs a backflip followed by a fistbump, much like his victory animation in Mario Tennis 64.|
|Victory animation 2||Donkey kong Jr. starts on a pair of vines with 2 keys on it. He quickly pushes them both into place and then jumps of and does a pose similar to the pose at the end of Donkey Kong Jr. and an 8-bit DK falls down in the background.|
|Victory animation 3||Donkey Kong Jr. pounds his chest similar to the original Donkey Kong and then does a pose.|
His victory theme would be a remix of the classic Donkey Kong Jr. victory theme
With this moveset, Donkey Kong Jr. could easily swing out of the forgotten mind of the public and back into the front lines with Nintendo’s more modern icons. Rejoining the stage with Mario and Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. would make a great edition to smash who would be different to Donkey Kong and represent a franchise that means a lot to a lot of older gamers who grew up in the arcades playing Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. for as long as their money would last. This time, it only requires one purchase to get lots and lots of fun out of the son of Kong.
I hope I sparked your imagination and made it easy to imagine how Donkey Kong Jr. would play in the Super Smash Bros. series. Please, leave a comment below letting me know how you feel about my moveset, if you love it it, if you hate it and how you would feel about seeing Donkey Kong Jr. in Super Smash Bros. 4 Wii U & 3DS or future Smash Bros. titles.