Miyamoto recently took part in an interview, where he discussed the old arcade title Donkey Kong, including some things that happened in development that has not been heard before. We’ve included a list of what he said down below.
- Miyamoto had nothing to do with the version of the game that was ported to the NES/Famicom. He said that ““the porting of arcade games to Famicom, we left in the hands of a different team. In order to get the Famicom off to a good start, I was working on the rest of the software lineup.”
- Donkey Kong was under intense time constraints that were so great Nintendo of America was sitting on many unsold cabinets of a failed arcade game called Radarscope. As a result, Nintendo needed a replacement as soon as possible. The lack of free time is something that Miyamoto was aware of. In fact, he was so aware of this that he telephoned several of his friends and told them that “you probably won’t hear from me for about two or three months.” Donkey Kong took about four or five months. Miyamoto said that “at the time, I was living in company-owned housing, just across the river from the office. So every day, I was just going back and forth between the office and the company housing. Thank goodness we had a company bathtub!”
- According to Miyamoto, ideas between Nintendo and Nintendo of Japan on Donkey Kong were passed around. Miyamoto says “at that time, while I was making Donkey Kong, the conversations were all around how ‘globalism is important’ and ‘we should think worldwide’. We listened to a lot of Nintendo of America’s opinions, but not all of them. For example, for the game’s title, I was trying to convey the idea of ‘stupid monkey’. ‘Donkey’ of course referred to the animal, but the dictionary I used said that it had a secondary meaning of ‘idiot.’ Nintendo of America said that this was not the case, and ‘donkey’ didn’t mean ‘idiot.’ It’s a mystery, but I just liked the sound of it, so I decided to stand my ground on ‘Donkey Kong.’ And within a year, everyone was saying ‘Donkey Kong’ with no hesitation.”
- Remember when Miyamoto spoke of Mario’s age? According to Miyamoto, he thought that Donkey Kong’s story would indicate that Mario was in his 20s. He said that “I didn’t think he was an old man. I thought he was more like 24 to 26 years old. When you think of the story—Mario kept Donkey Kong locked up, so he escaped with his girlfriend—he was a young guy, a bachelor. But of course, now there are people who think he’s around 40 years old.”
- Donkey Kong was originally intended to have voice acting. Miyamoto said that Pauline, when taken away by Donkey Kong, “was supposed to yell out, ‘Help, Help!’ And when Mario jumped over a barrel, she was supposed to yell, ‘Nice!,’ complimenting him. But some people within the company said, ‘Doesn’t the pronunciation sound a little weird?’ So we tested it on a native English speaker, a professor. They said it sounded like she was talking about seaweed: ‘Kelp, Kelp!’ At that point in development, we couldn’t fix it. So we took out all of the voices. “Help!” was replaced with Donkey Kong’s growl, and “Nice!” was replaced with the pi-ro-po-pon-pon! sound. It’s really good that we went with pi-ro-po-pon-pon!. When you walk past an arcade and hear that sound, it’s really catchy. So even though we took out the voices, it still had great results. From this experiences, I learned the importance of having good sound effects.”
- Miyamoto says that, after Donkey Kong, he learned to “loosen up”. Miyamoto said that “I was pretty serious when I was making this. For example: If you were to fall from a height equal to your own body height, you’d probably break your foot, right? So in Donkey Kong, if you fall 1.5 times Mario’s height, you die. But later I thought, isn’t it better if you don’t die from such a thing? So in Mario Bros., even if you fall five times Mario’s height, you don’t die. But still, please enjoy this very serious game in which you die if you fall off a single platform,”