Is Kong the king of the gaming world?
While it’s certainly not on par with the groundbreaking 1933 original, nor as much of an event as Peter Jackson’s early 2000s reboot – Kong: Skull Island has revitalised the giant ape’s fandom. It, and the recent US Godzilla remake have given us the ‘Monsterverse’; a shared universe inhabited by the kaiju style creatures.
They might only now be reaching mainstream audiences, but both monsters have enjoyed a cult following since their inception. And that means that they’ve been represented in numerous video games (of dubious quality) throughout the years. Godzilla has starred in a few more games than his ape counterpart, includingsome adventures in the casino(ironic, considering he destroyed Las Vegas back in the 70s). Much has already been said about the King of the Monsters’ electronic adventures, so we’re going to take a look at Kong’s offerings to see if they fare any better.
Tiger Electronics, notorious for their successful yet awful line of LCD style games, released ‘King Kong’ for the Atari 2600 back in 1982. It’s no secret that Nintendo based on of their most famous characters on the infamous ape, and this game seeks to emulate Donkey Kong – with the original Kong. Yup, it’s rip-off of a rip-off territory, and it shows in the game. The graphics weren’t the worst on the 2600, but it plays like an inferior version of the Nintendo classic.
Speaking of those handheld LCD games, Epoch also tried to cash in on the Kong licence with one of these low cost, one-game machines. Similar to the classic Game and Watch series, but with a lower budget, the quality of King Kong: Jungle, the LCD game, is exactly what you would expect.
After the release of the movie King Kong Lives, video game giants Konami released a couple of Japanese only games featuring Kong. King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch was released in 1986 for the Famicom, It featured cartoonish visuals, heightened the fantasy elements by introducing some dragons, and focuses on Kong’s love affair with ‘Lady Kong’.
Konami released a follow up to the game, King Kong 2: Yomigaeru Densetsu the following year. While the first game allowed you to play as the monkey, this one forces you to play as a human – which is a bit of a downgrade. It has more RPG elements that the original, which was more maze-like, and the colours are drastically muted and made more natural. At least Konami attempted to offer two fresh takes on the Kong licence, rather than prior attempts which primarily just focused on the Empire State scene.
Kong also makes a cameo in the poorly received educational title Mario is Missing, in which Luigi has to return him to New York when he is kidnapped. Why NY wants him back is anyone’s guess.
Much like Godzilla, our monkey friend has had a few trips in the arcade and casino scenes. He was the star of a rather beautifully designed pinball game in the 90s, with art by Kevin O’Connor (who also designed the pinball game based on Creature from the Black Lagoon).
In addition, he also stars in an online slot machine game which allows gamers to play and win real money. Pleasingly, the art style is in the vein of 70s monster movies – with lots of hand-drawn images, rather than pulling generic shots from the Jackson film.
Slot machines might be popular online, and in much of the western world, but another form of electronic gambling is much more readily available in Japan. Cash based gambling is outlawed across the country, but Pachinko machines usually pay out in the form of small prizes, or a ball which can then be exchanged for cash. A blend of pinball and slots, Pachinko featured King Kong in a 2007 machine with some built-in miniature animatronics.
If you’re a child of the 80s, you’ll remember that weird period where every action movie was rebranded in an attempt to appeal to young children. Kong: The Animated Series was a part of the trend, and two video games were released based on the series, both on the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. Planet Interactive released Kong: The Animated Series (the game) in 2002. The success of the cartoon lead to straight-to-DVD movie Kong: King of Atlantis which also inspired its own GBA adaption.
When Peter Jackson’s remake hit cinemas however, is when Kong finally got some budget behind his games. There were two game tie-ins to the movie released, mainly due to it being an awkward period for the industry as it migrated from 6th to 7th generation consoles. The versions for the PS2 and original Xbox were highly acclaimed – as was the version put out as an Xbox 360 launch title. The handheld ports to DS and PSP were heavily criticised however. There was even a completely different game programmed for Gameboy Advance, as it was unable to get close to the power of any of the other systems, Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World blended puzzle solving with side-scrolling platforming – rather than the straight-up action of the more powerful releases.
Since 2005, Kong has mostly remained out of the gaming industry spotlight, with only a small role in Lego Dimensions. Will the now-realised ‘Monsterverse’ present us with new Kong based adventures? We hope so!