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From the Collection:
Nelsonic Donkey Kong Wristwatch Is Nothing Like the Real Thing—And That’s Okay

-Keith Lehman (PA) 2/17/17

I am a child of the ’80s. My first president was Ronald Reagan, my first favorite song was “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, and my first favorite pastime was playing video games. Many fond memories and friendships were forged to the clanking sound of quarters sliding down arcade coin slots and the furious tapping of home game control pads.

 

Among the pantheon of classic video games, Nintendo’s Donkey Kong is one of the greatest. That’s why I was so excited to see Nelsonic’s 1994 Donkey Kong wristwatch added to our novelty wristwatch display at the National Watch and Clock Museum. I borrowed the watch for the day, and it was a nostalgic trip back to the neverland of my childhood.

The game begins with a little jingle that is similar enough to the opening theme song of the game. Mario must navigate through something like the conveyor belt level of the original game. Donkey Kong looms on the top of the screen tossing down barrels for Mario to avoid. Points are achieved by jumping over barrels and grabbing the items on the screen and a roaming fireball and parasol for Mario to collect, but that’s it as far as similarities to the original game.

 

For instance, at the beginning of play you must swing on a horizontal pole bar and launch vertically into the air to acquire a hat. This hat allows you to climb up a ladder. Next you must grab arrows to move throughout the level and activate the conveyor belts. Pauline, the damsel in distress, that must be rescued in the original game is absent, along with the hammer used to smash hostile objects on the board.

 

Despite the lack of game authenticity, the watch is just fun with great artwork on the crystal and the case along with the red Nintendo logo printed on the strap. It’s also well made to fit comfortably on the wrist. It is surprising that these watches are collectible, currently on eBay for around $100. The website gamewatchgusys.com showcases an impressive collection of watches if you’d like to have an idea of what other type of game wristwatches have been made over the years.

 

To watch the game in action, checkout the demo on gamewatchguys.com. If you want to learn more about the history of Donkey Kong, check out the podcast Retronauts and enjoy four episodes in its Donkey Kong archives.

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