When you think of game emulation in general terms, do you expect that everything is available to play? Clearly, no one who works for this website/magazine has ever traversed a legally dubious ROM site to see for themselves, but we’re under good authority that most include thousands of ROMs.
If you’ve always just assumed that every game has been backed up in digital form for all (and future generations) to play, you’d be wrong. While it’s true that a significant percentage has been ‘dumped’ over time starting in the 90’s, there are most definitely some stragglers out there. If you think about, several hundred thousand official games (not including homebrews and hacks) have probably been released over the decades after all.
One such straggler was a port of Donkey Kong 3. While an NES port of the arcade game did surface as expected – in a move that seems foreign to the modern gaming landscape, Nintendo licenced its IP (as well as others) to Hudson Soft for the purpose of developing ports of its game on Japanese home computers.
Donkey Kong 3: The Great Counterattack (or “Dai Gyakushuu”, in its hometown) was one such result of this partnership; being ported by Hudson to the Sharp X1 as well as NEC’s PC-8801 and PC-6001 in 1984. While dumps of the NEC ports are still at large themselves, we can now at least check the X1 off the list thanks to members of the FamicomWorld forum.
Spearheaded by forum-goers famicomical and aitsu124, a pool of money was collected from other members to purchase the game since it’s decently expensive – most likely to do with its rarity. While the game seems solid, it appeared to suffer from bad advertising leading to poor sales. It did feature in some gaming magazines of the day – however, these were likely disregarded thanks to the fact that they didn’t even include any screenshots.
Fast-forward to the modern day, and famicomical has the winning bid on Yahoo Auctions Japan, which is apparently still a popular thing over there. It ended up costing a whopping 44,500 yen, which is the equivalent of $415US. Wowsers.
With the game now physically in-hand, there was the issue of ‘dumping’ it into a digital format that modern emulators can understand. Here is the full article with the nitty-gritty of the process, but the first problem was the fact that X1 games were released on non-standard 3” floppy discs. To make matters worse, they are formatted using a file system that is only found on the X1.
After finding a 3” floppy drive (using Yahoo Auctions again) famicomical got to work figuring out how to dump the file. There was a bunch of experimenting at this point and several different programs tested, but eventually, the dump was successful by ‘tricking’ a Windows 98 machine into thinking that the 3” drive was instead for 5.25” discs. He also used an ancient command line extraction program called DITT that supports 3” drives.
This version of Donkey Kong 3 is quite different to the original – being more of a derivative sequel than anything. For instance, Stanley the Bugman doesn’t have the ability to jump. While it does include 20 levels that loop once completed, no footage beyond the 7th level existed online.
That’s sure to change, though, as the successfully dumped file can now be enjoyed by all. I won’t link it directly less Nintendo’s lawyers come a-calling, but I can tell you that it’s compatible with a popular emulator of the computer called X Millennium.