Directed by Seth Gordon
This documentary is a story about a clash of the titans. A clash of a different variety: Donkey Kong! Newcomer Steve Wiebe vs. veteran champion Billy Mitchell. Choose your side and watch the battle begin.
If you grew up in the 1980s, then it’s very possible that you spent a good deal of your summer holidays popping quarters into arcade machines. Whether you were a Pac-Man freak, into Centipede, or the ultimate challenge of Donkey Kong (Mario’s first game, don’t forget), then you will love the memories associated with this film. Billy Mitchell was thought to be the greatest classic gamer of all time. He held all the big records, until 2018 when it turned out that Billy was a cheatie-cheaterton! Many of his records, we now know, were performed on emulators, not original arcade machine. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. In The King of Kong, he doesn’t come across as a pleasant guy, and not at all humble. He was, however, respected in the classic game community. So what happens when a newcomer named Steve Wiebe shows up, who claims to have smashed Mitchell’s longstanding Donkey Kong record?
Wiebe is a tragic figure, a loving husband and father who always excelled at sports and music, but was never “the best” at anything. He obsessed over Donkey Kong, drawing patterns on screens for months until finally beating the record, on an arcade machine, on film. However it’s not that simple. Many were sceptical of his claims, especially since he came out of seemingly nowhere with a Donkey Kong board given to him by Billy Mitchell’s arch-foe, Roy Shildt. To prove himself, Wiebe travelled to The Funspot in New Hampshire to beat the record in person, on one of the most notoriously difficult Donkey Kong consoles known to mankind.
Partly a history of the golden age of video games, partly a David and Goliath story, and partly just a tale about a guy who wants to be the best at something, The King of Kong is a heartwarming documentary. It will have you cheering along, and remembering the good ol’ days. Surprisingly tense at times, but always interesting, The King of Kong is very re-watchable.
The most common critique of this film is that there is some dispute over its accuracy. It seems that some game records were ignored in favour of dramatic effect. However, it’s still a great film.
The DVD is loaded with special features including two commentary tracks, and check out the cool reversible cover art. Take your pick — Steve Wiebe on the cover, or a cool painting of a loaded video arcade. You choose!
5/5 stars. For geeks worldwide.