I have been raving about Donkey Kong lately, and doing so has invited me to go back to one of my favorite games as a child. The very extensive Donkey Kong 64
. It has been a while since I played this game. It has been collecting some dust in my collection for some years now and decided to plug it again to my reliable and already old console.
First we should give this a more formal introduction. It feels almost as if it weren't my style! How rude of myself!
Release Date: 1999
Ah Donkey Kong 64
. This game was THE BOMB in the end of the 20th century; possibly Nintendo's most hyped game of that era. After the major success that was Banjo-Kazooie
(which SHAMEFULLY I still have not played myself. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with me?) Rareware moved on a project they had long due with the Donkey Kong Country
series. Using the same engine as Super Mario 64
, it was fairly reasonable to make a parallel translation of the game as a similar platformer. I passed years of my child and teenage-hood playing this a bunch of times. Watching Donkey Kong and friends in their most exciting adventure, was a ride.
Looking at the advertisement on TV (...sigh, jolly Nintendo ads) it just said it was the craziest and biggest thing ever. The slides, the rides, weird places, the cuckoo clock and many things that happen at the same time dazzled me. It was so much action to bear in a single watch! AND IT INCLUDES AN EXPANSION PAK, BOYEEEEEEE YEAHHH
Back then I did not consider Donkey Kong 64
to be a new entry to Donkey Kong Country
. Even if they feature some of the characters, it had a completely different feeling. For starters, the 3D environment. Donkey Kong Country
has always been about running through a set of obstacles in a side scrolling area. While Donkey Kong 64
is more focused into the idea of collecting.
Ok let's jump into the story for once:
It was a very peaceful day in the exotic DK island. The seals were dancing on the sea, the squawks soaring on the wind and the sun was shiny all away. It seemed like nothing could go wrong. What was not expected is that King K. Rool and his crew was sailing on the course back again in a towering mechanical island ship ...thingy. But this time they had a better plan besides just taking Donkey Kong's precious golden bananas, they planned to capture the pestering monkeys and blow up the entire island with the powerful Blast-O-Matic ray cannon in a single shot! However to his deception, the project of the cannon was delayed by technical difficulties as they didn't have a chief technician anymore, and the Kremlins were a bunch of lazy and stupid reptiles trying too hard to figure out how it works. Back on the island, Donkey Kong is working out in his treehouse as any other day when suddenly he is alerted by a squawks about the terrible eventsthat happened, so he gets started on his way once again to show those lizards who is the boss.
Ok now, this story is pretty darn cool. King K. Rool had been messing around with the Kongs before by kidnapping and stealing, but this time he was going for a real deal on destroying the home of these primates. There is not a life system in this game unlike the Donkey Kong Country
predecessors, however once you choose to quit the game from the pause menu, you get a Game Over cutscene, which is fair suspense now that the mad crocodile got his weapon ready to blast. Once again, just like Banjo-Kazooie.
Another difference with the other entries to the series, is that you didn't use two, but five characters to roam around he levels by choosing them in a wide floating barrel as you unlock them in your progress.
Like in Super Mario 64
, you also got the collective MacGuffin, just unlike the stars, you collect Golden Bananas, which is kind of the same anyway. Once you collect certain number of them, you are allowed to access the next level by "spending" them to a guarding tiki on the entrance of them.
There is a lot of emphasis into the first person perspective you will use with some weapons to access new areas of the levels with switches. I imagine they used some sort of combination of the Super Mario 64
and GoldenEye 007
engine to make it fluid and easy to maneuver. (or... simply the same one in Banjo-Kazooie
Other items you get along the game are bananas, of course, but as there is no life system, their purpose is to let you access to the level boss.
Ok here comes yet another explanation, here are two characters named Troff 'n' Scoff which are an oversized pig and hippopotamus guarding the entrance to the boss area. However Troff cannot reach the key because he gained too much weight and now you have to regulate the balance between these two fat asses by making Scoff heavier by feeding him with your bananas (hey!) and lift the pig close to the key and unlock the boss.
Holy crap that was much sillier to explain than I expected.
Ok so new characters, new characters... oh yes!
Unlike Donkey and Diddy Kong which have been often around, we get other three monkeys that debut in this adventure. These are Tiny Kong, who happens to be Dixie Kong
's little sister (and have already presented some messed up background with her
), Lanky Kong who is a goofy orangutan with very long elastic arms, which I have always imagined to be a circus runaway; and finally we got Chunky Kong, who turs out to be Kiddy Kong's big brother. yeah uhh Kiddy Kong debuted on Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie's Double Trouble
. I might get into that game some time or not, I don't know.
Anyway, the debut of these characters is a little odd in my opinion, I think it would have been easier to reintroduce Dixie and Kiddy again instead of Tiny and Chunky. They kinda came out of nowhere.
But hey! We get to see familiar faces again! We get to see our lovely and grumpy Cranky Kong, the always suave dude of Funky, and the (really oddly) seductive Candy Kong. These characters helped you by selling you new abilities and weapons. Yeah. And he got a kickass theme.
Cranky has a role as weird scientist that sells you new formulas to get into new abilities, if you ever wondered what was the deal about Diddy Kong having a jetpack on Super Smash Bros. Brawl
, well, it all started here. Funky Kong somehow got a new groove into military stuff. I.... never understood why, but it fitted him pretty well! He sells you weapons like Coconut Rifles, Peanut Popguns and Feather Bows. And Candy Kong is the owner of a music shop which you get some instruments that can get rid off all the enemies on the area, they also help to trigger certain switches in pads.
Other familiar faces are Rambi the rhino and Enguarde the swordfish, they will aid you in the quest in few moments knocking down enemies, walls, bashing underwater crates or making great jumps above the water. Their participation is brief but noticeable, you can also play Bonus games with them outside the Adventure mode.
Yet another new character is Snide. Remember when I said that the Kremlins lacked of a chief technician? Well, this weasel was the hired man for the machine project, however he quited from the project as he didn't want to support the sinister plans anymore and turned into a traitor. So now you should get him pieces of the blueprints in exchange of Golden Bananas. Plus, if you give him all of them, you will earn additional time in the final level to complete it.
...ahhhhhh... whew this is taking long to "summarize".
The Brown Side of the Fruit
Let's cut the chase, this game got it's flaws. It's almost impossible to go around it without some obvious flaws.
As charming and epic this game is, the gameplay... well... it's pretty DARN TEDIOUS! MY GOD!
Ok look, you got to collect bananas, golden bananas, banana medals, coins, golden keys, abilities, weapons, instruments, banana fairies, and blueprints to name the most. AND MULTIPLY THESE BY FIVE. EACH LEVEL! There will be times where you will be back tracking the levels with different characters to collect the cursed things. If it weren't because of this massive collective goal in every level, this could be a shorter game already. It is not necessary to collect everything to complete it, but you do in order to get 100% in your file and find bonus material. I love the idea of finding new stuff while digging more into a game, but this has way too fucking much. I suppose it's kind of the "fun", though.
Something that I noticed in my replay is that this game is too damn noisy! I hadn't figured before. I have complained about the ports of the Donkey Kong Country
games for GBA having a crap load of cartoony sounds, but this one has a bunch too. There are lots of explosions, whistles, punch waving, birds... this has more sound effects than a freaking Tom & Jerry cartoon. I can imagine my parents hated it for the collection of noises.
And possibly what I hate most about this game, is the difficulty. No, it's not frustrating for the difficulty, at the opposite, this game is way too darn easy. It could be my experience and number of times I have played it, but the ease on it does not make it feel like a Donkey Kong Country
game. Donkey Kong Country
usually means a world plagued with enemies, hidden objects and very challenging places. The way the enemies are distributed make this a real breeze for the veterans of the games in the SNES.
On its defense
Okay. This is tedious, annoying, and all that. But let's be fair, it tried something else and it was sold as something huge to explore, not really much into the challenging platformer. I mentioned that it was way too easy, but it gets pretty challenging when it's about the mini-games, some random Golden Banana challenges like races, or when you have to do an objective in a very limited time. I could be playing this with a different set of mind.
I should also be fair that the music is very fun, it is not pumping 16-bit David Wise
, but more of Grant Kirkhope's wind instruments
like in Grabbed by the Ghoulies
or earlier titles. Jungle Japes does not feel as "jungly" as before, but levels like Angry Aztec, Gloomy Galleon, Fungi Forest or Creepy Castle are perfect fit for his music. They give it a great use of thematic. The spirits on the ancient ruins
, rusty coves at the shore of the sea
, fancy European woods
, or a very eerie touch of baroque under the enchanted light of the moon
. And these all got even better with the boss battle remixes.
What puts salt in my wounds is that this game highlighted the cart levels a lot, including the box art above, however there were very few stages like that. But I will say, they become pretty amazing, especially the one at Creepy Castle. It gives me Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
And one of my favorite features is that two classical games for Nintendo and Rareware are inside of it. One is the original Donkey Kong
arcade game and Jetpac
for the british ZX Spectrum
. I enjoyed playing both games as well, I thought they were a very rad feature to represent the bond of both companies for that time.
Ok so, to conclude now.
Donkey Kong 64
is not the best game in the library of the Nintendo 64. It is memorable, but not the best. However I HIGHLY suggest you to play it and have it in your collection especially if you have never tried it, because it does have quite a lot of content to check out.
It is a great adventure, it has an interesting story, funny characters and a bunch of challenges.
7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
P.S.: I cannot believe I forgot to include this. (thanks for reminding me, Mark Griffiths!)