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Donkey Kong 64 (Nintendo 64) artwork

Donkey Kong 64 (Nintendo 64) review


"You are running through the jungle -- a virtual jungle, but a jungle nonetheless. Through the jungle you continue to run, you notice the purple textured rocks around you and hear the birdcalls. This jungle is aesthetically pleasing. You run towards a tree, climbing up to the top with your ape-like grip and jump off. But you don't hit the ground. You have grabbed onto a vine that is hanging from absolutely nothing. Ignoring this violation of the law known as gravity, you swing to the next vine. J..."



You are running through the jungle -- a virtual jungle, but a jungle nonetheless. Through the jungle you continue to run, you notice the purple textured rocks around you and hear the birdcalls. This jungle is aesthetically pleasing. You run towards a tree, climbing up to the top with your ape-like grip and jump off. But you don't hit the ground. You have grabbed onto a vine that is hanging from absolutely nothing. Ignoring this violation of the law known as gravity, you swing to the next vine. Jungle drums sound and a familiar tune begins to play. You keep swinging from vine to vine until you leap into a cutting in the cliff face. You jump and slam a switch with your face on it, and the caged door below you begins to open. You hop down and begin to run through the newly opened cave. You knock out a few blue beavers on your way through; they let out a squeal and then turn into a piece of fruit. But what's this? You suddenly turn around! Not by your own will, but because the camera that usually follows in a docile manner has revolted against your unquestioned leadership. It has turned to see you emerge from the other side of the cave, but because you were running, you were promptly turned around. Correcting yourself, you finally emerge from the cave. This is only one of the minor glitches you will face throughout the course of the adventure.

Donkey Kong 64 was released before Christmas of '99. It was the next franchise to be given the three-dimensional treatment, and boy did it look pretty. Screen shots showed the Kongs in colourful locations, swinging from vine to vine in vibrant green jungles, exploring the insides of Aztec-like structures, and swimming to the depths of a vast and gloomy lake. The worlds were announced to be much larger than any thing we've seen in a game before, making Mario 64ís worlds seem like shoe-boxes in comparison.

In addition to vast new worlds, three new members of the Kong family, Chunky, Tiny and Lanky, join Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in this epic adventure. With an array of charismatic monkeys, huge colourful levels and a barrel load of hype, how could it possibly go wrong?

Glitches. This game plays host to numerous glitches, some being the worst that have ever been seen in a game before. To go over the amount of glitches would take forever, so perhaps a description on some of the common and most devastating of them all.

Chunky has a special move called 'Hunky Chunky', which allows you to increase in size. If you use this move, then you will find that glitches swarm to you like flies on crap. You'll end up walking through walls and falling through floors. Diddy had a nasty glitch in Gloomy Galleon when trying to get to a mechanical fish, sometimes the teleporter would send you underwater and into an orange void of no return. Then thereís Lanky's way of getting into worlds without having enough Gold Bananas to gain access, just press B to extend your arms, and you're in. But these glitches arenít really that bad when compared to the worst you will encounter, a glitch that erases your file from the cartridge. This has not only happened to me, but many others have also reported it! Losing 50+ hours of progress is not something you will want to experience. This leaves me to draw my own conclusion that the hardest part of the play testers job was drinking their coffee and cashing their checks.

If the glitches arenít enough to deter you from playing Donkey Kong 64, then dear reader, I have more reasons to give this game a miss.

Donkey Kong 64 starts out with a rap involving the primates dancing around like a pack of idiots. The purpose of this poorly worded rap is to introduce the characters and their abilities. Though the quality of the singers voice is excellent, the lyrics are poor and lack subtlety. Lineís such as ďIf he shoots you, itís gonna hurt!Ē leave very little to the imagination, and are fairly good at stating the obvious. Once you've mashed the Start button a few times, the rap will end, letting you start your game. Here you get to select one of the three bananas files you wish to save your game to; the banana will then open and you will get to see what is really inside:

The opening cut-scene involves the long time villain of the series, K Rool, navigating his new ship, which now contains weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, K Rool intends on using this weapon to destroy Donkey Kong's island. Of course, K Rool has some stupid underlings, and some of them even had the job of piloting the ship. These fools have steered the ship into a rock, damaging both the ship and the weapon. Although the giant laser cannon is pointed right at the island, it is broken.

Immediately, K Rool gets his underlings to fix the machine so his plan can continue. In case Donkey Kong decides he wants to foil K Rool's plan, he orders the capture of Donkey Kong's friends and Golden Bananas as a distraction. Why K Rool didn't just capture Donkey Kong as well is beyond me, but unfortunately he's still free and that means you've got a game to play.

The basic concept of game play is to run around several different worlds collecting Gold Bananas. There are five in each level for each Kong to collect (25 in all) and for the first few levels; you also rescue your fellow Kongs. This means you must travel back to the first few levels and collect the items you missed with Kongs who were previously locked up. You will not only be collecting Gold Bananas, but several other items too! There are regular bananas, which you must collect in order to obtain banana medals. Coins need to be collected in order to buy weapons, new moves and other forms of junk. Blueprints can be collected and traded for a Gold Banana. Supply crates will provide ammo for guns. If guns arenít your style, then orange grenades can be picked up and thrown at your enemy. Musical instruments can kill all enemies in sight when played. Iíd go on, but this list is exhausting. Donkey Kong 64 is a giant collect a thon.

Despite the huge amounts of items you can obtain, the Gold Banana is by far the most important. To win one of these, you must perform a task. Some tasks are simple and involve very little thought or challenge. You'll be shooting switches, getting from one place to another in a time limit, killing enemies, and completing mini games, some of which are the most barbaric tasks Iíve ever encountered in a product that is meant to be fun.

The mini games in DK64 have been designed to enrage you until you get it right. You will have to do some incredibly anal and difficult things in a time limit, such as shooting enemies from a fixed position when they come at you from all sides for a whole minute. Worse yet is ĎBeaver Botherí, a mini game where you need to herd some stupid beavers into a hole with a crocodile. This mini game is one of the most frustrating experiences in the whole game, and even those who love Donkey Kong 64 will tell you that this mini game is the very essence of frustration. Not all mini games need to be completed though, as you do not need every gold banana to win the game, but there is one mini game that causes people a lot of grief, and itís essential to conquer it twice.

I speak of the original arcade game, Donkey Kong. This wouldnít be a problem if it werenít for the sluggish control. Youíll be requiring more than skill to get through this, as it will test both your patience and stamina.

Once youíve collected enough Gold Bananaís in a level, you will get to fight a boss. If you can keep in mind that Armadillos and Jack in the Boxes are in fact 50 times bigger than a full grown gorilla, you should have no trouble at all in immersing yourself in these boss fights. Each boss fight employs a similar strategy, that being dodging their attack, and then waiting for it to just stand there doing nothing so you can toss a barrel at it. Two of the bosses actually appear twice during the game leading me to the conclusion that Rare couldn't think of any more animals to enlarge.

Getting back to an issue I touched on earlier, one of the most important aspects for a 3D platform game is the camera. Without this camera, it would be impossible to see where you are going, and what your surroundings are. The camera in Donkey Kong 64 really doesn't know what it is doing. You might walk through a cave only to find the camera spin around, forcing the Kong spin around with it, and making you lose your sense of direction. The camera has a habit of being more cinematic than functional. It likes to turn around and view your running character from different angles rather than just stay behind in a way that lets you actually see where youíre going.

If you still think Donkey Kong sounds like a fun game, then I canít really blame you, for I too enjoyed it at first. The third level was where I was completely overwhelmed with tedium of item collection and the frustration caused by the mini games. But this wasnít the only thing wrong with Donkey Kong 64, as the worlds themselves were too large, often being a nightmare to navigate, especially in areas that look very similar to one another. Crystal Caves is a complete nightmare, as wherever you look, you see water, ground or huge rock walls, the paths winding around in all directions. Most levels were just empty space, except for the odd enemy. One thing that Rare did do correctly was the inclusion of banana-ports, which could teleport you around the level. This made exploration a lot easier.

Though Donkey Kong 64 is a nightmare to play, it is actually quite an aesthetic game. The levels are all fairly detailed and diverse. The character animations are even better, as each Kong looks and moves wonderfully. The music, while not amazing, is good, especially the theme of the final level, Hideout Helm. Each musical theme complements the level design and really helps you immerse yourself.

Worth mentioning is the Multiplayer mode. Donít expect too much from it, as there isnít a great deal of fun to be had here, and mainly provides a brief diversion from the single-player mode. You can either play on a small Battle Arena with three friends or you can play in a larger arena. The larger arena consists of three dull and boring maps based on the DK64 single player mode. This mode is basically Goldeneye with sluggish apes instead of frantic running around and strategy, and sluggish ape weaponry in place of the wide variety of weapons that Goldeneye gave you. Though it can be fun to try once or twice, it loses its appeal faster than the main adventure.

If you choose to actually play Donkey Kong 64 to completion, you will find that it will not provide any long-term appeal. Playing the game for the first time can take around forty to fifty hours but after you've played it once, youíll probably be never touch it again. Why would you want to go through that frustration and tedium a second time?

Donkey Kong 64 is a bad game. It does not come close to living up to the hype it was given. Even if you are not persuaded by the extreme tedium of item collection, or the frustration of the mini games, you will still have problems with the excessive amount of glitches. I cannot recommend this game to anyone, not even die-hard fans of the Donkey Kong Country series. This is one Nintendo 64 game that is best left in the bargain bin.

Don't go to this jungle, even if it is pleasing to the eye and ear. You'll go bananas!

Rating: 3/10

jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (February 10, 2004)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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