N64 Review: Donkey Kong 64
Review by: Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Game Info

 System: N64
 ESRB: Everyone
 Genre: Adventure
 # of Players: 1-4
 Size: 256 Megabits
 Developer: Rare Ltd.
 Publisher: Nintendo

 Controller Pak: Yes
 Rumble Pak: Yes
 Transfer Pak: No

 Release Date:
 US: Nov 22, 1999
 EU: Dec 6, 1999

Screenshots:

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Final Score:
8.0/10

Reviewed on: January 1, 2000

Donkey Kong 64 was in development for 2 years. Rare does what they do best, that is make super games. The Donkey Kong Country series for the Super NES had some of the best games and graphics ever showcased on the SNES. Donkey Kong 64 is doing the same thing DKC did on the SNES, but this time for the N64.

Before you get to play Donkey Kong 64 there are a couple of things you gotta do, that is if you didn't have the 4 MB Expansion Pak. First thing, Nintendo included this nice Jumper Pak remover. Heck, it even included an 'N' logo on it. Stick the remover into the Expansion Slot, and push and your Jumper Pak comes out! Put your Jumper Pak into a nice place such as the garbage. Take the neat Expansion Pak and put it in the slot, close the cover and you're done! Next step is to put the bright yellow game pak into your N64 game slot.

Right when you startup Donkey Kong 64, there's this neat DK rap. It's really long and it kinda gets stupid. It shows all the characters that exist in the game in a neat little song. The rap is about 2 or 3 minutes long. If you don't want to watch it any more just press the A button to skip it. Much like Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Kong 64 doesn't have many modes open up yet. You'll have to play your way through the game before you get all the cool stuff.

Donkey Kong's arch-nemesis K. Rool has returned. He has captured all of Donkey's friends, it's up to you to save them! K. Rool has stolen all of the Kong's most precious golden bananas. It's up to Donkey Kong to rescue his friends Diddy, Tiny, Lanky and Chunky.

Throughout the course of the game you'll see tons of cinematics. Each time you open up a new level in DK64 you'll see a neat cinematic of K. Rool and the Kong that's going in. In the first level Donkey gets his 1st golden banana in the little movie at the beginning sequence. You'll get to see different cinematics for each level, or large event in the game.:, There are 8 humongous worlds in DK64 for all the Kongs to explore and an additional 'over-world' too. There are a total of 20 golden bananas that you can collect with all the Kongs in just one world. Wow, that's a lot of stuff to do, not even counting secrets. DK64 will take like a million years to complete. Most of the enemies from the Donkey Kong Country series have returned to Donkey Kong 64 in 3D form. Most of the enemies are very weak and can be easily killed. Some enemies can only be killed using special moves.

Throughout the game you will have to overcome obstacles, solve puzzles, play mini-games, race on mine carts, rescue friends, collect regular bananas, collect blueprints, and more in order to find the precious golden bananas. Each character in DK64 has a different colour coding for the bananas, coins (DK64 currency), and blueprints (hey, I thought they were supposed to be blue) they collect. Once a Kong gets 75 out of 100 of its bananas you will earn a banana medal, which could be used to do something really cool. Donkey Kong has yellow, Diddy Kong has red, Tiny Kong has purple, Lanky Kong has green, and Chunky Kong has blue. Each character can only collect items of their colour. And in order to get differently coloured items you must use a 'tag barrel' to change your character. Each Kong can also only collect their own golden bananas. For example you can't use Diddy to get Donkey's banana. It doesn't work that way. Thus, the game gets really repetitive and frustrating.

In order to meet up with the boss of the world you will have to go to Troff 'N' Scoff. A pig and a hippo will be there, you will have to feed them the amount of bananas on the door in order to get to the boss. The bananas you feed to them will not be deducted from your banana medal totals so you don't have to be afraid to go to them when you have bananas. Once you've fed them a specific character for each boss will be chosen, it is not random, each boss can only be played with that particular character.

Donkey Kong 64 plays a lot like Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64 in some ways. You use to control stick to walk, A to jump, B to punch, ah, you know the routine. To swim you just move the control stick in the water just like B-K. Although there isn't much you can improve in controls, it's just good that Rare didn't try to make things too fancy so that it would've been too hard to play.

Donkey Kong's friends are also here to help once you have enough coins for purchasing the goods and services. One great thing about DK64 is that if one Kong upgrades their weapons, instruments, or melon life meter the rest of the Kongs get the upgrade for free! Cranky Kong seems like he's a mad scientist now, and he has a lab for selling potions for new moves for the Kongs, and upgrades. Funky Kong sells shooters for the Kongs, and yes each Kong has a different weapon, which could also be used to shoot switches applicable to each Kong. Candy Kong sells musical instruments to the Kongs, and also upgrades to instruments, and the watermelon life meter. If the correct character on the correct music pad plays the instrument something neat will happen.

If you think that wasn't enough. There are even more secrets waiting to be discovered. There are the banana fairies in the game, you'll have to take pictures of them using a camera and lots of secrets will open up. If you've been playing the game you'll notice that Cranky has been ranting about the 15 banana medals, once you have that many another secret will open up. .

Donkey Kong 64 does an amazing job in graphics. The graphics are bright, colourful, have nice texture, and there's not many frame rate problems although sometimes it's noticeable. Thanks to the 4 MB Expansion Pak there are much more amazing shadows depending on where the light source is located. In previous games such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie the shadows are always directly below the object, but this is not the base with Donkey Kong 64. There is no fog in the game and everything is crystal clear. Rare didn't take advantage of the Expansion Pak to make the game at a higher resolution, they used it to make the levels huger, which could be a good or a bad thing.

The sound effects and music are amazing thanks to the Dolby surround sound technology. Much like Banjo-Kazooie the music gradually changes as you move around the over-world and levels. For example on Donkey Kong's island it's surrounded by water, you can swim to K. Rool's ship. As you start to get closer to the ship it will start to rain and thunder. The music will also start to get more sad and scary as you approach the ship. On Donkey Kong's island the music is very joyful. The way Rare does the music is excellent, and it changes the mood very well other than stopping the music. The surround sound is also very useful in locating some enemies or items in your adventure. DK64 has some great sound and music!

Kick some Kremling assholes in Donkey Kong 64. The graphics are amazing, great sound and music, 5 characters, lots of secrets, 8 huge levels. What more can you look for? One little problem with Donkey Kong 64 is repetitiveness. You have to use each character in the same level over and over to collect items and golden bananas. At first this may seem fun, but later on it will get annoying. But otherwise Donkey Kong 64 is a great adventure game!

-- Hairball (hairball@sm128c.com)

Bottom Line: Donkey Kong 64 is a great 3D adventure game, but it just isn't the same as playing Super Mario 64 for the first time. But otherwise it's a great game and it's a good deal because it includes the N64 Expansion Pak almost for free.