|Diddy Kong Racing|
|Genre||Copykong Kart Racer|
|MtAMinutes to Action||3|
|Score||6 Gameplay: 8
Fun Factor: 7
|Buy from Amazon|
Diddy Kong Racing was Rare's answer to Mario Kart 64, which had come out earlier that year. Of course, no one had actually asked for another kart racer on the Nintendo 64, but Rare saw it as an opportunity to start the marketing machine for their future franchises, namely Banjo-Kazooie and Conker (yes, that Conker). They also packed in a bunch of other lame, no-name racers to fill the void - and thus, Diddy Kong Racing was born. The first hour of racers is typically much like the rest of the game, race, race, and race some more. So this will be very indicative on how Diddy Kong Racing (and its DS remake) fares as direct competition to Mario Kart.
Before I even start the main game, I notice a few things: it has been a few years since I've held the Nintendo 64 controller and this thing sure feels weird. It's very light and plasticky, and of course the three prong design definitely makes it one of the oddest looking around. It's also not terribly comfortable compared to more recent controllers, and even the SNES before it. Anyways, on with the first hour of Diddy Kong Racing.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I start a new game and pick my character - I choose Conker, because in retrospective, this is one of the more hilarious stories to hit gaming mascots. In this game, Conker is very friendly and a fun loving squirrel. While developing Diddy Kong Racing, Rare planned to release an N64 game named Twelve Tales: Conker 64. While in development, Rare even released a Game Boy Color game, Conker's Pocket Tales, featuring an innocent Conker. Of course, most people know the rest of the story, Conker 64 became Conker's Bad Fur Day: the violent, vulgar, scat-chucking adventure game which recently received a remake on the Xbox. So that is why I chose Conker as my racer.
01 - An opening cutscene starts after I enter my initials, a simply fly-through what is the main zone. The central object is the giant, evil looking pig head sticking out of the wall (no doubt where the final race takes place). An elephant on a magic carpet rolls up and introduces himself as the local Genie. He says he's here to help... okay Mr. Genie, I wish for more wishes and for my dead N64 game to be resurrected! No? What the genie can give me is the option to cruise around the overworld in either a kart, hovercraft, or plane. Hovercraft for me!
02 - Starting out, the first thing I notice is the framerate. The game seems to run at something like 15FPS. We're so spoiled now. I pick up a golden balloon and can enter the first area. This is similar to Mario 64 where you needed a certain number of stars to proceed to the next level.
03 - I hover into Dyno Domain and then straight into the first race, Ancient Lake. The race begins pretty quickly with all eight racers. It's pretty frantic at first, but settles down and I win handily. I am an experienced kart racer so I'm pretty good at this.
04 - The genie flies up and hands me my second balloon. I guess this is the collection item of this Rare game.
05 - I now have enough balloons to enter Fossil Canyon so I cruise on in. Besides the different vehicles, Diddy Kong Racing's hook is the items. There are different colored balloons: red for rockets, blue for boost, green for oil slicks, and a few other less useful ones. You can use the item as soon as you get it, or you can try to power up that item by getting a second or third of that color balloon. So if I get two red balloons in a row, I get a heat-seeking rocket, three in a row and I get ten regular rockets. However, if I just picked up two red balloons, and get a blue balloon, I lose my rockets and just get a normal boost. Pretty nifty system and allows for more strategy when dealing with items than Mario Kart 64.
07 - This race is in the bag, I take out Banjo in the last lap with both a regular rocket and a heat-seeker.
08 - Get my third balloon, and I putt into Jungle Falls.
09 - While racing, I have a thought about the characters in this game. They're so incredibly bland. Let's run through them quick: crocodile, monkey, badger, bear, squirrel, turtle, mouse, and tiger. At the time of DKR's release, the only racer anyone had seen before was Diddy Kong. Rare was in the bad position of trying to create a character driven racer with basically zero character recognition (not to mention the fact that Nintendo owns all rights to Diddy Kong). Compare DKR to Mario Kart, which features a whole cast of well known characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess, Toad, Bowser, Yoshi, Wario, and Donkey Kong. Nintendo had the advantage of having a whole slew of well known and popular characters to fill their game out with. I think that's important to racing games where the actual driver is so visible (another character failure: Crash Team Racing).
10 - Even though I had such deep thoughts, I still win the race.
11 - There's no more races available in this immediate area, so I head out.
12 - I hover over to the elephant genie, and request the plane. Just the fact that you can ride around on a plane in this game makes it cool (and makes multiplayer super unbalanced - but that's another story). I see a balloon floating around that can only be flown to, so I grab that. Now I have enough to race in the last race of Dyno Domain.
13 - Hot Top Volcano, my first plane course! Did you know you can do somersaults in the plane? Not very useful while racing, but great for taunting the A.I. (not that it cares...).
15 - Get my 6th balloon from the genie, why doesn't he just use his powers and give me all the balloons so I can save the island or whatever I'm doing here?
16 - Oh snaps! A big door has just opened, but I'm too scared to head in. Luckily, my willpower to go on overcomes my fear, and I come face to face with a giant triceratops! And he wants to race!
17 - This race is a spiral up a mountain. The triceratops doesn't try anything cheap, just runs up the mountain. I'm given a sparse amount of rocket and boost balloons to contend.
18 - My first lost! This was actually a tough race. Near the top, the spiral became really tight and even though the trike slowed down, my power slide wasn't tight enough and I flew off the side. Whoops!
19 - Second try is a charm - I pull past the triceratops just at the top as he's slowing down. No balloon this time though.
20 - The triceratops tells me that I have to replay all the races over again and this time, collect eight silver coins in each level. Then I have to race him again. Typical Rare collection quests. I decide to give it a try and head over to Ancient Lake again to try the silver coin challenge.
22 - I end up collecting all eight coins within the first lap, and then easily win the race. Not much of a "challenge".
23 - I leave Dyno Domain to find the next set of races, but as I leave, the genie challenges me to a race!
24 - The race is almost an exact circle around the main area. I'm actually able to keep up one continuous power slide the entire time, I almost lap the genie in a three lap race. After I win, the genie gives me a balloon. Actually, he floats a balloon in front of me, just high enough off the ground that it's impossible to get with the kart. So then I have to find the respawned genie, request the plane, and then find the balloon again as it has floated off somewhere. Thanks!
25 - I find an entrance to the next area: Snowflake Mountain. It only required two balloons so I could have come here much earlier if I had wanted. I fly into Everfrost Peak, the first race here.
27 - This was the longest race so far, but it was still mighty easy with the plane. I kept 10 rockets with me the last two laps, just in case.
28 - The next level is Walrus Cove, the only notable thing about this stage is a full loop-de-loop in a car, pretty cool.
31 - I win at the Cove but Diddy put up a fight. I receive my 10th balloon.
32 - The third snow-themed level is Snowball Valley. This is a pretty insane level, it features multiple routes, tight areas, and a wide open valley with tons of huge snowballs rolling at you. The other racers also seemed unusually aggressive. Finally I say.
33 - Okay, my first loss in a real race, fourth place too. I try again as I lean forward on my couch.
35 - Frak Diddy! He passes me just at the end!
36 - Third time's the charm. And my 11th balloon. I roll into Frosty Village with spirits high.
39 - I get passed just at the end, but I was prepared with 10 rockets and shot Diddy down. I enter the boss race against a giant walrus, I'm in the near uncontrollable hovercraft.
41 - This is a pretty tough downhill course, and the walrus is a fast boss, too bad for him but I beat the second world.
42 - Now that I'm done with Snowflake Mountain (not doing any silver coin challenges, sorry Mr. Walrus), I take a quick look around. There's a few doors I can't enter, specifically a trophy race and a door with a big old keyhole on it. At least one of those is probably unlocked after I collect all the silver coins, and supposedly there's a hidden key somewhere in one of these levels. This is a pretty deep game.
43 - I get to race the genie again, this time on my hovercraft. I'm supposed to head through a waterfall but it wasn't very obvious, so I missed it... Gotta start the race over.
46 - This time, I don't miss the turn and defeat the genie again. This is actually a pretty cool race as it takes you all around the island, almost like a tour.
47 - Sherbet Island (I had too look that one up because the voice over was totally muffled) is the third world of Diddy Kong Racing. Whale Bay is the first race.
49 - It's a pretty fun hovercraft level, and this time I was able to collect three magnets creating a giant magnet. Since I was so far ahead, I let Diddy pass me and then I used the magnet on him! I flung past him at a really high speed. Too bad it was straight into a wall, slowing me down and letting Diddy pass me for real this time. I still won though. Just keep trying Diddy, Conker will pee on you until you give up.
50 - Pirate Lagoon (argh!) is the next water level.
51 - Here's another enjoyable level, this time with a big old jump at the end. Woohoo! My 15th balloon. Time for Crescent Island.
53 - I lose... but I'll never give up!
56 - I easily win this time, almost out of time! Treasure Cove is the fourth water race.
57 - Very easy race, over quick! Time for the boss!
58 - Okay, he's a giant, scary octopus. He's also very hard as he constantly drops giant spikes in the water (I'm on the hovercraft no less) and whenever I get close he either knocks me out or somehow lands a spike on my head!
59 - I lose after three laps, and try again. This time, I fall back pretty quickly and restart. I must beat him!
60 - SUCCESS! I have defeated the third boss of Diddy Kong Racing in the last minute! Phew! I passed the octopus on the outside, and then just throttled it until the end. That was a tough race, and a worthy final battle in the first hour.
That's it for the first hour of Rare's Diddy Kong Racing, now for its ratings out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 3
Diddy Kong Racing plays really well for being a kart racer. Nintendo's own Mario Kart 64 will always be the ultimate kart racer, but Rare gave their best with DKR and it showed. The multiple vehicles was a great idea as both the kart and plane handle great, too bad the hovercraft kind of sucks. The hovercraft does open up some unique ways to race differently, but the handling may be too realistic for a kart racer.
Fun Factor: 7
Diddy Kong Racing's first hour is fun. It's not outstanding, but there's a variety of interesting courses to try out, boss battles, and genie battles. The weapon system is unique, it's just too bad Rare didn't have a larger variety of characters to pull from, they're all too generic and make choosing a character incredibly boring. Racing is enjoyable, if easy (though it is the first hour, there's some bias against difficulty in most games).
Graphics and Sound: 5
This category will now include ratings on sound too. I've always been a proponent of good music and sound effects in games, so it would be hypocritical of me not to rate them in some way.
For its time, it was pretty good, and it was definitely comparable (if not better) than Mario Kart 64. It didn't age all that well though and the frame rate is pretty bad. There are some neat effects though, and the frame rate really doesn't affect the gameplay that much. The music in Diddy Kong Racing is nothing too special, and the voices are relatively obnoxious.
Hmmm... story? I'm sure there's something, because I'm stuck on an island, racing against various other unknowns, and there's a giant, evil-looking pig head staring at me. But then again, it's a racing game so I'm not expecting much, this score will not have much impact.
Considering I only played single player, I think this is a pretty good score for a racer. If Mario Kart 64 had never existed, this would have been one of the premier racers on the Nintendo 64 (but if Mario Kart 64 had never existed, this game probably wouldn't have either). Diddy Kong Racing's first hour provided a unique experience, however, and is worth looking into the archives for if you enjoyed Mario Kart 64 and want to discover some of the origins of Rare's premier characters.