Man, I remember when RARE first made a big impact on the gaming scene with the Donkey Kong Country series and (I laugh.) Killer Instinct. All jokes about KI aside though, the DKC series was phenomenal and after that, RARE continued to crank out their goodies (oh, stop it) on the N64. Most recently and most notably are Jet Force Gemini and the inevitable return of Donkey Kong: Donkey Kong 64.
And what a return it is. With Donkey Kong 64, RARE has, once again, taken the preconceptions of what the N64 can do and smashed them. Like Jet Force Gemini, DK64 is a graphical tour-de-force. The sheer size of the game is awe-inspiring as it surpasses even the vast worlds of JFG. This game is so gigantic that RARE has broken the limitations of the standard N64. Subsequently, the 4-meg ram pack is required, but if you don't already have one, don't worry. The good people of Nintendo have included the ram pack in the actual game! Whoop-dee-do! Unfortunately, while this might be a dream come true for those who haven't made the 4-meg jump yet, it's gonna be a strain on the wallets of those who already purchased the upgrade and have to shell out the extra cash to get something we don't even need. Oh well, maybe I'll give someone a ram pack for Christmas...
The game starts out with one of those undeniably annoying introductory sequences wherein the evil King K. Rool steals our beloved Donkey Kong's supply of golden bananas and kidnaps four of DK's friends. What DK doesn't know is that K. Rool's ultimate plan is to distract our hero while he builds a gigantic super weapon, which will be used to destroy DK's island paradise. Good lord, no.
Okay, let's be nice and get this out of the way. DK64 bears and incredibly striking resemblance to Banjo-Kazooie. However, I don't see that as a bad thing. BK was a landmark title (especially in terms of graphics, but also gameplay). The fact that DK64 resembles such a game is good. Good. Gooooooooood. Besides, there's a lot more to DK64. For example: more playable characters, more enemies, more bosses, the implementation of weapons (that use fruit and vegetable bullets), big-big-big (much bigger) levels, and, of course, more MINI-GAMES! Let's all have three cheers for RARE.
The game plays much like every other 3-D platformer out on the market today. Run, jump, collect 100 of some item to get an extra life, and beat up evillishly (is that even a word?) cute adversaries. Yes, yes not much has been done to the core of the game, but, as I said before, it's not a bad thing. Luckily, in a great effort to keep the standard platform elements from growing stale, RARE have given us gratuitous mini games to keep our fingers glued the controller. There are mini-racing games, mini-fighting games, mini-racing/fighting games, puzzle games... in essence: monkey games.
Progression in the game is handled similarly to Jet Force Gemini and (surprisingly enough) Bamnjo-Kazooie. Instead of being able to blast through the game as Donkey K. with no problem at all, you have to find and rescue your four simian comrades. You see, each of the different Kongs has different, unique abilities. Chunky Kong is very big and smashes things with ease, Lanky Kong has comically long arms and can hit things from a distance, Tiny Kong is small and can squeeze into small areas, etc. Plus, all of the Kong's use individual weapons too. For example: Donkey Kong's coconut shotgun and Diddy Kong's peanut pistols. These weapons really come in handy in the multiplayer (Donkey Kong Deathmatch!) modes.
Yeah, yeah, yeah DK64 is a great game with amazing graphics, great sound, tight control, and plenty of new features to keep the game from becoming mediocre. The thing is (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it's... just... too big. There, I said it. I've been complaining that games have been too short for as long as I can remember, but this. This is too much. Each world in DK64 is ENORMOUS. It's gonna take you a long, long, LONG time to finish this game. After playing for about eight hours straight, your eyes are gonna start to water, your vision will become blurred and splotchy, and the colorful, vibrant world of Donkey Kong 64 will become one of your parents' talks on the evils of hallucinogens.
DK64 is also going to appeal to a very young audience that will not be very receptive to the time that it takes to complete the game. That's too bad because DK64, though not as captivating as it's cousin (Jet Force Gemini), is a technical wonder that's as fun as a barrel of monkeys... oh, god I can't believe I said that.
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