[Throwback Thursday is a series where we look back on games from the past in reviews, retrospectives, and more. We will have something every week for your retro enjoyment. You may even discover something new to love!]
Donkey Kong 64, the sequel to the Donkey Kong Country series made by Rare, recently revived by Retro Studios, sees Donkey return to fight the villainous Kremlings, led by the evil King K. Rool. The Kremlings are up to no good again, and decide to blow up DK Isle, residence of our furry friends. They try to capture Donkey and his friends Diddy, Tiny, Lanky and Chunky, but they fail to capture Donkey, who sets out to rescue his friends, collect Golden Bananas, and defeat the Kremling king.
When you step into the overworld for the first time, you can see that those awful Kremlings have parked their big mechanical island right next to your normal island. But, they have something attached. What could that be? DK decides to check it out, and it appears there’s a big, friendly Kremling in there, imprisoned by that monster that calls himself king. You decide to help the Kremling, called K. Lumsy, and you travel across 8 different worlds, trying to get the keys to his prison. That’s pretty much all there is to the story, if you don’t count small cutscenes between worlds of K. Rool having a breakdown. Pretty simplistic, but it works well enough.
Donkey Kong 64 is a big game. Very big. And playing with five different characters, it gives you a lot of stuff to do. From Chunky’s super punch, to Tiny’s twirling ponytails, there are a lot of ways to travel around and for different characters to reach different areas. You found a steep slope, but there’s something behind there? Lanky and his handstand will help you out. There’s something high up in the air, but you can’t reach it? Diddy’s jetpack is the way to go. Do you need to get into a teeny tiny hole? Tiny can shrink and fit right in, and even have a race with a beetle. So, like I said, there are a lot of ways to travel, and the areas are very big. Luckily there are fast travel spots that can take you right where you need to be, which makes the game much less frustrating than it would’ve been otherwise.
Collecting items is mandatory. You will want to get all the regular bananas you can find as they’ll help you get Banana Medals that you’ll need to finish the game. Not to mention that you’ll need to feed those bananas to a hippopotamus. That’ll get him fat, which will raise the pig on the other side up and lets him turn the key. It’s ridiculous, and it doesn’t make sense, but it’s hilarious.
You’ll stumble upon a lot of puzzles and mini-games that you’ll need to figure out to get those sweet golden bananas. These generally work very well, but there are a couple of mini-games that I never could win because the controls were so darn frustrating. The controls in the rest of the game are one of the best I’ve seen on a Nintendo 64 game. The controls are pretty standard for a platformer, but thanks to all that variety, the gameplay itself is very deep.
Donkey Kong 64 has the best looking graphics of any Nintendo 64 game I’ve seen, period. The worlds look spectacular, full of color and great lighting effects. Compared to the slow beginning of the game where you’ve only the empty hub to explore, the textures get richer, crisper, and more detailed. The animations for the different characters are amazing. When you go into a character selection barrel, you can see every character and you can see a little bit of their personality as well, with Chunky ironically as a bit of a coward, while everyone else just wants to jump right into the action. Enemies move very well, and the boss battles look gorgeous. I especially loved the battle with Dogadon, the literal “dragon”-fly. For a Nintendo 64 game, those magma effects look very pretty.
Donkey Kong 64‘s soundtrack, composed by Grant Kirkhope, is one I hold dear. When I played this game when I was little, I wasn’t too much of a fan, but I absolutely loved the music, and I still do. The music of every area is tailored to that area, so when you enter the first level, Jungle Japes, you truly feel like you’re in a jungle, and when you enter the second level, Angry Aztec, it is like you just entered a desert full of dangers. The boss battles have some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard, and I especially like the music in the second battle with the aforementioned Dodagon. The music in this game is absolutely fantastic, and it’s one of the things that make this one of the best Nintendo 64 games out there.
The Verdict: Awesomeness in a 32MB Package
This game is a definite must have. The only reasons why you wouldn’t like this game at all were if you didn’t like platformers or collecting items, which you’ll spend a lot of your time on. This is one of Rare’s last great titles before the company was sold to Microsoft, and it deserves to be in your gaming collection. There are a few flaws holding it back, like a frustrating control scheme during some mini-games, but you’ll most likely manage to make it through. I’ll have to mention this, though: if you want to buy this game for your dust-collecting N64, you will also want to get the 4MB Expansion Pack, as the game will not run without it.
Have you played this game? Did you like it? Share it in the comments!
Donkey Kong 64
Great Music, Fantastic Visuals, Amazing Gameplay, Solid Experience, Badass Bosses
Clunky Controls in Some Mini-Games