Guest Blogger: Justin @JQWits
Diddy Kong Racing (N64) is a game that I have extremely fond memories for that date back to when I was just a small child experiencing 3D environments on a Nintendoconsole for the very first time. When this game first came out in 1997, the Nintendo 64 was still very new to me and having only seen Mario Kart, it was a nice little surprise to see a new kart racer come out so soon; especially since it features its own lineup of characters, many of which I had never seen before. Sure, some people slammed Diddy Kong Racing for being a Mario Kart clone, and for being too easy, but I disagree with both of those assessments. Because although Diddy Kong Racing can be pretty easy at times, there were still a few challenges that had me tearing my hair out when I first played this game as a kid (I’m looking at you Silver Coin Challenge in Snowball Valley). And as far as being a Mario Kart clone, that’s completely crazy as RARE introduced entirely new aspects to the gameplay like boss battles and Silver Coin Challenges, two features that Mario Kart definitely did not have back then or even now; which makes me wonder if there is any room today for a new release of this long forgotten racer.
Diddy Kong Racing also introduced an entire overworld where players can goof off and not really accomplish anything, adding greatly to the general atmosphere in my opinion. In fact, one of my favorite childhood memories is flying around Timber’s Island for hours in my spiffy plane, hovercraft, and go-kart, simply taking in the scenery. I mean, how great is it that you have not one, not two, but three vehicles to choose from? I hadn’t seen anything like that before this game, and driving them all around that gorgeous island whenever I wanted was so much fun that I'll never forget. That’s one of the things that I loved most about the Nintendo 64; the exploration of these entirely new and never before seen 3D environments; it was quite a time to be alive. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I absolutely love the water in this game; the look, the feel, it’s so warm and inviting! I still remember the first time that I saw that gorgeous H2O; it was the single greatest thing that I had ever seen back then, and it's still pretty nice to look at today in 2016.
Another reason why Diddy Kong Racing is so great, like many other Nintendo franchises, is the fantastic music throughout the entire game. Every track has its own song, and each one is better than the last. And it’s not like the songs are just good either, they add to the overall stress of the race as well; like when you’re nearing the finish line and the music speeds up just as another racer hops on your tail, and you barely pass them to win...it’s exhilarating! As a matter of fact, the more that I talk about this game, the more that I wonder why there was never a sequel. And in 2007, RARE actually did re-release Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo DS, but how does it stack up against its Nintendo 64 counterpart? Well I've recently gotten the game, and I have to say that I am more than pleasantly surprised to find how great Diddy Kong Racing is on a handheld device, even if the original is almost 20 years old. It’s not the same game however, as several aspects have been changed to accommodate for the dual screens and the use of the stylus, which I thought I would strongly dislike at first, but have grown to really enjoy.
The first difference that I noticed, and I can’t help but laugh about this one, is that RARE went ahead and decided to change the voice for Taj the Genie, and a few other characters as well. On the Nintendo 64, the character of Taj had a very generic “Indian” sounding accent, which RARE most likely deemed offensive in this day and age, and I have no problem with that. But then they go and replace it with a generic “English” accent that does not fit the game whatsoever, and sounds...bad, for lack of a better term. Another change that I wasn’t too happy to find out about is that some of the original music has been replaced with songs that are nowhere near as good as the originals. It’s only a few songs, but still, the ones that were removed were among my favorites from the Nintendo 64 version. But seeing as how these are pretty much my only issues with the re-release, I’d consider that pretty darn good. RARE also included character animations, altered some of the tracks slightly, added a map, changed how you gain a turbo off the starting line with techniques like blowing into the microphone, and gave us the ability to build our own tracks. All welcome additions if you ask me that make Diddy Kong Racing for the DS a unique racing experience.
I also noticed how well the designers integrated the use of the stylus pen into the second round of racing challenges. On Nintendo 64, after you beat the initial races you would then be given Silver Coin Challenges where you had to collect all of the coins in the race as well as finish in first place to defeat the challenge. But for the Nintendo DS, you are forced to use the stylus to pop balloons and collect coins while on the rails of a magic carpet ride around the track. It doesn’t sound that great, but it’s actually a lot of fun. And finally, the last difference that I noticed is how much harder it is to use a D-Pad instead of the Nintendo 64’s joystick. But this is a welcome change as most people will agree that originally this game was a tad on the easy side. And that’s about all that I have to say about these wonderful games. They were a part of my childhood, they’re now a part of my adulthood and if you haven’t played them you definitely should. Because although kart racers are not what they once were, they’re still incredibly fun, and Mario Kart wasn’t the only one who got it right. Long live Diddy Kong Racing!
Guest Blogger: Justin @JQWits
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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