Tag Archives: donkey kong

FGC #381 Diddy Kong Racing

Let's race!Diddy Kong Racing had a fairly interesting and ridiculous development process. Almost immediately after the launch of the N64 (and the release of Killer Instinct Gold), Rare started in on their next game and first “original” N64 title (as KI Gold was basically an arcade port). This process started with “Wild Cartoon Kingdom”, which was basically a real-time strategy game (!) based on an executive’s trip to Disney World. Then, for reasons that are no doubt lost to time/whiskey, the RTS became a racing game, and mutated into Pro-Am 64, an RC-car based title. Then, a certain bear and bird got their big debut game delayed, so Rare/Nintendo needed a big mascot title to fill its upcoming holiday season. Pro-Am 64 was modified again, and, this time, “Cartoon Kingdom” returned with a number of furry animal pals in cars, planes, and hovercrafts. After a long and confusing road to creation, a certain monkey got slammed on the marquee, and Diddy Kong Racing was born.

But was it any good?

Wait, belay that question. I don’t mean “was the game any good?” Diddy Kong Racing was an interesting take on racing games (which, thanks to the technology of the late 90’s, was a genre that had seen about 7,000 titles in two years), as it combined the exploratory nature of action games like Mario 64 and the tight racing experience of Mario Kart. It wasn’t a very complicated or nuanced take on either of its two contributing gameplay styles, but it was certainly fun. While Mario Kart 64 might be the most fondly remembered racing title of the generation, there’s nothing wrong with being in second place in that race. Diddy Kong 64 was weird and experimental, but it was certainly good at being an amusing racing game with its own identity.

But it’s that identity that we’re here to investigate. DKR took a long road to production, but, somewhere in there, it was nearly a bunch of anonymous windup cars. Then, in an effort to be a “big name” title, it grabbed a kong, and turned all of its unknowns into what would hopefully be the next Mario Kart. Or do you want to tell me you ever considered the intelligence of your average koopa troopa before he started pelting you with red shells? Diddy Kong Racing was clearly intended as a way for Rare and Nintendo to promote a new stable of remarkable characters, but how did they do? We’ve got a couple of decades of hindsight here, so let’s answer this question once and for all: Are the stars of Diddy Kong racing any good?

Diddy Kong

Diddy!Diddy is the one known quantity for Diddy Kong Racing, which is probably why it’s, ya know, Diddy Kong Racing. After appearing in Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and every Donkey Kong title that doesn’t involve tinker toys, it’s hard to believe, but Diddy Kong was still a pretty new quantity back in 1997. Donkey Kong Country was only three years old, and it wasn’t like Diddy ever gained the same kind of traction as the upcoming Pikachu. He wasn’t even playable in Donkey Kong Country 3! However, as legend tells it, Donkey Kong was originally slated for this spot, but Rare suggested Diddy star for a little variety. Donkey already gets to hang out with Mario, why not promote the lil’ chimp with his own franchise? And, hey, DK could still swing by next time, anyway. What have you got to lose?

Well, seems that Rare and Nintendo made the right choice in this one, as Diddy really does fit his eponymous game pretty well. Donkey would have a tendency to overshadow the rest of this cast not only figuratively, but literally as well. DK is a big guy (ape)! Diddy’s presence allows for more “childlike” mascots, like… almost the entire cast, and that gives Diddy Kong Racing a different identity from its Mario-based cousin. Diddy Kong Racing doesn’t have to be for kids, but the “kiddy” characters and visuals give it a more whimsical feeling, and that’s important when you’ve got magical vehicles that change shape at the behest of a genie.

Verdict: Diddy Kong has been an excellent mascot for Nintendo for years, and he fits the game perfectly. Good job, Diddy!

Krunch

Get emAnd here’s our first dud.

Mario Kart has always been a pretty interesting title without its cast, but nobody would have ever played the thing if it featured a bunch of anonymous randos. See also: Smash Bros and the confusingly high number of Melee/Brawl clone games that are dropping within the year. Sure, the gameplay is great and fun and whatever, but, dude, I signed up to play as Samus Aran, not generic lady with a gun. But we take for granted that these games have these all-star casts. It’s likely impossible to figure out the chicken and egg of those franchises, but, at some point, somebody in Nintendo had to say, “Hey, let’s actually include all of our best characters. And Captain Falcon! That should get people’s attention!” Mario Kart could easily be Mario racing against seven goombas, but it is so much sweeter when Yoshi is in the mix.

Krunch Kremling is a Kremling, and the sad thing is that he could have been any Kremling. At this point, we’d already seen three Donkey Kong Country titles, and, in all of those games, Kremlings were the main antagonists. This means that there was already an entire army of kritters to choose from, yet Rare decided to go with a generic representation of the species. Sure, he’s got a cool motorcycle jacket, and I guess he gets bonus points for being a Kremling with the wherewithal to follow Diddy to a magical island, but he’s no Kaptain K. Rool. Don’t want your Bowser eclipsing the cast? Klubba would be a fine choice. Or Klobber! Or any Kremling that is at least recognizable, and not “just a crocodile”. Come on, Rare, you’re trying to build a brand here. Use the tools you have.

Verdict: It’s nice to see an established “race” represented in the game, and it’s always good to have an enemy-turned-ally, but Krunch is a disappointment in every other way.

Banjo

BANJO!Banjo is a star in waiting. If you’re curious about the timeline here, the entire reason Diddy Kong Racing is Diddy Kong Racing is because Nintendo/Rare needed a mascot game for Christmas, and the original intended title created to fill that slot was Banjo-Kazooie. So, effectively, if it weren’t for Banjo Bear being slow to the starting line, we wouldn’t be looking at Diddy Kong Racing at all, and I might be posting about Uniracers 2 or something. For this reason alone, Banjo should be celebrated as the savior of DKR Island.

And, even if it was Banjo’s lack of haste to be blamed for DKR, it was still a great idea to include Banjo on the roster. This is the proverbial “passing of the torch” from one mascot to another. Donkey begat Diddy, and now Diddy shall beget Banjo. And it worked! Banjo was a success, and, even with a measly three games under his belt, Banjo still holds enough cultural clout to warrant his own Mighty Number 9. And the games weren’t bad, either! Everybody wins! Let’s hear it for Banjo!

Verdict: Way to go, bear! You may have yet to discover your companion bird, but you’re going places.

Tiptup

TipsyNow here’s a guy who is such a loser, nobody can even remember his origins.

Tiptup did technically premier in Diddy Kong Racing. And, let’s face it, he’s basically a joke. He’s a turtle in a race. There are entire fables about why that is a terrible idea! But Tiptup didn’t stop at Diddy Kong Racing, he waddled on to appear in Banjo-Kazooie as a support character with his own choir. And then he became (or already was) a dad in Banjo-Tooie. And I’m pretty sure he at least made a cameo in that other Banjo game. And he was originally intended to be a friend of Banjo in the scrapped Project Dream game that would eventually morph into the “real” Banjo franchise. In short, Tiptup is indisputably a part of the Banjo universe.

But, when Diddy Kong Racing was eventually rereleased for the Nintendo DS, Tiptup was still there on the roster. This might seem natural, but Banjo and Conker were both dropped from that title, because Rare had long since abandoned Nintendo for softer pastures, and “their” property wasn’t going to see any extra eyeballs.

But Tiptup was still there, abandoned by his friends.

And considering “The Tiptup Case” isn’t a part of Nintendo legislative history, it doesn’t look like his owners thought he was anyone important either.

Sorry, Tiptup, you’re so forgettable, your own creators don’t give a damn about you.

Verdict: Don’t worry, I won’t forget about you… uh… turtle… guy?

Timber

Is he supposed to be a lumberjack?Diddy is the visiting celebrity, Banjo is the next generation in waiting, and poor Timber the Tiger is the intended protagonist of the piece. Diddy Kong Racing does have a plot, and it’s that the nefarious Wizpig swooped in and cursed the inhabitants of this happy little island while Timber’s parents were off, I don’t know, getting high in a van by the river or something. Timber is still home alone, and it’s up to him to de-curse the island with the help of his whacky friends. … No wonder he requested a chimp for assistance. This kid is doomed.

Unfortunately, DKR was built for players that could choose any character for any level at any time. And that’s great! A large adventure like DKR would be terrible if it locked you into one racer for every last challenge. Unfortunately, that means that any focus on Timber is completely lost, and most people only know Timber is the intended protagonist from the instruction manual (and even that was likely forsaken for that piece of cardboard that explains the controls). Combine this with the fact that Timber didn’t even make it to the cover of his own game on the DS rerelease (but there’s Tiptup!), and Timber pretty much fails in his protagonist role. Sorry, Timber, you’re another forgotten casualty of the franchise.

Verdict: Timber didn’t even have the star power to sneak back into a Banjo title. Guess his parents aren’t letting him out of their sight for a good long while.

Drumstick

BAGAWNow here’s a plot hero! Drumstick is supposedly the Obi Wan Chicken of DKR, and he’s the first to challenge Wizpig to a race for the island. He loses immediately, and is transformed into a frog for his troubles. Whoops. Drumstick spends the majority of the story as a frog with a rooster comb, but, should you rescue the majority of the island anyway, you’ll be able to release the curse on Drumstick, and thus the chicken man will be yours.

And that’s awesome! Unlocking characters started to become a means unto itself at the start of the millennium, but there was still a little mystique to earning a rooster dude through sheer effort back in 1997. And, what’s more, with the “legend” of Drumstick being the greatest racer on the island, you, the player, felt like the greatest racer around when you finally de-frogged the guy. And heroes transforming into frogs was all the rage back in the 90s! Just ask that marshmallow kid!

Verdict: Drumstick winds up being the one racer that actually seems related to the plot, so he’s a bit more memorable than the rest of these nerds. Too bad someone decided his ideal design would be “rejected KFC mascot”, though.

Pipsy

SqueakyYou know it’s a 90’s game when there’s “that one girl”. The lone female of the DKR species is Pipsy the Mouse, and, to her credit, she’s one of the best racers in the game. Sure, that might be a subjective statement in most any kart racing game, but Pipsy is a damn beast, and her handling is second to none. But, other than that, Pipsy has absolutely no defining features beyond her gender. There’s a reason we never saw Pipsy’s Big Adventure.

Verdict: If you’re going to have a cartoon mouse mascot, you have to go big. Pipsy did not.

Bumper

The goggles!And here’s Bumper the Badger. As far as anyone can tell, he was intended as the “big and friendly” archetype in this lineup. He’s… big… and… uh… friendly. That’s all we got here. Nothing much to… Wait a minute. Is he wearing goggles? He is! Bumper the Badger is wearing goggles! That should be praised! Bumper knows what’s up! He has his furry paw on the pulse of fashion! Way to go, Bumper! We need more rockin’ Badgers!

Verdict: I assume the great, unwashed masses could not see the inherent value of the goggles, so Bumper wound up another critter in the loser column.

Conker

Conks!Conker is a squirrel in a t-shirt. Nobody is ever going to toss a game to this nobody.

Verdict: Welp, that’s everybody. We’ve got more losers than anything, so it certainly seems that Diddy Kong Racing irresponsibly squandered its mascot powers, and never went anywhere with these also-rans. Hey, you can’t always win the gold.

FGC #381 Diddy Kong Racing

  • System: Nintendo 64 initially, and then a rerelease on Nintendo DS, the system where N64 games went to retire.
  • Number of players: It’s four players, right? It’s a N64 game, so that’s my best guess.
  • Hey, what about T.T. the Clock? That is an imaginary character, and you clearly just made him up.
  • Dirty Cheater: Not unlike Goldeneye, there are a number of cheats “built in” to the game. Some of the cheats impact the random battle items that are earned during races, which is a feature Mario Kart players have been begging for forever. There’s also a cheat that is titled “TOXICOFFENDER”, which turns all balloons green. That is delightful.
  • Raj!Favorite Boss: Wizpig is the Wizard Pig should win on sheer chutzpah alone (when life gives you pork, become a wizard!), but I’m going to choose Bubble the Octopus as my favorite semi-malevolent opponent. He was an angry octopus boss before Mario and squid kids made it mandatory.
  • Did you know? Pipsy is supposedly based on a character from a canceled project named Astro Mouse. The titular Astro Mouse is male, has a space helmet, and seems to have a healthy amount of 90’s ‘tude. He could be the origin of Pipsy, but, seriously, how many different ways can you render a mouse?
  • Would I play again: Maybe, once, for the nostalgia. I’m not playing the game “for real” ever again, but trying out a track or two every once in a while wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon Ball FighterZ! Or maybe I just want to play another DBZ game. DBS game? Whatever! What’s important is that Goku is coming to town. Please look forward to it!

FGC #272 Nintendo Land

Looks like a chess piece...The WiiU is dead. Time for a post mortem.

Nintendo Land had some big shoes to fill. Wii Sports, the game that launched the phenomenal Wii, was maybe the most successful launch game of all time (eat it, Duck Hunt). It was an amazing introduction to the system… and… uh… it was also a complete failure. Wii Sports is good! Unfortunately, it was so good, that many people bought the Wii exclusively for Wii Sports, and never purchased another game. This would simply be kind of annoying for Microsoft or Sony, but Nintendo actually makes software for their hardware, and if someone is buying the hardware but none of the following five years of software… that ain’t no good. And Wii Sports was an excellent showcase for everyone’s favorite Miis, but it didn’t include so much as a Mario cameo, left alone the obvious Punch-Out tie-in over in Wii Boxing. In short, Wii Sports was a marvelous system seller, but a terrible Nintendo seller.

So the course was clear for the WiiU: Nintendo needed a new killer app to sell its system with all those exciting new WiiU features, and it needed a game that featured all the new (old) friends you’d make on the WiiU, like Mario and Olimar. Nintendo has been making videogames for twelve billion years, so this should be a walk in the (Nintendo Land) park, right? Heck, let’s throw in a new mascot character that is a talking TV screen for some damn reason! Nothing is more exciting than a literally two dimensional rectangle with an annoying voice!

Of course, I am writing this article from a dystopian future where the WiiU is done. The Switch is now king, and Miiverse is a sad shell of its former glory (though still talking about Splatoon, for some reason). Nintendo apparently has no plans to release first party games on the WiiU ever again, and the only thing on the WiiU release schedule is… Cars 3: Driven to Win. I don’t think that’s going to push any systems. Whether the WiiU was a success or not, what’s important is that it is now dead. Sweet dreams, WiiU, may paratroopas lead you in.

But we’ve still got Nintendo Land sitting here, so let’s see if any of the various minigames involved were at all relevant to the WiiU and its general trajectory.

Yoshi’s Fruit Cart

CHOMPThe Game: It’s everyone’s favorite thing! A game that deliberately hobbles your view so as to create a challenge out of nothing! Hooray!

WiiU Relevance: In a way, this is the prototype for Kirby and the Rainbow Curse… a few years after Kirby Canvas Curse. And instead of enjoying the innovative momentum system that makes either of those games a blast, now you can only see half the game at any given time on either screen. The fruit is on the top screen, and your drawn line is on the pad, so the challenge lies in spatial relations. Unfortunately, there’s a hole in my bathroom that tells you everything you need to know about my depth perception (to elaborate, that hole was supposed to be a cable jack a room over…. I am bad at measuring).

Nintendo-ness: It’s Yoshi! In cart form! Yoshi eating fruit is Yoshi to a T… though the whole “is a mechanical cart” thing is a little weird. Also, if you’re going to go with a Nintendo protagonist that rolls along and eats everything in his path, how about, ya know, Kirby? Was HAL sick that day?

Overall Rating: I’m sure there are some people out there that enjoy this kind of thing, but I’m not one of them. I can’t freehand to save my life, and I can’t guide a Yoshi to save his. You know what killed the dinosaurs? Me.

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course

OookThe Game: Navigate a little cart thing through an obstacle course themed after the original Donkey Kong construction “maze”.

WiiU Relevance: This one uses the WiiU pad’s gyroscope “leaning” powers. This seems to be the feature that got reused the most in later WiiU games, and even worked its way into the final WiiU game, Breath of the Wild. Come to think of it, this means that this game is partially responsible for those damn “labyrinth” shrine puzzles. Zero out of five stars.

Nintendo-ness: Donkey Kong is about as Nintendo as it gets, but this game recalls the original Donkey Kong, and not the more iconic Donkey Kong that would return for Tropical Freeze. Also, every time Nintendo references original DK, it reminds us all that we still have yet to see a perfect arcade port of DK, and that’s horrible.

Overall Rating: Oh, did I mention this game is impossible? Because it is. I’m just glad this nonsense only ever reappeared as a minigame distraction, and not, like, Super Mario Tilt ‘n Tumble.

Captain Falcon’s Twister Race

VrooomThe Game: It’s racing! With F-Zero cars! It’s kinda F-Zero!

WiiU Relevance: As the Switch release of Mario Kart has reminded all of us, when it came time for racing to hit the WiiU, Nintendo had already abandoned the whole “use your controller like a steering wheel” thing. Oh well. The control scheme here is as smooth as silk, so good on Nintendo at least making this seem like a viable option, even if it wasn’t really used outside of the WiiOG.

Nintendo-ness: Nintendo loves Captain “Show me your moves” Falcon. This is F-Zero through and through, with futuristic venues and the good ol’ Blue Falcon (no Dynomutt, unfortunately). On the other hand, this game serves to remind us that we haven’t seen a decent F-Zero game since the friggen Gamecube, and we wouldn’t see another on the WiiU. Way to be a tease, Nintendo!

Overall Rating: It’s no Falcon Punch, but it’s pretty close to being a Falcon Slap. I do appreciate how the game offers two different (and viable!) views of the same action on two different screens. That could have reappeared on the WiiU at least once.

Balloon Trip Breeze

FloatyThe Game: It’s basically Balloon Trip Advance with a stylus-based control scheme. This gives me very little to complain about.

WiiU Relevance: This game controls by blowing a breeze to move around your Balloon Tripper via stylus motions. This is… actually kind of fun. It’s frantic in a good way, and it’s always enjoyable to have a complete freak out attempting to keep your lil’ balloon buddy out of the maw of a giant fish. Unfortunately, I can literally hear these swiping motions doing permanent damage to my WiiU screen, so I can see why this didn’t become a popular control scheme.

Nintendo-ness: Billy “Balloon Man” Balloonguy is popular with the old-school crew, but he still has yet to get his own game in the modern era. That said, the Balloon Trip theme has somehow infiltrated my brain to an intense degree (likely thanks to Smash Bros), so it is synonymous with Nintendo in its own way.

Overall Rating: Honestly, of the one player games on this collection, this one saw the most play. It’s probably the only game I’d buy a la carte… but that’s mostly because Balloon Trip is my Tetris. It’s hard to get this wrong…

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle

I have no idea what is going on hereThe Game: It’s basically a shooting game ala Time Crisis or Link’s Crossbow Training. Turn the WiiU gamepad sideways, and hurl shuriken at an endless army of ninja. The ninja vaguely look like characters from South Park, so let’s consider it a crossover.

WiiU Relevance: Wow, I had totally forgotten the WiiU pad had “aiming” functionality like the Wiimote. You mean there could have been shooting games like House of the Dead for the WiiU, but nobody ever bothered? That kind of makes me sad.

Nintendo-ness: This game is based on a Japan-only game, Nazo no Murasame Jō, that is vaguely Zelda-esque. The star of Nazo no Murasame Jō, Takamaru, has cameoed here and there in various Nintendo games since… but you probably thought he was a random Kid Icarus character, didn’t you? Sorry, Tak, you’re not exactly Mario.

Overall rating: Middling. Fun game, but ninja seem out of place next to Donkey Kong and Yoshi.

Octopus Dance

Just danceThe Game: Somebody at Nintendo played Just Dance, and now you have to, too.

WiiU Relevance: Despite the myriad of ways this could be more interesting, this is just Simon Says with the occasional “flip” between the screens so you will confuse your left and right and feel like a damn kindergartener again. I guess this reminds you that there are two analog sticks on the WiiU Pad? Has anyone ever “missed a button” on a videogame controller? I usually try every damn thing I can find about two seconds into any given game…

Nintendo-ness: Mr. Game and Watch has become the hipster of the Nintendo pantheon. Oh, you never played Octopus, a game likely older than 80% of the people reading this article and only available on severely outdated hardware? Oh, that’s cool, I mean, I have, but you wouldn’t understand. As such, given Mr. Game and Watch never actually existed and was basically a homunculus created for Smash Bros, anytime you see ol’ G&W, it’s because Nintendo is trying to be cool with the retro crowd. … Though I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

Overall Rating: The moral is never purchase a Just Dance game for WiiU.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

SLASHThe Game: Link, he comes to a town, he comes to kill like a billion bokoblins.

WiiU Relevance: This is a fine demo for 1-to-1 sword slashing ala The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword. Unfortunately, Skyward Sword apparently put Nintendo off ever doing the whole “motion control sword” thing ever again, so this is basically the last hurrah for the concept.

Nintendo-ness: Link is literally a system seller, so it’s only natural that he’d appear here. Come to think of it, is Zelda in this one? Or Ganon? Is he a piggy or a pile of smoke?

Overall Rating: I mean, it’s fun to show off what the Wii could do, but that’s old news, Nintendo. Move on, you’ve got a new system to promote. Maybe you should be thinking about what Link could do with a magical ipad, like, I don’t know, control mammoth mechanical elephants or something.

Pikmin Adventure

Pew?The Game: It’s co-op, “simple” Pikmin.

WiiU Relevance: Was there actually a Pikmin game released for the WiiU? There was? Awesome. Mission accomplished.

Nintendo-ness: Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Pikmin!

Overall Rating: When Nintendo Land had been released, we’d gone an entire console generation without a Pikmin game. This was a delightful little way to be reminded the franchise existed before moving on to any other game in the compilation. What was that thing with Yoshi again?

Metroid Blast

Pew pewThe Game: You are heroic bounty hunter Samus Aran, and you’ve got a hell of a lot of bounties to collect. Is that thing supposed to be Ridley? Eh, better kill it to be sure.

WiiU Relevance: Aside from the WiiU Pad owner getting a gunship while the rest of the nerds have to run around in their spacesuits, this is probably the most straightforward, least gimmicky game on the collection. Likely as a result, it’s also probably one of the most fun single-player experiences in Nintendo Land. Go fig. Hey, which games on the WiiU wound up becoming the most popular, anyway?

Nintendo-ness: As ever, Nintendo has no idea what to do with Samus Aran. She’s basically reprising her role from Metroid Prime Hunters here as Nintendo’s resident character most likely to wind up in a death match, and… I guess that’s where Federation Force originated, too as well. Hey, Nintendo? You know that the word “metroidvania” doesn’t refer to just shooting stuff, right?

Overall Rating: This is fun! It also has nothing to do with anything! Maybe that’s good! This might be more fun if Samus was a squid, though.

Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

The Game: These are three different multiplayer experiences where, one way or another, the dude with the WiiU Pad gets to mess with the poor schmoes that are stuck with the Wiimotes.

WiiU Relevance: This was always the promise of the WiiU, right? That we could have wonderful, creative asymmetric multiplayer games that aren’t possible on other platforms? Oh what games we’ll play with… oh, the system is already dead? Dammit.

Nintendo-ness: I’m probably not the only person that thought asymmetric multiplayer would take off, as Mario and Luigi, the biggest horses in the Nintendo stable, headline two out of three of these attractions. Animal Crosser has been trying to achieve some moderate level of fame since the Gamecube, and it’s important that we keep ignoring that dude. Should Animal Crossing ever become as popular as Mario, Nintendo will find a way to monetize the AC model for mobile devices, and then we will not have enough money to afford food.

Overall Rating: This is super fun and… it was released opposite a four player Mario game? Oh, screw this noise, give me my real Mario.

Post Mortem

What was your name again?Well, that was more telling than I expected. The best game in the compilation was the one that employed the least random WiiU BS, and, the further we got from “it’s a videogame” to more “it’s a gimmick given form”, the less fun was had. This is pretty much how the WiiU worked, as Breath of Wild is the most amazing thing that has ever happened, and it didn’t even need to be on the WiiU. Meanwhile, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a game I have to continually look up to make sure I’m not confusing the title with its DS incarnation. The WiiU was a noble experiment, but its greatest strengths didn’t exactly lend themselves to what the public seemed to actually want, so, at best, we got games like Mario Maker and Splatoon that kinda sorta remembered we had a stylus at hand.

The Nintendo WiiU. Cause of death: Trying.

FGC #272 Nintendo Land

  • System: Well shucks, I totally forgot what system this game is for. N64?
  • Number of players: As many as you can imagine. Or four. It’s probably four.
  • Favorite Attraction: Metroid is pretty much always going to be the answer.
  • Just play the gig man: The faux retro themes that permeate this game are right up my alley, so it almost feels like cheating to note that I really like this soundtrack. In other news, I also enjoy games that feature Mario.
  • Did you know? I’m assuming this will be the last disc-based pack-in game I ever see in my lifetime. Even the WiiU learned pretty quick that it’s a lot cheaper to just include a download code in the box than a disc that is totally for resale.
  • Would I play again: Nope! It’s surprising that, even though there is so much content available on this game, all of it feels completely perfunctory, and I would rather play practically anything else that provides a more full experience. So, sorry… uh… television guy… I’m going to go play something else now.


What’s next?
Random ROB is insulted he was not in this game and has chosen… Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the NES! Huh, not the game featuring well-meaning thieves I would have expected from this blog, but whatever. Time to rob from the rich and give to the Nintendo kids. Please look forward to it!

FGC #253 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Monkey NoisesVideogames can do a few things better than any other medium, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze does one of those things perfectly.

DKC:TF is a pretty straightforward platforming adventure. Donkey Kong was just donkeying around, enjoying his birthday with the members of his family that he remembered exist this week (sorry, Lanky Kong), when a group of malevolent penguins invaded his home. With the helpful flippers of some Viking walruses, Donkey and pals were escorted far from Donkey Kong Country, and banished to an even five islands away from home base. Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, and even Cranky now must fight their way back to their tropical island, and there’s only an army of owls, deadly pits, and other assorted nonsense to repel the apes. At least there are a few frozen bananas to nab along the way.

And, so I can pretend I maintain a proper gaming review blog, I’ll note the experience does play like a dream. The DKC series may handle like Super Mario Bros. on a fundamental level, but the big guy always feels completely different than his plumbing rival. Recent Donkey Kong Country games dial that “heavy inertia” feeling from the original Rare games up to eleven, and, If you’re doing your best hedgehog impression and always moving as fast as possible, it’s very easy to experience a “rollercoaster” feeling. Yes, you have full control of everyone’s favorite gorilla, but there’s that unmistakable feeling that you can’t slow down, that you’ve gotta go fast, and you’re just doing your best to steer this barreling freight train as best you can. Mind you, that metaphor becomes a bit more superliminal on the actually-a-rollercoaster minecart levels, but that feeling persists through the rest of the game. And, if you don’t like it, don’t worry, you can still take it slow, too. Well, on most stages. I wouldn’t slow down when you’re attempting to outrun a lava flow.

But that’s all auxiliary to the best event in the game (and possibly the franchise). After five “worlds” of random island hijinks, the final (well, final-not-secret) world is… Donkey Kong Country.

THIS IS EVERYTHING

You’re finally home! Hooray! … Except, yes, the Snowmads have conquered the tropical paradise, and turned it into a frozen stronghold. So DK and pals must fight from DK home up to the tippy top of Big Crazy Volcano… which is the premise of the previous game, Donkey Kong Country Returns. The final world of Donkey Kong Country Tropical freeze is Donkey Kong Country Returns.

And I love seeing this kind of thing in a videogame.

Other noisesEven if nobody noticed, this got its start back in The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. If you hang out on the south-western “Death Mountain” region of the map, you’ll note the bottom section of the peninsula is actually the entirety of the overworld from The Legend of Zelda (1). In one instant, that simple plot of 8-bit pixels completely recontextualizes Link’s entire adventure, and, wow, did you see that? This new game is, like, 800 times larger than the old one! Oh man, how is Link going to survive his biggest adventure ever!?

(And, for the record, I feel like every Zelda after Ocarina of Time has failed for using the same basic layout as OoT [and arguably A Link to the Past]. It’s not exciting to find Death Mountain in the North or Gerudo Desert in the West, I want to see what’s past those landmarks. C’est la vie.)

But this same trick has been used in a variety of games for a variety of reasons. In Metroid Prime, a frigate is explored early in the adventure, and then, after it crashes to the planet below, it becomes a sunken “ghost ship” that is an entirely new “level”, but is still recognizable from its earlier appearance. Speaking of Metroid, you see this often in “prequel” games, where an important location from the “next” game is revisited by a different group that has no idea about the significance of the latest locale. See Lufia and Lufia 2 for a fun, fatal example of this concept. And while we’re on the subject of 16-bit JRPGs, time travel is great for video games for this exact reason. The Black Omen might be unchanging, but it’s fun to see how the simple villages and dungeons of 600 AD evolve in 400 years.

Hot stuffAnd why does this work? Why is this fun? It’s all because videogames have to be very mindful of “space”. While your average modern action movie doesn’t have to worry about the surrounding area for its epic battles at all (pop quiz: how many countries have been destroyed by random Transformer fights?), videogames are all about space, because the player must inhabit those locations for proper exploration and storytelling experiences. It doesn’t matter in every game (I admit, I might not be able to draw a map of Metro City), but so many games must keep an eye on distance and location, else, well, nobody likes to get lost forever. And, if everyone is doing their job right, the player learns the ins and outs of any given area almost subconsciously, and, before you know it, you’re able to recall the layout of Midgar a lot more easily than your home town. If you’re going to swing by my place, just take the third left after Wall Market.

I’ll save any further gushing about this concept for when ROB inevitably chooses Bioshock, but the flipside to memorizing a map or area is that, when that area is changed, your brain immediately notices. Even if it’s been fifteen years since you played the previous game, since you spotted the new, “different” area, some part of your head recognizes that something is wrong, and why is this wrong, and let’s explore a little further, and find out what happened here. And, on top of that, when something that was previously “the size of an entire game” is reduced to “now it’s smaller”, you I can't see what's happening!subconsciously feel awesome, because, wow, look at how much more I’ve accomplished than last time! Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is six times larger than Donkey Kong Country Returns! DK is huuuuuuge!

Oh, and it is pretty fun to replay through reimaginings of all the Donkey Kong Country Returns levels in a frozen wasteland, too.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an entertaining game all on its own, but the way it recontextualizes Donkey Kong Country Returns is amazing.

FGC #253 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

  • System: Nintendo WiiU. A months ago, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a 3DS port, but now I’m kind of expecting a Switch port. We’ll see if that pans out.
  • Number of players: Two! And I really want to try that sometime! Diddy and the other helpers apparently can assist with a second controller, but I’ve never thought to actually try that with any of my real-life buddies. There are so many other games we can play where we can have apes fight, ya know?
  • Favorite buddy: Cranky Kong has Scrooge’s pogo stick! That makes him tougher than the toughies. On the other hand, the pogo ability is just as finicky as it was back in the NES days, so I’d rather have Diddy in my corner. Can’t tell you how many times that jetpack saved my bacon.
  • Jerks!Favorite Boss: One baboon laughing at Kongs is bad enough, but a baboon that splits into three just to mock a monkey even more? That’s cruel.
  • Did you know? There’s a patch/update for this game, and it seems to exist entirely to fix a glitch in the third world that would prevent the next level from unlocking. “Beat stage, go to next stage” is pretty much videogame 101, so you have to wonder how that glitch got out into the wild.
  • Would I play again: If there is somehow never another Donkey Kong Country game “like this” again (you never know with Nintendo), then I’ll play this again in due time. If there is a DKCR3, then I’m all about leaving the past behind.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Streets of Rage 2! Good! I was getting tired of using the “Nintendo” tag continuously. It’s time to see some streets raging! Or maybe people raging at streets. I don’t know! Please look forward to it!

Huge hooters

FGC #130 Mario vs. Donkey Kong

Stop looking at meAs I write this, everyone is discussing the end of the WiiU. In this case, I’m not referring to some perceived failure of the hardware, I’m talking about all the franchises that didn’t make it to the WiiU. Metroid, F-Zero, and Punch-Out all seem to have taken a console off despite maintaining a presence through the likes of Smash Bros. and the Virtual Console. Star Fox seems to have snuck in at the last moment, but it missed the Wii. And we got a sequel to Wii Fit before seeing a proper console Animal Crossing experience.

Except… we did get an Animal Crossing game on the WiiU, it was just a silly board game. Does… does that count?

This is the “problem” with Nintendo franchises. As it currently stands, it looks like the WiiU’s “big damn Zelda game” will be primarily focused on the Next Gen version, which leaves a number of us crying about the lack of a Zelda game on the WiiU. Except… with two wonderful HD rereleases and a wealth of Virtual Console options, the WiiU is capable of playing nearly every Zelda game ever produced. And, oh yeah, we got an entirely new Zelda game that, even without the DLC, boasted more content than any person could conceivably beat in a year; but it wasn’t a real Zelda game, so it doesn’t count. In short, Nintendo has the first industry problem of having so many worthwhile brands, people feel ripped off if they don’t see exactly what they want from a certain franchise. Imagine someone claiming any given Marvel movie is terrible because it doesn’t feature Pepper Potts and you’ll have the gist of it.

Moving right alongThis is primarily on my mind because I was recently having a discussion with a friend who thought the WiiU was terrible because “it didn’t have a Mario game”. Okay, so let’s look at a list of WiiU games with Mario in the title: Mario Kart 8. Mario Party 10, Mario & Sonic Blame it on Rio, Paper Mario: Color Splash… oh, wait, you want real Mario games? Then we’ve got the 2-D New Super Mario Bros. U (right there at launch), 3-D Super Mario 3D World, and, just in case you were in the mood for infinite Mario levels, we’ve got Super Mario Maker. But no, as my friend elucidated, he wanted a new Super Mario Galaxy style experience, and, fair enough, that never materialized on the WiiU. Maybe we’ll see something like that on the next console generation, but for now, we have to console ourselves with these other eight or so “Mario games”.

Ya know, that’s a whole lot more games than we saw featuring Bomberman

But I get it. I totally get it, because there are games like Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Full confession? I do not care for the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series.

For anyone that has missed out on this franchise, it’s sort of the evolutionary offshoot of Donkey Kong. No, it has nothing to do with Donkey Kong Country or any of its descendants; what we’re looking at is a game that is 100% based on the original Donkey Kong, when the big ape was kidnapping hapless damsels and not even thinking about bananas. This was well before Mario was established as the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom; hell, this was before Mario even had a name. “Jump Man” had a short hop that was barely capable of clearing barrels, and a chronic back condition that caused instant death should he fall any further than about three feet. Donkey Kong’s gameplay was a far MONKEYS AREN'T DONKEYS!cry from the acrobatic and seemingly invincible stars of Super Mario Bros, but it was a virgin effort, and Miyamoto and friends ironed out what was fun about Jump Man and used that to launch an entire genre.

Years later, Donkey Kong ’94 (technically titled Donkey Kong) came along for the Gameboy/Super Gameboy. It was a return to Donkey Kong’s original gameplay, and it wildly expanded Mario’s physical options. Mario now had the ability to perform a handstand, “bounding” jumps, and carry/throw items ala Super Mario Bros. 2. And Mario could now withstand a fall much greater than three feet! Like, maybe six! Wowee!

A number of people really enjoyed Donkey Kong ’94, and I can (technically) see the appeal. It’s “measured Mario”, rather than a hero that is expected to constantly barrel forward like a mushroom-fueled freight train, this Mario takes careful, deliberate steps around the world, and thoughtful play leads to a rewarding experience. Attempting to run around halfcocked will result in a very dead Mario, and, without a mushroom or starman to be seen, Mario is just as fragile as the old days. So take your time, and enjoy a Mario game that is more puzzle than platformer.

This applies equally to Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Pauline dropped out of the game to pursue her music career or something, so Donkey is stuck kidnapping an army of adorable Mario windup toys. Mario leaps to rescue his tiny homunculi sans any of his modern arsenal. With the exception of Come alongMini Lemmings stages (and their similar circumstances in the extra quest levels), this is that familiar DK ’94 gameplay all over again, with the very encouraging addition of all new traps and enemies that round out another hundred levels or so. Color/graphics upgrade aside, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is indisputably a more robust game than DK ’94, and it’s all a Donkey Kong fan could ever desire.

I… just kinda hate it.

I’ve played all the way through Donkey Kong ’94 and Mario vs. Donkey Kong, and… not for me. I like Super Mario Bros. I really enjoy holding down B and zipping through obstacle courses. I love searching gigantic castles for constellations. I adore flinging Mario from planet to planet, gravity and physics be damned. And the innovation of having a life meter/powerups? I’ll take that any day over one-hit kills (and, no, “I happen to be carrying something” in no way counts). I play the hardest Mario Maker creations for fun, because I enjoy experiencing that world that much.

I love Mario games.

This is no true Mario game.

It’s entirely subjective, and I know that. I can see exactly how this is a great game with the physics and rules involved… I just despise those rules. I don’t want to waste a hundred seconds trying to toss a barrel at a monkey, I want a turtle monster I can drop into the lava right the hell now. I’m just imposing my interpretation of a “Mario Game” on this “Mario Game” and demanding the experience conform to my expectations. It’s irrational, it’s possibly wrong, but it’s my opinion on the situation, and that’s not going away anytime soon.

So the next time someone says that the WiiU was a failure because the system didn’t have Random Game #2,521, try to be understanding. Our favorites are always going to be subjective, and no company, whether it be Nintendo, Sony, or Hudson Soft, is ever going to be able to satisfy everyone’s every desire. Sometimes even the best games won’t appeal to everyone, and part of living in this great big melting pot of a world is acknowledging that everyone has different tastes. We all want different things, and that’s what makes the world great.

I’ll just take a Mario with some ups.

FGC #130 Mario vs. Donkey Kong

  • System: Gameboy Advance, WiiU Virtual Console (in Japan/Europe, at least), and Nintendo 3DS if you’re a sucker (like me). Hey, 66% Ambassador Week here at the FGC.
  • Number of Players: Just one, but there was originally supposed to be a “build a course” feature included in the game… and it was cut and recycled into the sequel. That’s… kinda two players?
  • Misfit Toys: I feel like a number of random SMB2 characters wound up in this franchise. Shy Guys, Ninja, and Bob-ombs wander the stages. Granted, they’ve all appeared in other “real” Mario games, but these guys feel more at home when Mario is towing a key over his head.
  • Seems wrongActual Toys: Come to think of it, has Nintendo ever produced actual “Mini Mario” toys based on the designs of this franchise? I mean, I know there’s a mountain of Mario merchandise out there, but it seems like these lil cuties would be a slam dunk.
  • Favorite Boss Fight: The ultimate boss of the game, Donkey Kong in a giant mech, just seems so indulgent. Like, he was already a giant gorilla, did he need a giant(er) robot on top of that?
  • Did you know? There are additional stages that can be unlocked via e-reader, but the cards were released in very limited number exclusively in Japan. Also, there’s space in the game for twelve additional levels, but only six were ever released. To my knowledge, these extra levels are not part of the Virtual Console release… though maybe that’s why the North American version has been delayed? Maybe?
  • Would I play again: Since I have this game loaded onto my 3DS, I do occasionally fire it up for a round or two. I don’t like how this game eschews its “Marioness”, but it is fun for a level or two. I’m not made of stone.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Gunstar Heroes! Ah, a veritable treasure-trove of run ‘n gun action. Please look forward to it!

Seriously