Donkey Kong 64: The Flawed N64 Game With No Donkeys

Donkey Kong 64
Indeed!

This was the only Donkey Kong game on the Nintendo 64, launching in 1999 whilst British developer Rare was on a major roll for the console.

Donkey Kong 64

This was the first entry in the series since Donkey Kong Country 3 on the SNES in 1996. There was a great deal of expectation for it, then!

As was the norm during that era, lots of Nintendo favourites got a shift from 2D platforming into a 3D world.

Rare did this with amazing panache for Banjo-Kazooie (1998). So, much was expected from the Nintendo 64 outing for Donkey Kong.

And the result was quite disappointing—for us, anyway. To be fair, N64 Magazine handed it 93% and raved about it.

And the game has a great deal of love from the retro gaming community, in a Mario Kart 64 way where everyone ignores the title’s obvious flaws.

Not least with the rap music intro stuff.

Grant Kirkhope was responsible for the soundtrack to the title, disappointing given David Wise‘s astonishing work on the likes of Donkey Kong Country 2.

The result is the series’ iconic soundtrack swung across in line with Banjo-Kazooie from the year before (now rectified, as Wise is back working on modern entries).

Anyway, Donkey Kong 64 is very much a major collectathon. It’s a 3D platformer and adventure, set in a large world you must explore and unlock. Very much in line with Banjo-Kazooie, again.

When we first played it in 1999, we were surprised just how similar it is to Rare’s other 3D platformer. Markedly so.

Not that it’s a bad thing, but it somewhat removes any sense of individualism from the title. It’s as if this was Banjo-Kazooie 2, but with Donkey Kong and others stuffed into the game’s engine.

The game is quite enjoyable, we must say, but we found it just got a bit dull and mediocre quite early on.

We tried it again on the Wii U a few years back and didn’t change our minds on that.

Rare certainly put a lot of effort into it, but it’s just lacking the usual creative sparkle and joy that we loved from the developer around then.

It’s a big title. It’s very popular with gaming speedrunners these days, and we acknowledge there’s a great deal of love for the title from a sect of the gaming community.

Some people totally love it and are alarmed to see any criticism of Donkey Kong 64. Some folks consider it a classic.

For us, despite the critical acclaim in 1999 and nostalgia factor now, we think of it as a frustrating and rather plodding platformer that’s by the numbers.

And the collecting aspect is over the top, as with other 1999 title from Rare Jet Force Gemini. Now notorious for having to get every single little villager.

In Donkey Kong 64, this time its hundreds and hundreds of bananas. It’s just boring and frustrating.

You think of the absolute joy of playing Super Mario 64 (a revolutionary title) and there’s none of that here. As if Banjo-Kazooie didn’t exist.

Rare certainly tried its best. And some fans may claim it’s an all-time classic. But for us, Donkey Kong’s Nintendo 64 outing was a major disappointment.

2 comments

  1. Donkey Kong 64 is a prime example of a good (or at least decent) game that had a negative impact on the medium. This is the game responsible for killing off collectathons, but I think it instilled the idea that “more = better” in AAA productions, which caused many of them to become horribly bloated with repetitive content as opposed to the focused, compact experiences which came before. It’s not a bad game at all, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Donkey Kong Country series that preceded it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still don’t mind collecathons too much, Mario Odyssey did it pretty well a few years back. But yeah, more certainly don’t equal better. I believe A Hat In Time did a good job with it recently, so I need to check that out pronto, yo.

      Liked by 1 person

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