Diddy Kong Racing

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Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing
North American cover art
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Rare
Distributor(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Lee Schuneman
Producer(s) Chris Stamper
Artist(s) Kevin Bayliss
Composer(s) David Wise
Series Donkey Kong
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release date(s)
  • JP 14 November 1997
  • EU 21 November 1997
  • NA 24 November 1997
Genre(s) Racing
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Diddy Kong Racing is a kart racing video game developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64. It was first released on 14 November in Japan, 21 November in Europe and 24 November in North America. In the game, players can choose to drive a car, hovercraft, or aeroplane. Additionally players can gain power-ups through balloons and upgrade them by gaining multiple ones of the same color.

During early stages of development, the game was intended to be a real-time strategy game known as "Wild Cartoon Kingdom" and evolved to have more racing elements and re-titled as "Adventure Racers". During the late development of the game it was going to be a sequel to R.C. Pro-Am titled "Pro-Am 64" with Timber the Tiger as the main protagonist but during Nintendo's involvement Shigeru Miyamoto offered Diddy Kong and it eventually became Diddy Kong Racing

Diddy Kong Racing was well received by critics. 800,000 copies were ordered in the two weeks before Christmas 1997, making it the fastest selling video game at the time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was the first game to spin off from the Donkey Kong Country series and stands as the Nintendo 64's sixth best-selling game. The game marked the first appearance of characters Banjo the Bear and Conker the Squirrel, which would later star in the Banjo-Kazooie series and Conker series, respectively. An enhanced remake for the Nintendo DS titled Diddy Kong Racing DS was released on 5 February 2007.[1]


Character select screen

In Diddy Kong Racing, players have access to three different vehicles: car, aeroplane and hovercraft.[2] The car is an all-round vehicle except is slowest on sand and water.[2] The hovercraft is designed for sand and water areas and it is best at speed with the ability of bouncing but lacks acceleration and turning.[2] The plane is designed to access aerial areas and is good at accelerating and turning but is slowest at speed.[2] Each racetrack has a set of boosters known as "zippers" that temporarily boost one's speed and regenerating balloons of various colors that provide power-ups. There are five different kinds of balloons: red, blue, green, yellow, and rainbow. Red balloons grants missiles to attack racers ahead, blue balloons grants speed boost, yellow balloons grants shield to protect one from attacks, green balloons grants droppable traps to delay other racers, and rainbow balloons grants magnet ability that brings one closer to the nearest racer ahead. If multiple balloons of the same color are picked up, the power-up gets upgraded. A total of two upgrades are available for each balloon. Additionally, racetracks contain non-regenerating bananas that add to the speed when they are picked up. A maximum of ten bananas will improve the speed but can still be obtained to prevent other players from gaining speed. If a racer gets hit, two bananas will be lost.[3]

In "Adventure Mode", players control the racer of their choice to progress through the story. Players begin in the island consists of five interconnected worlds, Dino Domain, Snowflake Mountain, Sherbet Island, Dragon Forest, and Future Fun Land.[2] Each world contains four race tracks, an unlockable battle stage and a race against a boss character. Depending on the race track, players may have a choice of using a car, hovercraft or plane, and sometimes all three. Each race track contains boosters to racers that cross them, and balloons of various colors that provide power-ups to racers. If the player beats Wizpig in Future Fun Land and obtains the amulet pieces and gets all of the gold medals, the player will be able to play in a mode called Adventure 2.[2] In this mode, all of the balloons are silver and the tracks are flipped from left to right.[2] Along with the much sharper difficulty curve, the silver coins are also placed in different locations in each track, often in harder to reach places.[2]


Timber the Tiger's parents go on vacation and leave their son in charge of the island they live on, leaving him and his friends to race for fun. Their enjoyment is derailed when an evil intergalactic pig wizard named Wizpig arrives at peaceful Timber's Island and attempts to take over after he conquered his own planet's racetracks. He turns the four island's guardians: Tricky the Triceratops, Bubbler the Octopus, Bluey the Walrus and Smokey the Dragon into his henchmen. The only solution available to the island's inhabitants is to defeat Wizpig in an elaborate series of races that involves cars, hovercrafts, and aeroplanes. Drumstick the Rooster, the best racer on the island, failed this challenge and was transformed into a frog by Wizpig's black magic.

Timber recruits a team of eight racers: Diddy Kong, the first recruit; Conker the Squirrel and Banjo the Bear, recruited by Diddy; Krunch the Kremling, Diddy's enemy who follows after him; and Tiptup the Turtle, T.T. the Stopwatch, Pipsy the Mouse, and Bumper the Badger, inhabitants of Timber's island. Aided by Taj, an elephant-like genie residing on the island, they eventually complete all of Wizpig's challenges and confront Wizpig himself to a race and defeat him. Shortly afterwards, Drumstick is turned back into a rooster, and Wizpig leaves for his home planet, Future Fun Land. Fearing that Wizpig would again attempt to invade Timber's Island, the islanders travel to Future Fun Land for a second challenge. When Wizpig loses the second race, the rocket he rides on malfunctions and blasts him to the moon, and peace returns to Timber Island for good. However, that peace may be short lived, as it is shown in a small scene that shows Wizpig's spaceship flying through the sky. Wizpig is then heard laughing, indicating that he may return one day. All of his henchmen are free from his control and with the two Triceratops kids on Tricky's side, they all have fun together with Diddy and all his friends.


At its first stage, Diddy Kong Racing was a real-time strategy game with a caveman/time-travel theme worked on by a team of four. The adventure element of Diddy Kong Racing was influenced by Walt Disney World. At this point, Diddy Kong Racing was known as Wild Cartoon Kingdom. Wild Cartoon Kingdom evolved into Adventure Racers. Nintendo had no involvement in Diddy Kong Racing's early stages.

In June 1997, the game was known as Pro AM 64, a sequel to the R.C. Pro-Am titles on the NES. It was Shigeru Miyamoto that offered Diddy Kong to the game. The Pro-Am 64 team was initially against having Diddy Kong in the game, but felt it was a great plus in the end. The game was launched first in Japan and the PAL region on 21 November 1997.[4]

In an October 2012 interview, Lee Musgrave, who worked on Diddy Kong Racing, said Timber would have been the main character of Pro-AM 64 if Diddy Kong Racing had not been made. Musgrave says, "Yes, there was Pro-Am 64 that had Timber as the main character, but that became Diddy Kong Racing and that was the end of that." When Martin Wakely is asked about a rumoured game called "Timber 64", Wakeley responds, "Where the rumour may have started is that an early version of [Diddy Kong Racing], I think it was called RC Pro Am at the time, had Timber as the lead character. I'm sure I've got a badly fitting Nylon polo shirt with the game logo on it somewhere."[5]

Conker and Banjo went on to star in other games, Conker's Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie, respectively.


Diddy Kong Racing Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by David Wise
  • JP 1 April 1998
  • EU 1998
Genre Soundtrack, video game music
Label Nintendo/Pony Canyon

The music for the game was composed by David Wise, one of Rare's in-house composers. Because of the Nintendo 64's MIDI based audio hardware, the music could dynamically change across the overworld or midway through a racetrack (retaining the same tune and tempo but using different instruments). However, this technique was only used on three tracks (Boulder Canyon, Hub World, and Character Selection). This was the first Rare game to use this technique, with it later being used in Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64 and Conker's Bad Fur Day.

The soundtrack was first released in Japan on 1 April 1998, with 42 tracks,[6] a German version of the album was released in Europe with the same number of tracks.[7] For its US release only 16 tracks were featured, those being over a minute long, excluding the jingle type short pieces. The CD itself was specially shaped in the form of Diddy Kong's head, which was unplayable in certain players.[8]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 88.65%[9]
Metacritic 88/100[10]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[11]
GameSpot 6.6/10[12]
IGN 8.4/10[13]

Diddy Kong Racing was very well received for its graphics and sound, but was criticised for being too similar to Mario Kart 64. The game became a Player's Choice title. It currently holds an 88.65% score on GameRankings[9] and an 88/100 score on Metacritic.[10]

Electric Playground stated, "Diddy Kong Racing is almost too good to be true. It is an exquisitely animated, color-rich racing game that bubbles over with character and charm. A triumph."[14] Allgame commended the game for its "very good Adventure mode," but cautioned, "don't expect multiplayer action on the same level as the Mario Kart series."[11] Total Video Games wrote, "There are so many subtle touches that only become apparent after many hours of play and the cunningly designed levels match anything Nintendo can offer."[15] IGN stated, "Diddy Kong Racing is an excellent follow-up to the somewhat controversial Mario Kart, improving on all of the game's weaknesses and inventing a few new additions of its own. It's the best kart game we've ever seen."[13]

However, Nintendojo found that, "With its lack of replay value and repetitiveness, the game just gets really old."[16] GameSpot was even more derisive: "Artificially lengthening games by making you do the same thing over and over again is my vote for the worst trend in gaming … even though this is a much better game than Mario Kart 64 ever was."[12]

Diddy Kong Racing won the Console Racing Award at the 1998 Interactive Achievement Awards and also won Best Console Game of the Year 1998 by Scandinavian Game Review.

Impact and legacy[edit]


Rare was working on a sequel to Diddy Kong Racing called Donkey Kong Racing. A prerendered CGI teaser video of the game was shown at E3 2001, but no actual gameplay footage was shown.[17]

Lee Musgrave, who led the project, explained to Dromble what the gameplay would have been like, "It was a pure racing game, the underlying software mechanics were actually based on car physics, but it also incorporated the idea of riders jumping between different animals mid-race, to always be riding the ones that were bigger or faster ... we had some awesome gameplay in place, and it was lots of fun – we even had a multiplayer version working – and when you fell off, you had to tap-tap-tap (HyperSports style) to run on foot and catch up with an animal. Fun, but it lost some appeal without the DK universe around it, and Microsoft were unsure of its potential with Xbox gamers I think." He then explains what happened after the Microsoft buyout - "Donkey Kong Racing was obviously pretty heavily tied to Nintendo as a franchise, and as Rare approached the finalization of a buyout deal with Microsoft it was clear that the game had no future, at least with the apes as characters. We switched it around to be a 'Sabreman' game, and there was a great early Xbox prototype – but someone, somewhere decreed that it was a little too old-school for the kind of ‘revolutionary gaming experiences’ that the Xbox was capable of delivering, and so it started down a path of meandering changes, updates and ‘evolution’ that finally saw it run out of steam and fall over. There were some great ideas in the game as it developed though, and I still look back to the early racing game design and think we could have done something great with that."[5]

Aside from Donkey Kong Racing, another sequel to Diddy Kong Racing was planned: Diddy Kong Pilot. Diddy Kong Pilot eventually became Banjo-Pilot, a game based on Rare's Banjo-Kazooie.

A Donkey Kong themed racing game was eventually released under the name of Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.


Diddy Kong Racing was remade for the Nintendo DS as Diddy Kong Racing DS. Created by Rare, it was released 5 February 2007 in North America, and 20 April 2007 in Europe. This version received enhanced visuals and framerate as well as a touchscreen function to give players' cars a boost at the beginning of the race. Classic gamepad controls are employed for the majority of the game. It also allows for six players to play simultaneously, while its battle mode allows anywhere from 2-4 players. This can be done locally or online. Players can also record their own sound effects using the DS' microphone, and create their own icons and race tracks using the DS' touchscreen. The game includes Wizpig and Taj as playable characters, as well as Tiny Kong and Dixie Kong. Conker and Banjo, however, have been removed.

Diddy Kong Racing DS received an average score of 66.76% at Game Rankings.[18] It has received a lower average of 63/100 at Metacritic, based on 39 reviews.[19] NGamer, an unofficial Nintendo magazine based in the UK, praised Diddy Kong Racing DS for the amount of variety in the different races, as well as the massively enjoyable online mode, but also criticised the game for the poor quality of the touch screen-specific sections, particularly the balloon-popping game on Taj's carpet and the third boss battle. Official Nintendo Magazine also criticised the game for the fact that the tracks created in the track editor were all set in a rather bland cloud setting, and also randomly generated hills and chicanes. These aspects therefore led to the final score of 80%. GameSpot gave the game a 6.7/10, praising the number of activities, customisation features and online multiplayer, while criticised parts of the game for being tedious as well as criticising some of the touch screen controls.[20] As of 25 July 2007, Diddy Kong Racing DS has sold 1.04 million copies worldwide.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)". NintendoLife. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Swan, Leslie, ed. (1997). Diddy Kong Racing Official Nintendo Player's Guide for Nintendo 64 Paperback. 
  3. ^ Diddy Kong Racing Operation card. Rare. 
  4. ^ Mark Mazzei (29 March 2009). "Behind The Scenes of Diddy Kong Racing". 
  5. ^ a b Emily Rogers (1 October 2012). "Crash Lab: Life after Rareware and Free Radical". 
  6. ^ "Diddy Kong Racing Original Soundtrack". Square Enix Music. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Höher, Schneller, Weiter: The Original Diddy Kong Racing Soundtrack". Video Game Music database. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  8. ^ "Diddy Kong Racing Soundtrack CD". Video Game Music database. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Diddy Kong Racing for Nintendo 64 - GameRankings
  10. ^ a b Diddy Kong Racing for Nintendo 64 at Metacritic
  11. ^ a b Diddy Kong Racing - Review - allgame
  12. ^ a b Diddy Kong Racing Nintendo 64 - GameSpot.com
  13. ^ a b Diddy kong Racing - N64 - IGN
  14. ^ Diddy Kong Racing
  15. ^ Diddy Kong Racing Review
  16. ^ Diddy Kong Racing Review
  17. ^ "Donkey Kong Racing [GameCube 2001 Tech Demo] UNRELEASED!". 18 October 2006. 
  18. ^ Diddy Kong Racing DS Reviews
  19. ^ Diddy Kong Racing (ds: 2007): Reviews
  20. ^ Diddy Kong Racing DS for DS Review - DS Diddy Kong Racing DS Review
  21. ^ Matt Casamassina (25 July 2007). "Nintendo Sales Update". IGN. Retrieved 25 July 2007. 

External links[edit]