Donkey Kong 64

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Donkey Kong 64
DonkeyKong64CoverArt.jpg
North American box art
Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) George Andreas
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Programmer(s) Chris Sutherland[1]
Artist(s) Mark Stevenson
Composer(s) Grant Kirkhope
Series Donkey Kong
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Platformer, adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Donkey Kong 64 is a 1999 adventure platform video game for the Nintendo 64 console, and the first in the Donkey Kong series to feature 3D gameplay. As the gorilla Donkey Kong, the player explores the themed levels of an island to collect items and rescue his kidnapped friends from K. Rool. The player completes minigames and puzzles as five playable Kong characters—each with its own special abilities—to receive bananas and other collectibles. In a separate multiplayer mode, up to four players can compete in deathmatch and last man standing games.

Rare, who had previously developed the Donkey Kong Country games, had begun development on the 3D Donkey Kong by 1997. A 16-person team, with many members recruited from Rare's Banjo group, finished the game in 1999, when it was published by Nintendo for North America in November and worldwide by December. It was the first game to require the Nintendo 64 console's Expansion Pak, an accessory that added memory resources. The game had an exceptionally large marketing budget that included advertisements, sweepstakes, and a national tour.

The game received universal acclaim from reviewers and was Nintendo's top seller during the 1999 holiday season, with 2.3 million units sold by 2004. It won the 1999 E3 Game Critics award for Best Platform Game, and multiple awards and nominations from games magazines. Reviewers noted the game's exceptional size and length, and criticized its emphasis on item collection and backtracking. Some cited its similarity to its Rare's 1998 predecessor, Banjo-Kazooie, both in gameplay and visuals and despite Donkey Kong 64's mandatory memory add-on. The game's camera controls also frustrated reviewers. Critics felt that the game did not meet the revolutionary potential of Donkey Kong Country but remained among the best 3D platform games on the console.

Donkey Kong 64 is remembered as the emblematic example of Rare's "collect-a-thon" adventure platformers. Retrospective reviewers did not recommend the game for the tedium of its collection tasks. A rap song from the game's introductory sequence—the DK Rap—is often cited as among the worst songs to feature in a video game. The title was later released on Nintendo's Wii U Virtual Console in 2015.

Gameplay[edit]

The player controls Donkey Kong in the "Jungle Japes" level.

Donkey Kong 64 is a 3D platforming adventure game in which the player, as Donkey Kong and his friends, explores an island and collects items to progress through minigames and puzzles.[5][6] The game follows a traditional storyline in which K. Rool and his Kremlings invade Donkey Kong's idyllic island and kidnap his friends.[5][7] After a tutorial, the player embarks as Donkey Kong to rescue them[6] and reclaim enough bananas to face K. Rool.[7] The player finds these bananas while exploring the in-game world and as rewards for completing puzzles and minigames. Most of the puzzles are simple, and involve either Concentration-style matching, arranging other items, or manipulating switches and tiles to enter new areas. Minigames include minecart rides, barrels that shoot the characters as a projectile, and races.[6] Each of the eight worlds[8] has 25 golden bananas, with five accessible only to each of the five individual characters to collect in any order.[7] Bananas let the player access boss fights, which unlock new in-game worlds.[6] Each world follows a theme, such as underwater, forest, jungle, and factory.[5][7] The player can fast travel between sections of the level with designated warp pads, and can swap between characters in designated swap barrels.[2][9] The player also collects banana coins, which unlock new weapons and abilities, and other collectibles such as weapon ammunition and blueprint puzzle pieces. Similar to gameplay in other games by Rare, the player often encounters an impossible situation (e.g., indestructible object or an out-of-reach area) and must eventually backtrack to resolve the impasse after acquiring a new ability.[6]

Donkey Kong's kidnapped friends become playable characters after the player rescues them.[10] Each of the five characters begin with basic abilities and add new, unique abilities over time, such that a specific character ability might be necessary for solving a puzzle. For example, only Donkey Kong can smash dirt for banana coins, only Chunky Kong can lift rocks, only Tiny Kong can crawl through holes, only Diddy Kong can fly, and only Lanky can float. Additionally, each character's weapon shoots a different item and each plays a different musical instrument. For example, some doors can only be opened with Donkey Kong's coconut projectiles and others can only be opened with Diddy Kong's guitar. Since these abilities outnumber the quantity of face buttons on the controller, some are only accessible when the player presses a button combination: changes in camera angle, a sniper mode, and a snapshot mode, which unlocks more in-game secrets. Playable versions of the 1981 Donkey Kong and 1983 Jetpac are hidden within the game.[6] The player-character can also ride animals, such as a rhino and swordfish, who recur from earlier series games.[4] Optional hardware support includes a widescreen mode[5] and Rumble Pak compatibility.[11]

Donkey Kong 64 features a separate multiplayer mode with six[8] minigames for two to four players.[5] Monkey Smash is a open arena, deathmatch-style minigame in which up to four players find ammo and use their respective weapons from the single-player game to damage other players before losing all of their own lives. Battle Arena is a king-of-the-hill minigame in which players use weapons and explosives to knock each other off the edge of a platform.[6] Each mode has several sub-types in which players can compete based on time or score.[11]

Development[edit]

Donkey Kong 64 was the first game to require the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak (pictured), a memory upgrade. The game was also bundled for sale with a special edition Nintendo 64 console manufactured in a translucent, "jungle green".

Donkey Kong's Nintendo 64 game borrowed elements from its Donkey Kong Country Super Nintendo console predecessors, but was not a direct sequel.[12] Gregg Mayles led the push to create the 3D Donkey Kong.[13] The 16-person team[3] used the same game engine as Banjo-Kazooie[13] and came from the Banjo-Tooie team when the Banjo project ended.[14] An additional eight members were later recruited to finish the game.[3] Development of Donkey Kong 64 began around 1995,[15] and by 1997, the game was reportedly planned as an exclusive release for the Nintendo 64DD disk drive add-on.[16] The project transpired secretly for nearly four years[15] until Donkey Kong 64 was announced with a single screenshot on Rare's website[2] and in the January 1999 issue of Nintendo Power.[17] Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that the game was playable by the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo,[3] but IGN said that the game debuted at the 1999 event.[18][19][20] The game also demoed at Nintendo's 1999 Spaceworld.[21] Donkey Kong 64 was expected to be a bestseller, as the console's "crowning achievement" in graphics and sound.[18][19]

Donkey Kong 64 was the first of two games[22] to require the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak—a console memory upgrade that shipped with the game.[5] Instead of its usual use (powering optional high-resolution textures), the now mandatory accessory was marketed as improving the game's framerate and visual depth rendering.[23] Nintendo said the accessory was required so as not to confuse consumers,[24] but according to Rare programmer Chris Marlow, the company was forced to ship the game with the Expansion Pak (at great expense) because the developers could not resolve a bug that occurred without it.[25] Accompanying the game's launch, Nintendo offered a special bundle of the game and console, with the game's banana-colored cartridge, the required Expansion Pak, and a transparent, green "Jolly Rancher-style" Nintendo 64 console.[3][2][11] The game released in November in North America,[3][4] and releases followed worldwide the next month.[2][26] AllGame noted that the game had little holiday competition from Nintendo, which moved releases including Mario Party 2, Perfect Dark, and Pokémon Stadium into the next year.[4] Electronic Gaming Monthly too noted that release dates were likely moved to reduce competition between games.[3]

Grant Kirkhope composed the game's soundtrack, placing it closer to the tradition of Banjo-Kazooie than to that of Donkey Kong Country, whose soundtrack was composed by Rare's David Wise.[27] The DK Rap, which introduces the game's characters before it begins, was conceived and written by George Andreas, scored and recorded by Kirkhope, and performed by Andreas and Chris Sutherland.[1][28] It was designed to be lighthearted despite being interpreted as a "serious" songwriting attempt at the game's launch.[1][29] Nintendo of America ran a DK Rap contest in which fans record their own version of the rap to win prizes including a trip to the company's Redmond headquarters.[30]

The game had a sizable US$22 million marketing campaign, about double the typical budget for a major Nintendo release. The campaign included a 60-second commercial played at over 10,000 movie theaters during the holiday season, and additional advertisements shown on billboards, in print, and over radio.[3] A promotional "The Beast Is Back" tour brought a truck outfitted with Nintendo games across the United States,[31] and a separate sweepstakes between the series and Dr. Pepper soda advertised in supermarkets. Nintendo sought to sell four million copies of the game (1.5 million more than Nintendo sold copies of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), including a million of the translucent green Nintendo 64 bundles.[3][32] Polled retailers expected Donkey Kong 64 to be the top console game sold during the 1999 holiday season.[33]

Donkey Kong 64 later became available in emulation on Nintendo's Wii U Virtual Console in April 2015,[34] after not receiving a release for the Wii Virtual Console.[35][36] It was among the first Nintendo 64 re-releases for the Wii U Virtual Console.[37]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 90/100[38]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[4]
EGM 27/40[39]
Famitsu 33/40[26]
GameFan 7/10[40]
GamePro 4.8/5[9]
GameSpot 9/10[5]
IGN 9.0/10[6]
N64 Magazine 93%[2]
Nintendo Life N64: 7/10[27]
Wii U: 7/10[7]
Nintendo Power 8.6/10[8]
Next Generation 4/5 stars[10]
Awards
Publication Award
E3 1999 Game Critics Awards Best Platformer[13]
Nintendo Power Awards (1999) Best Overall Game, Best N64 Game, Best Adventure Game, Best Graphics, Best Music, Best Sound[41][42]

The game received "universal acclaim", according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[38] It was Nintendo's top seller for the console during the 1999 holiday season, as Nintendo fought off the new Sega Dreamcast console.[43] As a bestseller, it joined Nintendo's "Player's Choice" game selection, where continued to sell well through the next year's holiday season.[44] By 2004, Donkey Kong 64 had sold over 2.3 million units.[45] It won the 1999 E3 Game Critics award for Best Platform Game,[13] and several annual awards from Nintendo Power, including best overall game of 1999.[41][42] It was additionally nominated for Game of the Year and Console Game of the Year in the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' 2000 Interactive Achievement Awards.[46] GamePro named the game an "Editor's Choice".[9] IGN described Donkey Kong 64 as the biggest and most ambitious title on the Nintendo 64 as of its release, but very similar to Banjo-Kazooie in its platforming and puzzle design.[6] Similarities between the two games and their themes was a common refrain among reviewers.[2][10]

Reviewers criticized or had little praise for the game's emphasis on collecting items and backtracking,[22][48] or as Next Generation put it, "an interactive egg hunt".[10] The developer, Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) charged, had "fallen into a predictable formula" of collecting multiple sets of items, and collecting them all for a special ending.[39] Next Generation also saw the developer creating a habit of backtracking in their games.[10] GameSpot was more diplomatic: those who liked collecting items would be titillated by its replay value, and those who didn't would be frustrated by its chores.[5] The puzzles and minigames are fun the first time through, according to EGM, but they quickly become worn when replayed with increasingly tighter time restrictions.[39] GameSpot, however, considered parts of Donkey Kong 64's gameplay "cerebral" in how the player had to consider several simultaneous tasks to solve later puzzles.[5] Already familiar with the game's concepts borrowed from Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and Banjo-Kazooie, reviewers considered the game's tasks less innovative or interesting to decipher.[4][6] In retrospective reviews, Nintendo Life forthrightly called the amount of objects to collect "excessive" and repetitive. Backtracking could be reduced, for example, if the player could switch between characters at any time.[7][27]

Reviewers noted the game's size and length.[2][6][8][9][10][27] IGN called it Rare's War and Peace,[6] with an estimated 30 hours in basic gameplay.[3][2][7] "Big" is an understatement, wrote GameFan, "the adventure found within is mastodonic".[40] Reviewers became frequently lost or distracted in its world.[4][39] Critics highlighted the ingenuity of the boss battles, in particular the final battle against K. Rool,[2][39] though EGM found the story's ending to be lackluster.[39] While critics found the multiplayer of limited entertainment, they considered the game's gameplay variety between the five characters to be a strength.[5][6] But between a slow running speed and camera issues, the controls also frustrated reviewers.[4][2][5][8][39] For example, characters who do not move during their attacks become vulnerable to encroaching enemies.[39]

Despite the game's expanded memory resources, reviewers felt that the game's visuals were only marginally—if at all—better than its contemporaries, such as the previous year's Banjo-Kazooie.[4][5][6][39] In fact, IGN felt that Donkey Kong 64 was not as pretty as Banjo-Kazooie, especially in its water and backgrounds, though it still ranked among the console's prettiest games. The setting is barren and nondescript at first, and only later adds lighting effects and richer textures. IGN hoped for more from Rare, and while its reviewer praised the game's particle effects (e.g., in the desert wind), he considered the game's dynamic lighting overused.[6] N64 Magazine said that the effects were most often used for decoration, though they also played some role in puzzles based on illuminating paths.[2] Reviewers noted graphical difficulties even with the extra memory, such as framerate slowdowns and distant features not appearing in any detail, though overall they considered the added graphical flourishes commendable.[5][6] GameSpot also saw a lack of variety in the game's environment.[5]

The characters have Rare's emblematic humor, and reviewers praised their individual personalities.[4][27][40] Several reviewers noted the degree to which the character personalities showed in their animations.[6][9][40] IGN considered Donkey Kong 64's characters lass baffling than those of other Rare titles, and sometimes funny.[6] GameFan found the characters to be tools, in that the addition of the three new playable character to the series offered little personality that would be missed.[40]

IGN felt that the game's music was not as clever as Banjo-Kazooie's, though it still delivered a variety of moods.[6] GameSpot was impressed with aural clues in the game's surround sound and by the quality of the underwater effects.[5] Nintendo Life wrote that Grant Kirkhope's soundtrack fit the setting.[7] Reviewers criticized the game's opening "DK Rap".[22] N64 Magazine called it "embarrassing"[2] and IGN placed it among the worst music to feature in a game.[6] GamePro, however, thought it was humorous albeit lowbrow.[9] Eight years later, Nintendo Life said the song was "loved by some, loathed by others", as was the game itself.[27]

Reviewers concluded that the game lacked the revolutionary potential of Donkey Kong Country but was of a sufficient high quality to sell well during the holiday season.[5][6][39] "The 3D platform genre doesn't evolve with Donkey Kong 64", AllGame wrote.[4] While hyped fans would be disappointed, IGN wrote that Donkey Kong 64 remains an excellent and expansive platformer with an overwhelming amount of things to do.[6] GameFan, on the other hand, was most disappointed by how the game "truly offers nothing new" and compared its monotony and repetition with Eyes Wide Shut: "a big bloated project with not enough brilliant moments to justify the numbness ... [of] sitting through the whole thing".[40] The game, the reviewer continued, "fails to live up to the Rare name".[40] GameSpot thought the game would have fared better as a Nintendo 64 launch title, but found Donkey Kong 64's 3D platforming commonplace by the time of its release.[5] Daily Radar wrote that Donkey Kong 64 did it best, as the best 3D platform game on the console.[47]

Legacy[edit]

Rare's 3D platformers became "notorious" for their emphasis on collecting items, and Kotaku remembered Donkey Kong 64 as "the worst offender" with hundreds of color-coded bananas.[14] An indie developer creating a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie also credited Donkey Kong 64 in particular for the "collect-a-thon platform adventurer" genre's decline in popularity.[49][50] For this feature, retrospective reviewers did not recommend the game in context of the rest of the series.[51][52][53] "As ... Super Mario 64 breathed life into the 3D platforming genre," Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote, "Donkey Kong 64 sucked it all out" and solidified Rare's reputation for making "collect-a-thon" games.[54]

Retro Gamer and Game Informer both remembered the game's reception as more "mixed",[13][55] mainly based on similarities between Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, and its lack of genre-pushing changes.[13] Electronic Gaming Monthly noted at launch how the Nintendo 64 was approaching the end of its lifecycle as gamers turned their sights to the Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2.[3] IGN later named Donkey Kong 64 as a title worthy of being remade for Nintendo's 3DS handheld console.[56]

The DK Rap is remembered for its negative reception.[22][57][58][59][60][61][62] Renditions of the song later appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Donkey Konga.[63] Over a decade after the game's release, Grant Kirkhope said that the DK Rap, while unfashionable at first, was enjoying a resurgence in popularity.[1]

References[edit]

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  48. ^ Reviewers who commented on item collection and backtracking include Electronic Gaming Monthly,[39] GameSpot,[5] GameFan,[40] N64 Magazine,[27] Nintendo Life,[7] Next Generation,[10] Daily Radar,[47] and AllGame.[4]
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  62. ^ Mai, Peter (August 10, 2011). "Top 5 Cheesiest (Yet Somehow Awesome) Video Game Songs". OC Weekly. Archived from the original on December 18, 2016. Retrieved December 18, 2016. The 'Donkey Kong Rap' is probably the worst rap songs ever written, but you know you still love it. It's rap from the 90's, what do you expect? 
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External links[edit]