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GAME REVIEW

Donkey Kong 64

Quest for the Golden Bananas

By Aaron Isaksen

Staff Photographer

For the Nintendo 64

Game by Rare

Donkey Kong is back: he’s in 3-D and has never looked better. K. Rool, an evil lizard king, has captured Donkey Kong’s four monkey friends, Diddy Kong, Tiny Kong, Lanky Kong, and Chunky Kong, and he’s has stolen all of the Kongs’ treasured golden bananas. Your quest is to free the Kongs, reclaim all 200 golden bananas, beat a bunch of level bosses, and finally defeat K. Rool. Along the way, you’ll have to obtain special powers, find secret blueprints, smash houses with a rhino, shoot switches with your coconut gun, play the bongos, guitar, and trombone, and much more.

Donkey Kong 64 is a platformer: the type of game like Gex, Mario World 64 or Tomb Raider where you have to swim, climb, jump, and run through a 3-D world. Instead of playing from Donkey Kong’s point-of-view, you’ll follow along from a floating camera tracking the gorilla’s every move. The control takes a little getting used to if you are not familiar with these types of games, because the camera’s orientation swings rapidly while your are moving your monkey around. If you are used to platformers, you’ll have no problem at all.

You start the game as Donkey Kong. After completing some simple training screens, you venture to eight different worlds to rescue the four other Kongs and collect all the golden bananas. Once you free one of the Kongs, you can play as him or her. You’ll have to do that, as each level has 5 golden bananas to be collected by each Kong. Donkey, Diddy, Lanky, Tiny, and Chunky each have different talents, different quests to complete, and different personalities.

DK64 is huge: I’ve played it for over 9 hours (it keeps track for you) and I’ve only completed 14% of the game. Keep in mind this is the easiest 14% of the game, so I expect it to last a long, long time. You’ll free up the monkey buddies fairly early on; I’ve already freed Diddy, Tiny, and Lanky. But, getting the 200 golden bananas and finding all the worlds should take quite a while: I’ve only gotten 31 golden bananas and only been to three worlds.

You’ll spend a lot of time exploring the worlds to unlock other parts of the game. There is a lot of variety: you can speed along in a mine cart which looks almost exactly like Thunder Mountain at Disneyland, race down a water-slide, swim through plenty of rivers and lakes, explore Aztec temples, fly a jet-pack, and even play the original Donkey Kong arcade game. There isn’t too much fighting to do, as the easy-to-beat monsters are relatively sparse.

The graphics are the best I’ve seen on Nintendo 64, partly due to the included expansion ram which boosts your N64 up to 8MB. The free expansion ram is a nice bonus, because a lot of the newer games coming out look a lot better with it. DK64 will only run if you have the expansion ram; that might make it difficult to share the game with other N64 owners.

If you get tired of reclaiming golden bananas by yourself, DK64 includes some multiplayer fighting mini-games to play with your friends. Once you rescue a Kong, up to four people can fight each other in a variety of small mazes. It’s a bit like Goldeneye, but a lot simpler. The multiplayer game didn’t entertain me and my friends for too long, but then again, I don’t like those types of sniper games too much.

My biggest complaints with DK64 are the lack of an interesting story and the requirement to watch all the mini-movies every time you enter a new level. There isn’t too much to learn from the mini-movies other than that K. Rool is a bad guy. Unfortunately, you have to watch them, even if you’ve seen them before. I prefer it when games allow you to hit a button to skip the intro movies.

I highly suggest getting one of the many strategy guides for DK64 that you can get at any book store for about ten dollars. These tell you how to get every golden banana, supply you with maps of all the levels, and gives hints on how to beat the bosses. I really appreciate using the guide -- sparingly -- because I don’t like wandering around looking for that one banana which I’ve accidently missed.

Donkey Kong 64 is a great-looking platformer, with some of the best graphics ever released for N64. This game has a lot of variety which will keep you interested and surprised. It comes with an expansion ram which plugs into your N64; it might make games you already own look even better. It’s also one of the biggest games released for N64, so you’ll be playing it for a long time.