Just as the Donkey Kong Country series made a radical leap forward on the Super NES with ACM fully-rendered graphics, Rare is raising the bar for Nintendo 64 games with the size and depth of DK 64. As a result, Donkey Kong 64 is the first game to require the use of the N64 Expansion Pak.
The extra four megs of memory has allowed the artists at Rare to create spectacular multi-colored lighting effects and rich textures, without cutting any corners in the size or design of the sprawling worlds. Spinning lights and explosive special effects deliver delicious morsels of eye candy, rounding out a tasty visual package. Some of the textures are similar to Banjo-Kazooie, but the level designs are purely DK.
It wouldn't be monkey business without Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong, but this time three new playable characters are thrown into the mix. Tiny, Chunky and Lanky complete the five-monkey team, and players will have to get to know each of them to complete the game.
Each member of the DK crew must travel through the game's eight baffling worlds, but except for Donkey Kong they must be unlocked first. Since each monkey has a unique set of moves and abilities, players will explore different areas of each world depending on which character they are controlling. Many of the puzzles in DK 64 require players to switch frequently between different Kongs.
After an amazingly thorough hip-hop introduction of each Kong, a lengthy cinematic sequence sets up the plot. Kaptain K-Rool has recovered from his 16-bit bashings and is ready to wreak havoc on DK Island.
Players begin their adventure as Donkey Kong, in a huge over-world even larger than the one found in Banjo-Kazooie. It isn't long before players discover a huge cage holding a giant Kremling named K. Lumsy, who was unwilling to follow K. Rool's orders to stomp DK Island into smithereens. The main goal in DK 64 is to find the seven keys necessary to unlock K. Lumsy's cage.
There are 109 special moves distributed amongst the Kongs, but excellent on-screen tutorials and a logistical controller configuration make them easy to learn and execute.
By far the most impressive aspect of Donkey Kong 64 is its overwhelming size. There are so many items to collect and objectives to complete that it's easy to get sidetracked during exploration.
Masters of tantalization, Rare frequently teases players with items or switches that are just out of reach. The secret to success in DK 64 is to remember where all of these items are located when you gain control of the correct Kong for the job.
Donkey Kong 64 is crawling with fresh ideas and innovation, but Rare hasn't strayed too far from DK's roots. Even though DK 64 is a 3D adventure game that focuses heavily on exploration and puzzle-solving, there are obvious elements of old-fashioned platform action in the gameplay. Each stage presents a primary task to be accomplished, and it's up to the player to jump, swing, shoot or roll to the goal.
Rare has designed the bosses to behave like traditional 16-bit guardians. Players will have to memorize the pattern of the boss, and wait for an opportunity to strike.
Rare pays tribute to classic Donkey Kong Country gameplay elements with fast-paced mine cart stages and first-person barrel-cannon blasts, but new power-ups like peanut pistols, pineapple launchers and fruit grenades add a frantic shoot 'em up quality to DK 64. Also, a new character named Candy Kong gives each Kong a musical intstrument which is used to activate switches and take out enemies.
Dozens of mini-games scattered throughout the adventure add a great deal of variety to the gameplay. Boat races, slot car competitions and Kremling target shoots are just a few examples of the games available.
These mini-games are featured in DK's mammoth multiplayer modes, along with a one-to-four-player Donkey death match.
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