Thursday, 15 March 2012

Donkey Kong 64

The Nintendo 64 was a strange and essentially bungled console. It should have been era-defining in the way that the NES and the SNES were, but corporate arrogance and stupidity managed to get in the way. Having said that it was by no means a flop, but I suspect part of the problem was that more people played on them than owned them. Of the era defining games on the N64, and it had its fair share, a large number were mainly about the 4-player multiplayer; Goldeneye, Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers being the most legendary. You only needed to have one friend who owned the console - and it helped that, due to the pricing differentials, the kid whose parents brought them an N64 probably also had the best telly and the biggest living room.

But single player is how you get a console into everyone's home, and single player is where they messed up. Oh yeah, and by deliberately creating a base machine that  was below maximum spec, then short-shipping the shonky upgrade pack and bundling it with an even shonkier game intended to display its power. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is quite simply one of the most innovative mainstream games I've played. The fact that I had to buy Donkey Kong 64 in order to play it is a tragedy.

Rare were gaming legends; behind Battletoads, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Killer Instinct and the Donkey Kong Country games, there they were. Yet currently when you see them turn up in the press its in a vain attempt to tell you that playing darts with Kinect is the future of gaming. Now, I know that their current position as a Microsoft toy is actually to do with corporate poilitics and manouvering, but I like to think that it owes something to what they did to Donkey Kong 64.

The Donkey Kong Country games were near perfect 2D platformers, and Mario 64 had already demonstrated that a 3D platformer was not only possible, but could be really good. So there is literally no excuse for DK64. It looked bad, it played bad and they killed Wrinkly Kong, then brought her back as a ghost. What? Why? That was completely uneccesary and creepy and weird and mean.

I think I got about halfway through before I just couldn't be bothered to go any further. And just so that you know, there is no metaphor in there.

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