Diddy Kong Racing, Nintendo's big game for the holidays, appeared out of nowhere. At E3 in June, no one even knew it existed. Banjo-Kazooie and Conker's Quest were to be Nintendo's killer games for the fourth quarter. But when it became apparent that neither was going to be ready this year, Nintendo pulled the old switcheroo and opted for Diddy Kong Racing, which, in the grand scheme of things, probably wasn't supposed to see the light of day for months.
As strange as it sounds, Diddy Kong Racing is a cross between Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. It seems that Wizpig, a crazy porker from outer space, has taken over an island and locked away all the island's racetracks. It's your job to regain control of the tracks, beat the boss in each of the four worlds, and ultimately, take on Wizpig himself. The game is structured much like Mario 64. You can wander around in a fairly large world, with four doors, each leading to a lobby for that particular world. For each world, you must place first on each of the world's four tracks, then race that world's boss. The boss race pits you against a giant animal (triceratops, a giant walrus, a squid, and a dragon). Once you've beaten the boss, you must go back through the world's four tracks. Now you have to finish first and collect eight silver coins from the track. Do this, and you get to race the boss again, only he'll be slightly more difficult. Do all that, and you can enter the trophy race and race all four tracks yet again in a grand-prix-style set of races. Sound horribly tedious? It is. Artificially lengthening games by making you do the same thing over and over again is my vote for the worst trend in gaming. But wait, did I mention that after beating Space World, one of the game's hidden areas, you can unlock Adventure 2, and race all the tracks in reverse? It's enough to make a guy scream.
The gameplay on the actual tracks is pretty much straight out of Mario Kart. You can pick up power-ups, shoot the other racers, and drive over zippers that give you a quick speed boost. But driving isn't the only thing you'll be doing. Some tracks (usually water-based tracks) put you in a hovercraft and others require you to fly a plane. But regardless of your mode of transportation, the game is still pretty much the same.
Graphically, Diddy Kong Racing is a pleasure to look at. The tracks are very detailed, and the game moves fairly quickly. There is a fair amount of fog and pop-up, but that's par for the course when it comes to the N64. The sound and music are also good, even if the music gets a bit repetitive.
Diddy Kong Racing is a game that shouldn't have been released for at least another six months. The foul taste left behind by Mario Kart 64 is still too fresh in my mind to accept a game as similar as this, even though this is a much better game than Kart 64 ever was. Also, the game could have used a few more worlds and more tracks, as the repetitiveness of DKR is what ultimately kills it.