Donkey Konga E3 2004 Hands On

We check out the US version of Nintendo's ape-and-konga-drum rhythm game.

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Nintendo's Donkey Konga, a rhythm action game developed by Namco, was a unique entry into the genre when it hit the Japanese market last year. Namco's familiarity with the genre, based on its own taiko drumming game Taiko no Tatsujin (which uses roughly the same presentation and mechanics as Donkey Konga), ensured that the gameplay for the title was solid. The game was enough of a success to warrant consideration for a US release, which has resulted in a tweaked version of the title hitting US shores later this year. We had the opportunity to check out a work-in-progress version of the US game recently to find out what to expect.

Your experience with Donkey Konga will offer single-player and split-screen multiplayer modes for up to three others, for a total of four players. The mechanics of the game are simple: You'll follow onscreen prompts that clue you in to hit the DK bongo at appropriate times. You'll have four cues to watch out for that let you know whether to hit left, right, or both together or to clap your hands for the benefit of the microphone built in to the DK bongo. The game will feature several different modes to bash the drums to: street performance, challenge, battle, jam session, and ape arcade. You'll earn currency in the modes, which you can spend in the DK town to purchase content such as new music and new sound sets.

While the game is slated to offer all the content from the original, there have been some changes from the Japanese version. The most extensive work has been done on the game's song list, which would have gone over like a lead balloon in the US. Rather than keeping the Japanese version's oddball collection of game music, which consisted of folk songs as well as J-pop tunes, the game will have a new batch of music. You'll find more than 30 new songs in the game, including some recognizable themes from Nintendo games and classics like "Wild Thing" and "Dancing in the Street."

The graphics in the game haven't changed from what we saw in the Japanese retail version. You'll see Donkey Kong and company set against several different themed backgrounds based on levels from previous games, while onscreen prompts scroll across the screen.

All told, Donkey Konga may well surprise those who have an open mind and a sense of goofy adventure. The game is currently slated to ship this fall with one DK bongo included. Look for more on Donkey Konga soon.

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