(Nintendo 64)

Donkey Kong 64 (Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Donkey Kong 64 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Andrew Donaldson

Donkey Kong’s first foray into 3D, but is it more chump than chimp?

With the success of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the Super Nintendo, it wasn’t surprising when fans of the series called out for a next-gen instalment on the Nintendo 64. And so, in time for Christmas of 1999, Rare obliged as gamers were introduced to Donkey Kong 64. In a change of direction for the series, DK64 would take the form of a 3D platformer along the lines of Rare’s earlier N64 release Banjo-Kazooie, rather than following the established 2D platforming perfection formula of DKC.

This time the story sees King K. Rool attempting to destroy DK Island with his ultimate weapon, the “Blast-o-Matic”. Luckily for the Kongs, the weapon malfunctions and their complete obliteration is avoided - at least temporarily. Meanwhile, however, all of Donkey Kong’s golden bananas are stolen by the Kremlings. Playing as Donkey Kong or one of four fellow apes, it’s your job to retrieve all the golden bananas and send K. Rool packing before he can fix up the Blast-o-Matic.

Rare have succeeded in ensuring that the game is packed with their trademark charm and humour. K. Rool’s broken-down weapon sounds more like an old clapped-out Vauxhall Astra than a weapon of mass destruction, while jumping into the tag barrel to change characters will see each of them clamouring to be the one that you use (apart from Chunky Kong, who despite his name and bulky frame, is an utter coward!). Each Kong has been given their own distinct personality and special abilities which are needed to complete tasks on every level. Certain objectives will only be able to be met by a particular member of the DK Crew: Lanky can handstand to climb steep slopes while Diddy can take to the skies with his barrel jetpack, for example.

DK64 pushes the Nintendo 64 to its graphical limits and displays some of the most impressive textures on the console. The fact that the game had to be bundled with the N64 Expansion Pak says it all, and the huge multi-zoned levels dwarf most of those on offer from Super Mario 64, with each hiding 25 golden bananas. There can be no doubt that DK64 is a big game, with plenty to keep the player occupied for a while.

Rare also included a multiplayer deathmatch mode which allows up to four players to knock lumps out of each other using the Kongs' unique weapons and abilities. However, it feels a little tacked-on and can’t compete with the superior four-player offerings of other N64 games like Goldeneye and Mario Kart, let alone stand out amongst today’s games.

The in-game music is of a high standard with some atmospheric and memorable tunes. Fans of the epic Donkey Kong Country soundtracks may be disappointed though, as DK64’s music has more in common with that of Banjo-Kazooie, having been worked on by Grant Kirkhope rather than David Wise. Donkey Kong 64 is certainly one of the most senses-pleasing games on the N64, in terms of both graphics and sound.

However, while still of an entertaining standard, the core gameplay of Donkey Kong 64 leaves slightly more to be desired. Although classed as a 3D platformer, there isn’t actually that much traditional platforming to be done in DK64. Platform games, both 2D and 3D are all about making precision jumps over lethal gaps and chasms, with the mistiming of a leap usually resulting in you plunging off the screen or down a hole and losing a life.

However, in DK64 there’s not a bottomless pit in sight and very few floating platforms. With this in mind, and also due to the generous amount of health Rare provided, it’s actually quite tricky to play badly enough to die, aside from one of the eight boss levels. Rather than featuring good old solid platforming, DK64 is notorious for having fallen into the trap of merely requiring the player to collect a large amount of random objects scattered all over the game world. Think Banjo-Kazooie but with even more needless objects.

DK64 also liberally borrows other basic game mechanics from similar games. The controls are basically identical to Banjo and Mario 64, and furthermore N64 gamers once again find themselves in a hub world where collecting enough of item “A” will open the door which magically leads to the next world. Rare have made no attempt to come up with a new idea; even worse is the fact that DK Island has now taken the form of a giant rock shaped as DK’s head. It doesn’t make sense. What happened to the beautiful looking island that comprised the map screen in Donkey Kong Country?

Most of the golden banana challenges involve racing against the clock or a non-playable character, completing memory puzzles, shooting switches or jumping into golden banana barrels and beating a minigame. Most of the time these minigames are easy and the same formats will crop up multiple times during the course of the game, getting slightly trickier each time. Rather than coming up with unique missions for every stage, it seems Rare have taken the lazy option and forced the player to complete abstract minigames which, upon completion, inexplicably yield a golden banana as the reward.

In some ways, Donkey Kong 64 is similar to the now infamous DK Rap which greets the player at the start of the game – loved by some, loathed by others. To some, it’s the pinnacle of 3D platform gaming on the Nintendo 64, while to others it’s the biggest, most pointless collection-fest ever programmed – albeit hiding behind a glossy coat of graphics and sound.


Undoubtedly, DK64 pushes the N64’s capabilities to the max and will keep most gamers busy for a good amount of time but there is a danger that some may become bored of collecting long before they can reach the game’s brilliantly inspired finale.

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User Comments (92)



Corbs said:

I agree with this score 100%. Too much collecting and not enough platforming. :)



Cheesy said:

Ahh, the DK Rap. The original, non-crappy one.

I didn't play this game much (Due to not owning it) but it was awesome! I remember people talking about a ghost who keeps saying "Get Out..."



siavm said:

I disagree with this review. I thought the game as great. I liked all the elements in this game. It is a 9 for me. I hope it is released on the vc soon.



jhuhn said:

Nintendo of America should have talks with RARE about having this game on the Virtual Console.



cr00mz said:

i though this game was better then the Banjo games, but everyones entitled to their own opinion. I never managed t finish the game when i had it 10 or so years ago because i had trouble gettig the 2 silver coins, or maybe just one of them (the one where you had to play the original arcade game) hopefully they will bring this to the VC this years



Edwin said:

"even worse is the fact that DK Island has now taken the form of a giant rock shaped as DK’s head. It doesn’t make sense. What happened to the beautiful looking island that comprised the map screen in Donkey Kong Country?"

The island in DKC was in the shape of an ape's head. You can see it when you're on K. Rool's ship at the end.



Mark_Chibi said:

Wow, I'm a little surprised with the score. I thought the game was perfect and one of the best titles to be released on the Nintendo 64.

Regardless, a seven ain't too bad, I guess.



Jonny said:

I remember being annoyed no end at the fact I found it IMPOSSIBLE to get the banana in the fish where you had to shoot the gratings behind the moving fan as diddy, to this day that was the 1 banana keeping me from getting all 201.
When the best part of your game is 2 ancient arcade games you know you have a problem



Twilight_Crow said:

I totally agree with this review, this is a good game, but by the time it came out collect-a-tons were getting old, and this game is the king of collect-a-tons.



Atlantis1982 said:

My only complaint, and it is a big complaint that kept me from continuing to play this game is the horrid camera system. Otherwise, I probably would had enjoyed this game so greatly.



Slapshot said:

I got bored with this game. I really really really want another 2D Donkey Kong Country game. I just played thru the 2nd recently and the games are just fantastic and we are way past due for another.



maka said:

I'd give this game a 5, 6 at the most. I played it at the time after finishing Mario64 and it just can't compare... Rare was great at taking advantage of the graphical capabilities of the console, but in the end what matters is gameplay, and this game was just boring... I sold most of my n64 games when I got the Game Cube, and I don't miss this one one bit...

It's amazing how many games have imitated the original Mario64 and in the end they all fail in the basics: good controls, good levels and interesting challenges. Not even Nintendo has managed to replicate that 100% (Mario Sunshine's controls were a big step down from Mario64) although Galaxy is almost as good...



dagreenone said:

This game was a bit more of a challenge than that push over Mario 64, which I'm glad for. Getting 100% in this game took a lot more time/skill/luck.

I'd give it a 9.



Shadow007 said:

I would have given it at least a 9. a 7 does this brilliant game no justice. The best Donkey Kong in my opinion which includes Donkey Kong Country series. I wish that there would be a sequel but I doubt it would happen. So, yeah. I loved everything about it. Donkey Kong 64 > Other Donkey Kongs. Don't see why anyone would hate it.



XD375 said:

"I agree with this score 100%. Too much collecting and not enough platforming. :)"

Once again, like I said on the Smash review page in which Corbie agreed with a seven, this doesn't surprise me much coming from Corbie. :P

I... mostly agree with the score. A seven might be a bit too high, though.

EDIT: Seems Bahamut ZERO beat me to it this time. XD



Knux said:

Of couse Corbie agrees, 7 is his favorite number! Perhaps Corbie should just nickname himself Corbie777. :P
As for the review score, I think it's treason. :P
Donkey Kong 64 deserves at least a 8 or 9. :D



Olimar_91 said:

Loved this game so much way back when. Hope it comes to VC so I can play it again.

Personally I didn't mind the collecting, I'd definitely give it an 8-9 myself.



Popyman said:

Man, you about gave me a heart attack, I thought it was coming out on VC or something!



Sanya said:

I might get this when it comes out to the VC, never did play it before and never heard the original. But I thought the Melee version of the DK rap was just fine...



RaptureDJ said:

this game is awesome!!! i think it would be hard to release cuz it was made by RARE. but why would that be a problem since it was published by nintendo??



Hawker said:

"This game was a bit more of a challenge than that push over Mario 64, which I'm glad for. Getting 100% in this game took a lot more time/skill/luck."

No just time & patience. This game wasn't hard at all, the only real hard part is putting up with collecting at least 75 banana's x 5 for the banana medals, getting all the blue print parts, collecting banana coins to buy upgrades & weapons, ect, ect. If you can put up with the mind numbing collection, every so often there is a fun platforming part in it to reward you, but it's just not often enough.



pixelman said:

I watched a YouTube video of this game a few weeks ago, and it killed my interest immediately.



abe8812 said:

A 7 out of 10? I think this game deserves a perfect score. Collecting all the Golden Bananas is fun.



GamerZack87 said:

Kenny wrote: I thought this was talking about its VC release. Is there anything that would stop its release?

Even though Nintendo now owns the rights to the Donkey Kong franchise once again, there is a small item in-game that was in fact a Rare creation; namely, the Jetpac arcade game. So unless they replace that arcade game with something like Donkey Kong Jr. (to fit the DK theme) or even Balloon Fight (to fit a similar theme to Jetpac), then there's not much chance of seeing this on VC. Of course, I would actually prefer it if Jetpac was swapped-out in favour of DK Jr., since I like DK Jr. Oh, and Jetpac was WAAAAAAAAY too tough for me!

It may interest you to know that Nintendo were planning on bringing this to DS at one point, so maybe they did choose a VC release over DS...guess we'll just need to wait and see ;)



accc said:

All these collectathon games were boring as hell, I mean you might as well clean your room or something instead of playing them, you're doing pretty much the same thing.



Noire said:

I don't care what anyone says about this game. It will always be a classic to me for introducing the DK Rap.

He's the leader of the bunch, you know him well...



DreamWatcher said:

I finally finised this one at a friend's house years ago. Got every banana to boot.
Please! Let this be the 350th VC game! Or even 400th! (Former number is preferred.)



Drake said:

The amount of people that really like this game always surprised me, I beat it 100% when it was released and thought it was one of the most boring games I ever played. I've even tried to play it again multiple times but I can't even finish the first level before getting sick of it.

The only redeeming feature in my eyes is the fact it includes the original arcade game, which will probably be removed if it's ever released on VC so they can stick it on VCA.



CodyRBurns said:

This game can get sort of boring after a while, trying to get all of the golden bananas and all that jazz, but for people like me (the people who live to collect everything and get 100%), this game is an absolute gem and DEFINITELY worth downloading.

The question about coming to Virtual Console has come up here and there. It actually won't be put that much onto Rare's shoulders this time. After all, they have pretty much obliged with similar games (the DKC trilogy). The biggest problem is this. Two Nintendo games are weaved deeply into DK64's story line, Donkey Kong (NES) and JetPac (JPN NES). By releasing this game, they essentially are giving you these two games as a freebie, and as you have learned, freebie's are rarely (if ever) allowed at Nintendo. So, until this problem is solve, you unfortunately won't be seeing this game soon. :(



Sabrewing said:

In giving the game five characters, Rare really only succeeded in making the game five times as tedious. Having to collect 100 bananas in each level times five, mostly, but also all the little passages that only specific characters could reach. It would have been much better served if a few of the Kongs had had their abilities consolidated. Give Diddy Lanky's handstand, for instance, and give Donkey the big dumb guy's strength (sorry, I can't remember his name right now).



Jeroen1 said:

Drake: They'd have to remove an integral part of the gameplay, as you need the DK coin to progress to the final stage.



Drake said:

Most people hated getting those two coins anyway so it wouldn't be a big loss :p



Terra said:

I loved playing the game. I didn't mind all the collecting either, I found it fun. still go back to it every now and then, I'd have given it an 8, although I do understand why it got a 7.



Bass_X0 said:

I remember getting quite bored of the game near the end but I do have a strong desire to play it again on the VC. I'd download it immediately when it eventually is. And then like an hour later remember why I got bored with it in the first place probably. And yes, Funky Kong was in it.



CowLaunch said:

I had the exact same problem. It drove me crazy, I even started thinking that maybe the game was designed wrong. I still don't have that banana. I actually like the game though.



Mayhem said:

100%? You get 101% in this game people... what, you never got that? Must try harder ;)

Seriously though I can understand the score. I loved DK64 but not quite as much as either of the BK games on the N64 because of the amount of backtracking and collecting you had to perform.



DiggerandIndy said:

"However, in DK64 there’s not a bottomless pit in sight."

Buddy, you didn't look hard enough! There's a few pits in Creepy Castle! :-P



RevolverLink said:

I absolutely loved Donkey Kong 64, although it could definitely be a hassle at times. I damn near cried after my brother erased my 101% completed file.



Kevin said:

Agree with the score 100%. The collecting in this game is a nightmare.



Wiiloveit said:

Corbie: "I agree with this score 100%"

Anyone care to poke fun at Corbie's seven-love?



XD375 said:

@48: Already done, thrice on this page alone. :P

Also, this game NEEDS to come to the Virtual Console. I'm sure Nintendo and Rare could work something out over the Jetpac thing... Please? ;-;



RaviC said:

Yes, this game needs to come out on Virtual Console. I really want to play it now. If Microsoft can keep Banjo playing the Gameboy in the XBLA version of Banjo-Kazooie, there must be some way of sorting out the Jetpac issue? Hopefully, Microsoft could justify the inclusion of the Jetpac Mini Game as a sort of promotion for their Xbox Live Arcade title Jetpac Refuelled.



Machu said:

Saw this while on the Wii last night. Your mean NL :( you knew you'd be getting peopled stoked for nowt. For 1.26 seconds I thought it was coming to VC :'(



zeeroid said:

i actually loved this game, one of my favourites on the system. but i have that really OCD must-collect-everything mentality (that's only really possible when you're in early grade school and have more time than you know what to do with). Taking that into consideration, i'm not really sure if i'd have time or patience to get through it nowadays... even nostalgia might not be able to make me buy this on VC, whenever it is released.



advance_melee said:

7 is to low for this game. its still one of my favorite games of all time. it was absoluetly better than banjo kazooie imo.




Kid_A said:

I totally agree. It's a good platformer, but it's not the best the N64 has to offer. In my opinion, Jungle Beat is the best DK game.



CanisWolfred said:

DK64 - not the best, but as far as Collectathons go, it's one of the few ones I actually liked. I'd love to give one another go sometime. I got stuck on the third boss and just gave up. Really sad, too, because I watched my brother play through the whole game, and it looked really awesome! C'mon Ninty, quit dicking around with SMK and other lame-o games, and give us what we(or I, rather, since judging from the comments, I'm alone on this issue YET AGAIN!) really need!



Turbo_Genesis_64 said:

This was probably the first major Nintendo release that I refused to buy. Something about it just never impressed me. It lacked the magic of Donkey Kong Country and Banjo Kazooie.

Also, I was bit grumpy that they finally decided to pack the $30 expansion pack for free after I bought it a year earlier.



MrLopez said:

Yeah a 7 is about right. This game got boring very fast.. You need to collect tooooo much..



hamispink said:

There was alot of collecting, but that was good in my eyes. It deserves better that a seven, but it wasn't the greatest game ever.



Stijnco said:

This was one of my favorite games on the N64
In fact it's one of my favorite games of all time
It deserves at least an 8 in my opinion



Clayfrd said:

I always liked the game. Collecting stuff has never bothered me, and the point of the collected items is usually to just justify the platforming.



Gizmo said:

A 7?! For me this is one of the best Jump'n'Runs of all time. I would give it at least a 9.



Incognito_D said:

the reason I awarded it a 7 is because, if you look at the scoring policy, a 7 indicates that the game is "good", which it is. However, an 8 would indicate that the game is "very good", and I just don't think it is - for the reasons touched upon in the review. So in short - good game? yes. but a very good game? not quite.



Gizmo said:

I am also suprised because the game got an average of 90% at that time.

And I think your negative points are too subjective or rather too inordinately. For example the "bottomless pit" thing. In Banjo-Kazooie aren't much of them, too, but it is still challenging. What I mean: For me not to die (often) isn't an argument for an easy game nor a negative point.
And @ collecting stuff: The most of it lies in your way, and as Clayfrd said, some of them just justify the platforming. You also don't have to collect all of it.

It seems to me that you just had other expectations about the game, which is the reason why your review sounds disappointing and why you gave the game "just" a seven.



HawkeyeMartin said:

Donkey Kong 64 was pretty good, but just had to much to do without direction, they sould have made it more like Mario 64.



Incognito_D said:

I knew this would be a controversial review because some people love DK64 and some people don't. For me the problem was that we'd had Super Mario 64, we'd had Banjo-Kazooie, and then DK64 showed up with exactly the same formula... again. I didn't want just another collecting game. I wanted something new. The DK Country trilogy on the Super NES are 3 of my favourite games ever. Which is why DK64 was even more disappointing to me.



Gizmo said:

@ Incognito D: I understand what you mean, but shouldn't be this maybe an argument for not writing a professional review for a game? I mean you were a little bit prejudiced because of the games before, and you wanted something what the game didn't wanted to deliver.

I mean you can give nearly every top game a worse score because it does some/many things what games before it does, too.

(I hope you know what I mean. This should not be an offence.)



bram070 said:

I never ended this game and would love if it was released on VC, Nintendo please!



the_shpydar said:

I just wish we knew conclusively one way or the other if this will ever be released or if licensing issues will prevent it. I've wanted to pick this up again for my N64, but not if we'll eventually see a VC release.



zane said:

For me it´s one of the best games on the system a perfect 10 imo.



Percentful said:

I disagree with this review, but not completely. First, about the multiplayer. The main feature in this game is single player, not multi. I don't really consider it a platformer. I consider it a collection game, which is why I got it a long time ago; I love collectiong games. Also, it did not involve mostly minigames to get golden bananas. There are times when you have to fight a giant spider,get to the end of a small maze then escape before you get shot, and lots of original ideas. You can't rate a collecting game if you weren't expecting a collection game. In short this is what I thought of the review: the reviewer was not looking at the game as a collection game like it should have been looked at. I would give this game at least an 8. BTW, I can say that about the minigames because I have beaten the game and gotten 100% [including the 201st golden banana].



wariothestario said:

THis review sucks, The whole concept of switching kongs in the game kept in exciting and interesting. This game is better then most people think. IT NEEDS the virtual console. DO IT NINTENDO!



geno94 said:

Good game, has outstanding graphics for the n64, but it gets really boring about half way through the game, collecting becomes a chore.



Deviant_Mugen said:

I never did get to play this game; I might just have to borrow my cousin's copy to see how it stacks up with the rest of the N64's platformers...



andrewschuman88 said:

This is my favorite game of all time. Everything about it is PERFECT! DK rap is a novelty that is amazing.

Just to clear everything up for you people, Microsoft currently owns Rare but since they made the Donkey Kong trademark for Nintendo, Donkey Kong is a product of nintendo. Because of this, both Nintendo and Microsoft have holds on DK64 so it can't be re-released unless one company gives it up (which will most likely not happen)



blueyoshi525 said:

This game is awesome. I 100% this game as a kid and just recently began playing a new file because I missed it so much and want a virtual console release desperately. I peaked in on this review after getting my 25th banana and was completely disappointed. This game deserves at least a 9 and it is as good today as it was then. Of course I have no complaints about the collection aspect of the game. Having played all the DKC games, playing the 3D version of Minecart Madness is especially awesome. This game is all about exploring the massive areas, unlocking new abilities/weapons/characters to progress through the game. Plus, the last boss fight was the best of any DK game ever and completely worth the time it took to beat this game.



Gizmo said:

@ andrewschuman88 (#82): "both Nintendo and Microsoft have holds on DK64 so it can't be re-released"

This is wrong. Only Nintendo has the rights to release the game, so it's just a matter of time to see DK 64 on the Virtual Console.



Simon_Deku said:

Don't bring up the "Corbie only gives sevens" thing again! You already talked about it on Equillibro.



Rarewarefan7495 said:

This game is not for everyone. I adore collecting and exploring in platformers and this game has that aspect down to a T. Of course, the game does get too crazy with backtracking and collecting but it didn't really affect the overall experience I had with the game. It's not the best platformer on the 64 (Banjo Tooie) and it's not better than any of the SNES titles (Yes even DKC 3) but it's still a great game in my book. I'd give it an 8.5 but once again this game's not for everyone.



MrZanctom said:

Best game ever. I wish Nintendo would put this game out on virtual console so I could play it again. I haven't played this game in years.



Hokori said:

This is the LAST N64 3DS remake I'd like to see (actually only one I'd like, but we have OOT and SF 64 already... Oh and I guess Rayman)



DarkCoolEdge said:

You are right about the cons but it still is a great and fun game. I really loved it when it came out and getting all the bananas made it a long entertaining piece of software.

I see it as a 9 but until recently I would have given it a10.
Good old times, N64 kicked ass.



TheLegendary1 said:

I remember this game so fondly. I got it before Christmas and spent my entire two week break from school playing it feverishly. It is a classic to me and always will be. I agree with the review only because it's become very difficult to review games like this seeing as how far the platform genre and 3D gaming have come as a whole since 1999. I played it for the umpteenth time a couple years ago and couldn't figure out why it wasn't as great as I remember. I hope it comes out on VC for the Wii U though.

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