As always, I have a not so timely review for something that has been available for sometime, but then again I like to review things in my own time.
When I recently visited a local Game retailer, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a copy of Diddy Kong Racing DS on the shelf. I played the original on the N64, and it was one of my favourite games for the console, the original premise being a kart racer with the option to choose to race as a kart, a hovercraft or a plane around the courses. It also had an interesting and colourful hubworld, which could be explored, and additional collectables within racecourses that could be found by changing to a different vehicle or by going off the beaten path. Remembering the original so fondly, I had no choice really but to pick it up!
I found myself some free time, and began to play; immediately, I began to miss the original. I was greeted by some story that Wizpig (a wizard pig, he was in the original) was terrorizing “the island”, and the inhabitants (other racers) had called for the Kongs. I didn’t much care for it, but then it’s a racing game, it’s not about the story.
So, I selected my racer and began to race. The first race, set in Dino Domain, wasn’t 100% as I had remembered it, but it wasn’t bad. The powerups were there, the speed seemed a little slow (I figured that it was a handheld device, so that’s acceptable), but around the course was dotted small coins. I picked up a few of these on the way around, and finished the course.
Here’s where the first of my major gripes reared it’s head. Once the course is complete, you cannot re-enter. If you want to re-enter, you have to clear all of the other races, and then beat the area boss, who will then set the second of my major-gripes as a challenge. He sets the coin challenge, where you are taken around the stage on a rail-style tour, and the goal is to use the stylus to tap balloons to pop them, and drag coins into a small bag (purse?) in the bottom corner of the screen, changing the way you are facing by more stylus-swiping.
Firstly, this style of level has always irritated me, but the execution is what infuriated me with this game. These are racing courses, for multiple vehicles, and as such have tight corners and blindspots – this is not an environment suited for a stylus-based collectathon. I persevered, completed the levels and was invited to re-challenge the boss to a “tougher rematch”. This was an absolute garbage race, as this needed you to trace around the touchscreen to steer your kart, and to swipe a wheel that appeared to retain speed. This is a horrible, horrible implementation of touch controls, it was literally shoe-horned in, and it shows.
Graphically, this game has been downgraded from the original. Unlike Super Mario 64, which was given beautiful polish for the DS release, this game is very granular and pixelated, however it does run very smoothly with minimal lag.
The main game is infuriating, and to a fan of the original it really does feel like a bastardization, but the main draw has and will always be multiplayer. The saving grace for this game is that it does offer single-kart download play, and so if you choose to pick this up you only need one copy to play with friends.
Verdict: This game is flawed. Like most early games for the DS/Wii, they added gimicky sections just for the sake of adding them. This fad has died off now, but it could return at any time… If you want to play Diddy Kong Racing at its best, avoid the DS version and hunt down the N64 copy, it has all of the gameplay we love with none of the tacked-on touchscreen hoop-jumping.
On January 8th, Nintendo released information regarding the next generation of Pokémon, and this time it looks like things are going to be a little different.
Monikered Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, it is clear that it has changed. Why? Look back over the last 5 generations released – these are not colours. Small difference? Perhaps, but with this minor change comes a few bigger ones. The most notable is that the game has moved into a new dimension, and is now wholly 3D. Characters, environments and even Pokémon battles are now gloriously animated.
For a series with such a lengthy reputation for sales, it’s no surprise that it has now officially moved onto the 3DS. It will most likely also be compatible with the Wii U, as I suspect that there will be a game released, much like Stadium and Colosseum previously.
For fans of the older generations, my tip is to grab a copy of Diamond/Pearl/Platinum – these are compatible with Fire Red/Leaf Green/Heart Gold/Soul Silver/Ruby/Sapphire… Basically all titles released prior to Black and White. You can use the Pal Park feature unlocked at the end of the game to transfer Pokémon across to Diamond or Pearl, where they can be traded to Black or White, 1 or 2.
Remember, the original games are getting older, and it’s getting close to a point that it will be impossible to get the original 150 outside of Promo events. There may be another re-release or two, but a third version of the original seems unlikely, with the exception of an anniversary edition. But with no word from Nintendo, this is just speculation.
But, back to point.
The new versions of Pokémon are due to be released in October, and they look fantastic. If you are a fan, or if you have a tingle of nostalgia and a 3DS, I recommend placing a preorder – amazing things were done with Black and White, and it’s clear that Pokémon lives on and is getting bigger and better.
- Pokemon X And Pokemon Y Aren’t Reboots Of The Franchise; They’re An Evolution (mynintendonews.com)
- Pokemon X and Y for the 3DS Finally Revealed (vr-zone.com)
- Here’s the Newest Pokémon. It’s Out Worldwide This October. (kotaku.com)
The game opens on a scene of a throne room, with a red squirrel sat in the throne, surrounded by various characters. The music, regal and dramatic, plays in the background as the prologue is narrated by Conker himself:
“Well, there I am, Conker the king; king of all the land. Who’d have thought that? But how did I come to this, you say. And who are those strange fellows that surround my throne. That you also say. It’s a long story. Come closer and I’ll tell you. It all started yesterday, and what a day that was! It’s what I like to call, a bad fur day.”
And for a Bad Fur Day, it was actually fantastic.
Originally, the game had started with the character that a few had been familiar with in Diddy Kong Racing. The character who laughed and was full of joy and smiles, just another character in the Rare/Nintendo universe, went from this cuddly interpretation, to one of beer, bullets and babes.
The game starts with the prologue above, and continues as we follow Conker through an evening out two days ago, in a pub with a “couple of the guys” who are off “to fight some war or something”. He lies to his girlfriend Berri over the phone, gets incredibly drunk, and stumbles off into the night to try and find his way home. He vomits on a stranger almost immediately after exiting the pub.
He awakens the next morning in an unfamiliar environment, and, as you talk to the alcoholic scarecrow in the field, called Birdy (not Beardy; he hasn’t got a beard), about how to find your way home, you begin to realise that this might not be the usual platformer…
So the gameplay centres around getting Conker home through the strange land that he inhabits, but along the way he becomes “side-tracked”, by cash and giant mostly-nude cave-women. But while he is finding his way home, the Evil Panther King is trying to find out why he cannot keep his glass of milk on the table. After calling in his top scientist, Ze Professor, he discovers that it has a slight gap where there should be a table leg. A few threats later, and Ze Professor is plotting war with his army of abomination creations, the evil Tediz!
And so, Conker plods through a selection of areas, trying to earn some cash and get home, and solving everyone else’s problems along the way. There are colourful creatures whom you may grow an attachment to, but the greatest characters in the game in my opinion are the baddies.
The multiplayer in the game is excellent, and sports dedicated maps and game modes. In the original N64 version (in my opinion the definitive version), such games included Raptor, where you could play as a team of cavemen stealing dino eggs to fry in your enormous frying pan, or as an enormous dinosaur and eat cavemen and bring them home for the baby raptors to eat.
Another, aptly called “Beach”, has you playing as the “Frenchies”, trying to cross the border and reach safety. You carry no weapons, by the way. On the other hand, you could play as the Tediz, and try to stop them crossing the border with Missiles, a Turret or a Sniper Rifle.
Then there were the two War games, Colours and Total War. In colours, you scramble from your base, across the field, into the enemy base and capture their flag, dash back across carrying the flag (disabling weapons whilst being carried), and pop it into your base. Its brother, Total War, is very similar, except that instead of a flag its a canister of toxic gas, and instead of taking it to your base you take it to an underground shelter that closes once it has been deployed, killing all outside the shelter.
In the Xbox re-release, the game modes had changed to a territory style multiplayer, where places mean points mean prizes. The maps were bigger, there were unique units with unique weaponry and more players could fight at once. But there were no raptors eating cavemen anywhere, and so it became a good multiplayer, but not as special as it had been before.
The Good Points!
The depth of multiplayer in the N64 version warrants a look all on its own, as does the comedy in the game. The character voicing was fantastic, as were the characters themselves. In no other game could you battle a giant, singing poo by flinging toilet roll at it (just google “the great mighty poo” for the full video) or shoot at scouse dung beetles (those are the voices usually associated with Liverpool, if you aren’t aware). You were also introduced to Greg, the Grim Reaper, with his short stature and squeaky voice.
The game was also very good at aping popular media, with clear references to films such as Dracula, Jaws, The Matrix and Alien all providing some of the best action/platform/comedy moments in gaming.
The Bad Points
The Xbox re-release. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a fantastic game, and it has a shiny new set of textures to make the game look very good. But there were some minor, irritating changes. For starters, some of the naughty words were bleeped. Nintendo did what Microsoft didn’t, and left them in for us. The multiplayer was different too, and not what I had grown to love. But aside from that, it was still an excellent game.
So, my opinion? If you have a still working N64, and a few controllers, pick it up. It’s not as cheap, but it is a brilliant game. After a few hours, you and a few friends could be pissing yourselves with laughter. And possibly on each other, as “urine” is also a weapon in one of the death match modes. Which is just lovely. If you don’t, have an original xbox, the game does play on 360, but of course multiplayer is local only.
Pick up the Xbox edition here: Conker: Live & Reloaded (Xbox)
Games are being judged quite frequently for having bad story-lines and plot holes, and I for one love them. Not in a “wow, what a long day, let’s thumb through a few game instruction manuals”, but in an Agony Aunt article way, where it’s written so unbelievably you find yourself enjoying it.
One such story is from one of the gaming greats, that has stood the tests of time and is a series still around today. The game in question is the original 1985 classic Super Mario Bros.
Don’t click off just yet, bear with me (paws up, grr). I’m a big fan of the Big N, but even this cannot go unnoticed. The original story reads:
One day, King Bowser Koopa, the great and powerful leader of the militaristic Koopa Troop, invades the peaceful Mushroom Kingdom. He and his Koopa Troop are jealous of the beautiful kingdom, and King Bowser decides to take it for himself. To do this, Bowser casts an evil spell upon the kingdom and transforms all of its inhabitants into blocks, weeds, and other peculiar objects. It is foretold that only the Mushroom King’s daughter Princess Toadstool can undo the spell. Knowing this, Bowser immediately kidnaps her. Fortunately, the heroic Mario Bros. learn about the Mushroom Kingdom’s plight and race to its rescue.
Sounds okay? Just basic “story” for a game? Well, the part that I can’t help but notice is this:
“To do this, Bowser casts an evil spell upon the kingdom and transforms all of its inhabitants into blocks, weeds, and other peculiar objects.”
So, all of the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom are now blocks. They are blocks of floating stone, which the “heroic Mario Bros.” smash to pieces for the next 27 years and, presumably, further still.
So the coins that Mario gets? It means he’s a mugger. A short, portly, Italian-American-from-Brooklyn mugger. He also suddenly shoots up the list of gamings greatest mass-murderers.
Another point to make; “It is foretold that only the Mushroom King’s daughter Princess Toadstool can undo the spell”. And when does she do this? When did she learn any form of magic? The most useful she has ever been is in Super Mario Bros. 2, where she uses her dress to float on the breeze. You may also notice that at no point in those 27 long years does Mario or the Princess make any effort whatsoever to actually change them back to the way they were.
So, next time you think “Nintendo makes kids games”, think “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Especially so when playing Super Mario 3DS, where he smashes a special block and wears its hollowed innards as a hat.