TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Often overlooked, N64’s ‘Diddy Kong Racing’ outpaces ‘Mario Kart 64’
Labor Day has come and gone and we are heading towards fall, so what that means for this writer is a continuing the tradition here on Turn to Channel 3 as we devote the entire month of September to the Nintendo 64 console and its library of titles.
Another “64 September” begins today with a game that, while an awesome addition to the genre at the time, is often overlooked because of its more popular brethren. We’re off to the races now with “Diddy Kong Racing!”
“Diddy Kong Racing” (N64)
With one of the more catchy assortments of tunes on the N64, “Diddy Kong Racing” has a song for everyone who enjoys a good racing game. From the wandering sounds of the desert to the more Christmas carol-type style of the snowy stages, “Diddy Kong Racing” covers all the bases of kart game music.
In many ways, I found this soundtrack to be better composed and better suited for each track represented. It’s always a good sign that you’ve made a great soundtrack when you have gamers humming along to it long after the controller has been put down. Did I find the little voiceover spots annoying? Yes, but not to the point where it took away from the gaming experience.
The graphics and frame rate in this game are nothing short of gorgeously smooth, with the waterfalls and snow drifts being the most appealing for the eyes as you zip along the tracks. What I was most impressed with here, and this ties into the gameplay, is that when you switch vehicles on a track, there is no slowdown from changing from your standard kart, and that’s definitely impressive.
Whenever developers introduce a new concept for an established genre, there’s a danger that something could go horribly wrong, especially graphically speaking, but “Diddy Kong Racing,” no matter what vehicle you’re driving, is pulled off seemingly effortlessly in vision.
The formula of “Diddy Kong Racing’s” success is simple. An adventure mode tasks you with racing bosses and unlocking other tracks that can then be used during multiplayer racing mode, and it is far more addicting than it is frustrating, let me assure you. The amount of things to unlock may not seem like much, but with an Adventure Mode (which can lead to an Adventure Mode 2), along with your standard multiplayer racing mode, there is a lot more here than you’d expect in a ‘90s racing kart game.
“Diddy Kong Racing” is the result of Rare trying to capitalize on the holiday season and putting forth all of their effort to do so. It is sad that this game never got the sequel on the Nintendo GameCube it was due to have – it was stopped due to Rare being purchased by Microsoft.
In addition, it is a seemingly daily occurrence at my shop in Mayfield that this game is overlooked for the more popular “Mario Kart 64,” which is a shame because “Diddy Kong Racing” actually expands upon the “Mario Kart 64” formula and offers more to the gamer in the end. Many hardcore N64 fans know this and will go for this game at a mere $12-$15 versus the $40+ price tag of “Mario Kart 64.” I encourage purchasing this game if you haven’t, on the mere premise of a good game at a great price.
Join me next time as we depart the racetrack and enter the battle arenas of “Killer Instinct Gold!”
Until then, fall into some great retro games, OK? See what I did there? Game on!