As the years go by, our tastes change. We grow out of cartoons and toy cars and dolls, and we become, well, more sophisticated, in a way. Video games are no exception. For many of us, we end up looking over our game collections years later and finding games that, while we loved them as children, we’d be embarrassed to admit to owning now. And then there are those very special games that still speak to us as adults. Those games are truly successful, for they have the ability to gain a whole new charm as we grow older that only endears them to us even more than when we first played them. As I revisit my favorite games for this month’s challenge, I focus on the role that time plays in determining whether or not a game is a true favorite or just a passing fad.
I recently revisited my Nintendo 64, and I found games from both of these categories. From the more positive end of the spectrum were Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, two games that easily stand up to the test of time. I’ve been playing these games for the past 15 years, and while I have changed a lot in that time, the enjoyment I get from these games hasn’t. On the other end of the spectrum was a game even nostalgia couldn’t save…Donkey Kong 64.
Despite being made by the same company as the Banjo-Kazooie series, DK64 has been growing increasingly intolerable to me. I think if I hadn’t played the game directly after Banjo-Tooie, a game very similar in concept, but far more successful in execution, DK64’s flaws may not have been so obvious. I used to love this game. Somehow, I did. And while it still has its fun moments, what stands out most to me is what makes this game so, well, I just don’t think it’s a very good game. I guess I should have seen it coming, as the Donkey Kong series began its decline with the release of Donkey Kong Country 3 on the Super Nintendo. That doesn’t mean DKC3 is a bad game. It is fun and has moments of absolute brilliance. At the same time, it was more childish in its dialogue, character design, and…we got stuck with Kiddy Kong. I can’t think of anyone who really likes that guy.
Nevertheless, I still like DKC3, even if it’s my least favorite of the DKC trilogy. On the other hand, DK64 lacks any of the ingenuity DKC3 might have had. The graphics are colorful, but the colors seem far too saturated for my taste. And while there is a variety of moves, some of them don’t really make sense. For example, giving each character their own unique weapon and…instrument. How does that relate to Donkey Kong? I have no idea. The Donkey Kong series has never related to shooting and…an instrument! Really?
The game is clearly targeted towards children, but without any of the charm adults can enjoy. And while it’s cool, in theory, to have five playable characters, it isn’t once you take into consideration the sheer number of items you have to collect as a result (25 golden bananas and 500 regular bananas per world, not to mention coins, because Cranky, Funky, and Candy actually have the nerve to charge their friends and family members for new abilities), not to mention the amount of backtracking you must endure in order to collect it all. If I could switch characters at any time, that might have made it tolerable, but that’s not the case. To illustrate, I’m Diddy, and I have collected all my red bananas in this one location, but at the end of this tunnel, I see some green coins. I then am required to run all the way back to the tag barrel, get Chunky, and then run all the way back to get those green coins. And then, I must run all the way back to the tag barrel again to switch out my characters for someone else to complete some other task. Somehow I seemed to have the patience for this years ago. I don’t now.
And yet, while these things might make me cringe (including the unnecessary use of voice acting in some parts of the game that subtract from the experience far more than adding to it), nothing compares to the displeasure I get from the game’s vast collection of mini games. Their inclusion makes sense, as the original DKC trilogy had plenty of them, as well. The difference is, in DK64, they try so darn hard to have a lot of variety and to be “creative, that a lot of the mini games just come off as a bit odd. Why in the world must I swat a certain number of flies or herd beavers into a pit for a golden banana? What do these challenges have to do with anything DK-related, except to antagonize the player? Even when there are challenges that should be fun, they add some extra requirement that sucks all the fun right out of it. For example, the races and the mine cart levels should be fun. Until you’re required to collect 50 coins by the end. It doesn’t matter if you complete it with flying colors. If you didn’t collect those darn coins, you lose. Come back later. I still despise the laughter of that darn beetle you’re forced to race. I hate it. It haunts my nightmares.
DK64, while being directed at kids, is just a really frustrating game. I could forgive many of the flaws if it just wasn’t so annoying to play. I mean, you actually have to beat the original Donkey Kong arcade. Twice! I mean it, you cannot complete the game unless you beat this thing, on normal mode and on hard mode! And get a certain number of points in the original Jetpac game, as well. I admit, it would be cool if these old games were just included as fun, little extras, but when they are necessary to reach the final boss… I think you get the point. Because I suck at the Donkey Kong arcade. I am bad at really old games, and I just can’t beat them, so I don’t think a game from the Nintendo 64 era should require me to complete an arcade game in order to reach the final boss! Why don’t you force me to complete the original Super Mario Bros in order to beat Super Mario Galaxy! Because it ain’t happening!
Maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe. I guess I just find it surprising the level of pain we’re willing to put ourselves through when we’re younger. I mean, I actually beat Quest 64 more than once many years ago, and I wouldn’t dream of attempting that game now. So much travelling. So much. If I want to know what it’s like to slowly trek through a life-sized cave, now I know. And I didn’t like it. Like I said, we change. And I outgrew DK64. It’s kind of a shame, considering I did used to really like it. But hey, at least it came with a free expansion pack. What about you guys? Do you have any games you used to love that you can’t stand now? Let me know in the comments!
The Duck’s All Growed Up Now