You might have noticed that there was a conspicuous hole in our look at some of this year's most exciting games. Whither Diddy Kong Racing, you asked, tear-streaked faces turned up to the sky as you shook your fists in rage and dismay. Okay, maybe we're a little dramatic, but it was missing, and here's why: we wanted to take some time to get intimate with Diddy Kong without the pesky interference of so many other droolariffic games.
After Rare went to the dark side, we never thought we'd feel the shining spotlight of their love again, but it looks like they've come crawling back for a piece of the DS, and all may be forgiven. Even though Diddy Kong Racing DS is an enhanced port of the (beloved) N64 game, the mere fact that it's happening makes it a contender for this year's single most interesting game.
Of course, last week's big news of the Stamper brothers fleeing Rare might change things for the Nintendo-Microsoft-Rare relationship. Diddy Kong Racing may be the one thing we have to cling to over the next few years, or it may be the rekindling of a rich and lucrative relationship. We'll hope for the latter, of course, but the future is murky for Rare. Their last few outings haven't exactly been up to the level of promise that Microsoft obviously saw in them, since they paid a record $377 million for the company, which has since produced little in the way of commercial success. Critical success is all well and good, but it doesn't fill the pockets.
Now, with the company's future up in the air and few details about Diddy Kong Racing DS released to date, gamers are holding their collective breath and wondering just what it is that's in store for them with the handheld racer. We decided to take a little time out to recoup what we know. A short teaser video (included below) has been available for a long time, but actual facts are scattered hither and yon ... or they were.
- Diddy Kong Racing DS is an enhanced port of the N64 game. This means that gameplay will be largely similar, though the game will look (and perhaps play) even better than the lauded original. That promise alone gives Rare some pretty big shoes to fill.
- All the original tracks are carried over, though they have been retextured.
- The tracks may be the same, but significant changes have been made to the world itself; look for lots of little additions, like Taj the genie's upgrade to a tent in a tree-lined area.
- Few changes have been made to characters. Predictably, Conker and Banjo will not be making their DS debut here, but will instead be replaced by Dixie Kong and Tiny Kong. It is as yet unknown if the two unlockable characters from the N64 game will be available, but we will assume so, as there are four spots for unlockable characters. Look for the N64's T.T. and Drumstick, as well as two unknown characters (though it seems they will have previously been NPCs who are now playable).
- Eight person multiplayer. Once this game is released, we're gonna guess that Mario Kart DS Game Nights may be a thing of the past.
- The microphone has been confirmed for use in Diddy Kong Racing, but don't get too excited about voice chat. So far, all we know is that players must blow into the mic to boost off in hovercraft.
- In that same vein, to boost off with the car and plane, the player must rub the touchscreen. Mind those sweaty fingers!
- DKR 2.0 - the DS game is set to be laden with opportunities for players to create their own content. In Wish Race mode, you can create your own tracks, and you can customize many other aspects of the game, such as your vehicles.
- Share your works of racing art created in Wish Race mode with others via Nintendo WiFi.
- The N64's Silver Coin challenges will not be included in the DS game. Instead, take Taj's magic carpet into the air for a target-shooting minigame.
- Various changes have been made to power-ups, including the removal of the speed-boosting bananas.
- The game is slated for February 5 for North America, and nothing beyond "first quarter 2007" has been announced for other regions, and DKR DS was conspicuously absent from NoE's recent rundown of games to watch in 2007, which focused largely on Q1 titles.
- We are waiting very, very impatiently for this game's release. Okay, maybe that's not quite a fact in sense of the other items ....