Developer(s) – Rare & Ultimate Play The Game
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Designer(s) – Gary Richards
Producer(s) – Paul Machacek
PEGI – 3
Released in 2007 as the second-to-last game developed by Rare specifically for a Nintendo console (the last being Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise), Diddy Kong Racing DS was a remake of the original Nintendo 64 classic aimed at providing a new experience for fans of the first game as well as one for newcomers to the series, boasting new gameplay features in place of old ones, new characters, and updated visuals. However, having played through it, and being a huge fan of the Nintendo 64 version, I wasn’t impressed, to say the least; the DS port seems much more like a demake than a remake for several reasons.
Graphics – 5/10
First of all, as it was developed for a handheld system with limited capability in terms of technical graphical quality compared to that of even a fourth-generation home console, the graphical quality doesn’t seem updated at all; it actually seems worse with this game than on the Nintendo 64. Aside from that, the game also suffers in terms of conceptual design compared to the original Diddy Kong Racing; additional scenery was added to certain tracks, but they don’t ostensibly add anything to what was already great; in fact, if you’re a fan of the first game, it can even create confusion as to where the player needs to go on certain tracks like Whale Bay.
The first Wizpig race is also considerably less atmospheric as it takes place on a sunny day in stark contrast to the Nintendo 64 version, which takes place on a stormy night. The game’s soundtrack also sounds considerably worse where both old and new songs are concerned. The recycled songs sound nowhere near as vibrant as they did on the Nintendo 64 and as for the new songs, it wouldn’t particularly surprise me to learn if they were old ideas that David Wise came up with whilst development of the original game was taking place and that they were just shoehorned into the remake because that’s what it feels like to me.
Gameplay – 5/10
The gameplay, for the most part, is identical to that of the original Nintendo 64 title, but there were some drastic changes made. Firstly, Banjo and Conker were removed from the game and replaced with Tiny Kong and Dixie Kong, most likely due to copyright issues with Rare, Wizpig and Taj became playable and the Taj races in the hub world were considerably meddled with in negative ways. In addition, the silver coin challenge was replaced with a mode whereby players have to pop balloons strewn across each track in the first-person, which to me, presented next to no challenge, unlike the silver coin challenge. In terms of gameplay overall, this remake is an example of when developers try to add more to the original experience but inadvertently take away what was great about a beloved classic and giving players an all-around inferior experience.
Controls – 5/10
One of the bigger gripes I have with this game, however, is with its control scheme. Playing out nowhere near as fluently as the original Diddy Kong Racing, players have to do pretty arbitrary things to get the initial speed boost at the start of a race depending on what vehicle the player is in at the time, such as rotating the plane propeller with the stylus and blowing into the microphone for the hovercraft boost. It annoyed me something fierce when I was playing through it, making me think just how unnecessary it was to have been put in the game.
There are a lot of DS games I had problems with because of the need to use the stylus during gameplay, whereby if the feature wasn’t implemented, the games would’ve been just fine; examples include The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Star Fox Command. But Diddy Kong Racing DS is no exception to this rule either, and again just gave testament to how much the developers took away at the cost of what they were trying to add.
Lifespan – 7/10
For anyone who can forgive some or all of the above issues, it can be made to last there around the same amount of time as the original Diddy Kong Racing, as it also includes the Adventure Two mode. But to me, it only lasted about an hour, due to everything about it that I couldn’t bring myself to forego. The remake is certainly not worth investing as much time in as the original game in any case.
Storyline – 6/10
The story simply retells the events of the original game of Wizpig invading the land and Diddy Kong and company having to race against him to drive him back. However, in the remake, it’s told in a much less exciting way, with the absence of many of the cutscenes from the original game that added so much meaning to it. The quality of the voice acting in the remake is also infinitely inferior to that of the original game, which only makes matters even worse. The voicing talent of the likes of Kevin Bayliss and Chris Seavor is sorely missing from the remake.
Originality – 5/10
Ironically, in trying to add so much to this game and taking away almost everything that was great about the original, the developers made it stand out, but for all the wrong reasons. Normally, I would be able to appreciate the fact that the developers at least tried new things, but as all those new things made this game seem like much more of a negative departure from the Nintendo 64 version than what it should’ve been, I can’t bring myself to appreciate much about it in general.
Overall, Diddy Kong Racing DS is a massive disappointment, and in many respects, a middle finger to the fans of the original game. It destroyed everything that was great about the original game and gave players a severely downgraded experience. I can’t recommend the first Diddy Kong Racing game for the Nintendo 64 enough, as to me, it’s a cherished classic, and a game that I return to time and time again, but I’d advise players to avoid the DS remake.