It’s That Time Of The Week…

T.T.Time for another DS game, that is. This time it’s Diddy Kong Racing DS, a re-make of the classic N64 game. I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom on this one, but it certainly has a few problems that the original didn’t have.

The biggest problem is the overall polish, IMO. Now, certainly, you would think, polish couldn’t be the biggest problem in a game — things like gameplay or content should rank higher. But, polish is what separates a great game from a so-so game, IMO. If you have the best gameplay in the world, but you have to navigate through tons of menus to get to it, nobody is going to continue to play your game.

So, how does this relate to DKR:DS? Well, the first problem I noticed (well, maybe not the first time I played) was that when you turn on the game and get to the menu, the game defaults to selecting the open save spot instead of the save spot that you used to save your game in. What this usually leads to is that I selected New Game instead of my existing game, causing a new game titled “Dennis” to be created. I then have to carefully navigate through 3-4 menus to get to where I can delete that game (being careful to delete the right one). Once done, I’m back at the first menu again, sitting on that same New Game menu item. Quite annoying. If Rare would’ve taken their original menu system from the N64, added a few new options, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even mentioned this. Why they needed to “fix” this is beyond me.

Another area of polish that I’ve noticed is the use of texturing. In Adventure mode, when you go into the tent, if you turn around and look, you’ll notice that the view of the outside is textured onto a flat surface. I can understand that there are limitations on the DS — but couldn’t they work around them in some other way? Maybe put up a curtain that opens up? Maybe have it look dark similar to the way they handle moving from each of the areas? Anything would look better than a horrible scaled up texture.

I’ve also noticed that the camera is not near as good as the N64 version. I’ve been able to get the camera positioned inside my characters head, which leads to weird clipping of parts of the head and face. Maybe the fog of time has deceived me, but I don’t recall the N64 version having problems with the camera like this.

Other areas that I’ve been bothered by — the weird DS gimmicks that were tossed in for no apparent reason. Trying to spin the propeller or the wheel to get a fast start with the stylus is clunky and better not used at all. Unless you like searching for the stylus in your lap after each game. Rubbing the lamp is another one. I just really wanted to play a Kart racing game — not play a DS demo.

In contrast to the way DKR:DS handles things, I would point at Advance Wars: Dual Strike or New Super Mario Bros. — both concentrate on being a great game without going all gimmicky on the DS features. I don’t even pull out the stylus at all when playing those games, and it’s okay. The gameplay doesn’t lend itself to using the stylus. On the other hand, both Clubhouse Games and Elite Beat Agents make excellent use of the stylus, without being gimmicky.

Back to DKR:DS — as for gameplay, I think Rare did pretty good with it. It’s still a fun game. The controls work pretty good, considering they went from an analog stick to the d-pad. I’ve found that my kart racing skills have went downhill since I last played, but otherwise still fun. I’m also pretty impressed with most of the graphics in the game (other than some of my complaints from above). The color scheme and lighting seems to have been brought over very nicely from the N64. Also, I’ve read online that they actually upgraded some of the textures to look nicer on the DS, which is apparent in some parts. But, one downside, and it’s not a fault of Rare in this case, is that the LCD screens of the DS don’t provide that automatic AA that good ol’ CRT TVs provide. So, the edges look rougher when compared against the N64 version.

Would I recommend buying this game? Well, it depends. If you’re looking for a good fun kart racing game, you have two good choices on the DS — DKR:DS and Mario Kart:DS. Both of them are very fun games, and both have the ability to play over WiFi. DKR:DS provides more features — adventure mode being one of the big ones, and it doesn’t have some of the problems that MK:DS has in WiFi mode (snaking, for example…). But some of the other issues might swing you over to MK:DS.

If you liked DKR:DS, you might might end up disappointed somewhat, but overall, I think it’s still worth it. You might want to check around on price — Best Buy had it advertised for $30 this week (ending on the 10th of Feb), while most places are selling it for $35.

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