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Super Mario Land 2 is the equally-odd follow-up to 1989's Super Mario Land, a game which I hold dear to my heart and reviewed not long ago. While the original Super Mario Land was more of an aesthetic departure from the majority of the series, even including a pair of levels which were downright in the wrong genre, its younger brother takes a step back towards the traditional Mario style of visuals and play while also being damn sure to retain the weirdness from its predecessor. Mario will travel through six lands to get back to his castle, including a short trip into outer space and a dizzying climb through a clockwork tower that looks just like him.

The most noticeable change between Super Mario Land and Super Mario Land 2 is visually. Super Mario Land was built in the very early days of the Game Boy system, and the developers didn't quite have a handle on what the device could do. As such, the game looks very simplistic, much like early NES games. By contrast, Super Mario Land 2 more greatly resembles Super Mario Bros. 3, having defined outlines and shapes for each object and character and devoting more of the screen to characters. The result is a game which is much easier on the eyes and does an exemplary job of portraying beautiful backdrops and scenarios with depth utilizing a limited resource pool.

I'll actually take a moment there to talk about just the environments, because they really look awesome. Despite being limited by the amount of colors and shades which can be used, the environments are all spectacular. Particularly there are a couple of tropical island themed levels which are simply superb, with sparkling water backdrops which I can only describe as "delicious" because they make me thirst for a cool pitcher of liquid life on a sticky summer day. Now, not only do the environments look beautiful but there's a whole bunch of unique ones that really help this game stand out. You've got your typical water world, but in addition to the deep sea swimming stage, you get to navigate through a sinking submarine. You can travel to space and don an astronaut outfit and, more importantly, bounce around in reduced an zero gravity environments, both of which are a blast. Quick extra about Space Zone: one of the stages is a reference to the Balloon Trip mode featured on Balloon Fight, which I got a real kick out of.

Of course there are other bizarre realms, such as the Macro Zone where Mario is tiny and must travel around a giant house. As mentioned before, the Mario Zone, which is a giant Mario wind-up toy (at the end of which lurk the Three Little Pigs for whatever reason.) The stages are all just something different and, especially when compared to the recent string of Mario games which have all been hesitant to try anything new, stand out from the rest of the franchise.

Like the previous Super Mario Land title there are unique bosses for each world. This time, though, a lot more care has been put into characterizing these bosses and making each confrontation as fun as possible. A few of them are pretty difficult at first, but once you get a handle of the attack patterns it becomes a fun game of rhythm and motion. The bosses are also really satisfying to stomp, and I'm not quite sure why. It could be because of how big and animated they are, but jumping on their noggin just makes one overcome with joy.

Gameplay is greatly expanded from the original Super Mario Land and almost as diverse as Super Mario World. Not only can Mario run and jump in traditional manner, but the spin jump move makes a return, allowing Mario to plow through blocks beneath his feet and access hidden areas. Additionally he has two power-up suits. The fireball suit makes a return, although because of the limited colors the Game Boy could display is represented by an Indian-styled feather rising from Mario's cap. While I was disappointed by the fireball suit replacing the superball suit from Super Mario Land, the developers made up for this by including a new set of blocks which can only be destroyed by fireballs. This means more exploration and more reasons to go back to previous levels.

This game also introduces the rabbit suit, which functions a lot like the raccoon suit from Super Mario Bros. 3. Instead of actual flight, however, the rabbit suit allows you a more controlled descent by tapping the jump button. I'm not quite sure on this, but it also seemed like the suit allowed Mario to jump higher, which helped him reach a few otherwise difficult areas. Unfortunately the rabbit suit has one major drawback: you can't spin jump while wearing it. I'm not quite sure why they decided to do that, but it was a major pain in the ass on more than one occasion.

The enemies were all something special, and I found myself facing foes of all sorts from gigantic ants and stag beetles to Jason Voorhees-inspired Goombas. I noticed at least one enemy, a bee, which I recognized as having later appeared in the Wario Land series. That was kind of cool, because I always like to see where things originated and I hadn't really noticed the connections before. I mean, I knew Wario Land was actually Super Mario Land 3 and that the entire Wario franchise spun-off from these two games, but I had always thought the Wario games were a little more different. It just always seemed like there wasn't much overlap with the worlds Wario explored and the worlds Mario travelled, so it was cool for me to see that the connections were a little tighter than I'd had thought.

Game overs are handled a little differently in this game than in most. This is probably a result of the introduction of a save feature. See, save features have kind of made game overs a redundant concept. They've been reduced to an aggravating three seconds of black screen before you boot back in almost exactly where you were before. In the old days it used to be that if you got a game over, that was it. You're back at the start of the game, buddy. This game is over. This is okay when games only take an hour or two to crash through, but as games started requiring more time and effort... well, can you imagine playing Tales of Symphonia for forty hours only to be launched back to the beginning of disc one because you couldn't beat down a boss? Painful, isn't it?

Super Mario Land 2 overcame the issue of saves making it too-easy and the classic concept of a game over making it too difficult by still making a game over a severe punishment. You see, when Mario loses all of his lives he loses any of the golden coins he's collected as well. While there isn't usually a way to challenge boss enemies once they've been defeated, you'll have to do just that after a game over to reclaim your precious coins. And trust me, fighting Tatanga again any time soon is not on my to-do list.

Unfortunately, not everything about this game was good. I can't remember a single song from the soundtrack for the life of me. Unlike Super Mario Land which has a pretty memorable score, Super Mario Land 2 suffers from a few fitting yet bland tracks. It was also a victim of the same physics bugs which plagued the original game, such as the sudden and unpredictable loss of momentum mid-jump and slippery controls leading to less than precise landings. These bugs, while annoying, aren't a huge issue for the majority of the game. In the last stage, however, they're going to lead to your death far more frequently than they ever should.

The last stage of the game, the Wario-occupied Mario's Castle, is an absurdly difficult stage which would have been much better were it not for the physics bugs. Compared to the rest of the game, and even to the final confrontation with Wario, this stage is Hard Mode on crack. However, it is pretty clever with a lot of its traps, and with patience and good timing a player can navigate the narrow halls without too much hassle. It's also pretty cool to see the final castle furnished with Mario-themed decor, proving that the plumber is just as narcissistic as those he regularly battles.

The final confrontation with Wario is a really cool battle. It would have been a lot more fun without having to worry about doing the entire castle over if I had lost, but it was still a really awesome battle. Mario must face off against his callous cousin in a three-phase match. During each phase Wario obtains a new power-up, truly filling the role of the evil doppleganger. In the first round Wario is armed only with a Super Mushroom, which has made him tremendous in size. After this he upgrades to the rabbit suit, and finally a duel of flaming fingers as he grabs hold of a fire flower. Despite being utterly predictable, this is one of the cooler match-ups in Mario history, and not experiencing it is a disservice.

I was at first going to give this game a lower score, because I wasn't too impressed with it during the playthrough. I was never bored, which is a good thing, and the game isn't bad. It just didn't wow me as much as I had expected, especially with two decades of hype behind it. But now that it's all over I can feel myself itching to pick it up again. Hell, I've had to stop writing this very review several times just to satisfy my desire to blast through a level or two. Just to feel what it's like to stomp a boss again, or just land squarely on a platform. With these feeling so overpowering, I can't give this game a lower score. It doesn't deserve it.

Super Mario Land 2 comes highly recommended with a final score of eight out of ten.

Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.
Playing Super Mario Land got me thinking about something which has bugged me for quite some time, and I think I've finally found an answer (though it's one I've suspected for quite a while.) Before I really get into this, though, I have to give a warning that this is just the thoughts of a nerd who over-analyzes things which the creators have not typically bothered to care about. But I just like to put myself in these fictional places and imagine how that particular world works. I dunno. If that makes me a loser, then so be it.

Back to the topic at hand. Super Mario Land takes place in a country known as Sarasaland, which is ruled over by the flamboyant Princess Daisy. Sarasaland (sometimes called Sarasa Land, but I don't like that as much) is divided into four kingdoms: the Birabuto Kingdom, the Muda Kingdom, the Easton Kingdom, and the Chai Kingdom. Each kingdom has its king (Totomesu, Dragonzamasu, Hiyoihoi, and Biokinton respectively.) However, each of these kingdoms, presumable, answer to the higher government headed by Princess Daisy. This effectively makes Sarasaland an empire. Okay, well it's never referred to as anything but "Sarasaland", so this isn't that confusing.

However, Super Mario Bros. 3 also divides into kingdoms. These kingdoms, whose rulers have gone nameless, are Grass Land, Desert Land, Water Land, Giant Land, Sky Land, Ice Land, Pipe Land, and Dark Land. Popular theories are that these areas are kingdoms beside the Mushroom Kingdom, or simply fake areas created for the fictional play which is Super Mario Bros. 3 (a theory I don't subscribe to.) However, given the government of Sarasaland, I think it likely that *at least seven* of these kingdoms are truly under the dominion of the larger Mushroom "Kingdom", which could be an improperly named Mushroom Empire.

This is further interesting to me because, other than Bowser, none of these kings have been seen in subsequent games. Could it be that after the events of Super Mario Bros. 3 the idea of an empire ruling over multiple kingdoms was abolished in favor of a more unified and defensible government? And why would they refer to the collective empire as the Mushroom Kingdom? Are there untold wars in which the Mushroom Kingdom dominated the poorer nations?

Only fan fiction can tell.

*Dark Land is the possible exception. Although if Dark Land were actually part of the larger Mushroom Empire, this could explain why King Bowser Koopa, despite regularly antagonizing the ruling family, would still be able to attend a number of sporting events and tournaments, and freely walk the streets. I think it possible that, given the other residences of the Mushroom Kingdom being Goombas and Koopas, Dark Land is a rebel state attempting to break free of the clutches of the Mushroom Empire.

Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.
I'm sorry, more to myself than to my readers, that I go through these ridiculous phases. It's the most tiring on-again/off-again relationship I've ever had! My fickle mind. I can have a wonderful creative stretch going, but just a small interruption and it's right back to the intellectual and creative gutter for two or three months. That's not any way to live, and it's not any way to reach my dreams. I know that. But once you're in that gutter it's so damn hard to climb out. I never in my life thought that motivation to do something you enjoy doing would be one of the most difficult things to attain.

It can be really hard to believe that creativity is a snowball, especially when you're down in the gutter. And I know I'm not the only one who's been there, and I know I'm not the only one climbing out. So if you're stuck in this day-to-day slog where everything in your life is gray and all you want to do is lay around wishing you were better, you need to listen up. I know how hard it is when you're in that gutter, because I've been in it since January. When you're down there it's so easy to just give up. You might even convince yourself that you hate the dream you dared to dream. It's so easy to tell yourself that you hate painting, that you hate photography, that you hate poetry, that you hate writing. So, so easy to tell yourself, and so, so easy to believe it.

But don't you dare actually take that negative nonsense to heart. It's a lie, and deep down inside you know it is. It's a very convincing lie told by a very convincing liar. But it's still a lie.

You'll realize that when you finally pull yourself off the grimy gutter-bottom and try to do something again. Now don't try to climb too high all at once, or you'll tire out and slide back down. But if you take little steps, like by reviewing a video game and allowing that to breed more posts and more ideas (and this is all just a personal example, by the way. Don't take the idea of reviewing a game as literally the only way to get creative again.) you will find that your brain starts working again. You'll find that you truly enjoy creating again. You'll take hold of that spark, and if you run with it day after day it will bloom again.

Don't let yourself get lazy. That spark will snuff right back out. Don't let them tell you that you can't. They want to snuff it out for you. You just keep on keepin' on. You'll be a lot happier for it.

Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.
I'm sure you've noticed that I've ported DeviantArt Journals into my Post Archive along with the other retired or repurposed blogs 2-Bit and Gallery Lost. I doubt you've also noticed that I've continued creating new journal entries to DeviantArt. What the hell am I doing, then? Well, the simple fact is that I'm now using DeviantArt as a second place to post the same blogs that I write for here. The posts in the DA Journal portion of the Post Archive are posts which were written exclusively for the DA Journal several years ago, so those are the ones being included in that archive. Any newer posts that appear in my DA Journal are simply reposts from here.

I hope that answers any questions you didn't actually ask.

Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.

Super Mario Land is a bizarre little beastie which has followed me through my childhood. It's a different kind of Mario game, but it's different in a very good way. There's something weird about it that makes it addictive. It almost feels random, but in a way that keeps luring you back. Actually, thinking about it now, this game is probably the biggest influence on the modern Wario series. I know the Wario games evolved straight out of Super Mario Land, but I think this game has had a particular influence over the direction of the story and environments of the Wario Land games. In fact, the bizarre nature of this title (and I can only assume its sequel) is probably why Mario was pulled from the spotlight.</i>

This is one short game. As a kid it took me hours of trial and game over to reach just the third world of the game, the Easton Kingdom, where I would inevitably lose every last one of my lives. As a kid, I must have sucked at games. I picked this up today and, after a couple runs easing into the physics and the controls of the GameBoy Advance SP (which I haven't ever used for any length of time before), I destroyed this game. Not, not literally. It's still in beautiful condition. I did, however, blow Tatanga's purple butt out of the heavens in about an hour.

The first thing to mention, really, is that this game is simple. Of course it is, it was a very early title for the Game Boy, a device with even less horsepower than an NES. However, the simplicity of the game does not detract one bit from the quality of it. Think of Super Mario Land like a really good short story in video game form. It's not as detailed as a novel, but that's okay, because it isn't meant to be and it uses the simplicity of its form to its advantage. This game is bare bones Mario to the basics, and even barer. You jump, you run, you shoot superballs. That's about it.

Unfortunately the game doesn't handle physics as well as its predecessors, which is a bit of a bummer because physics was what Mario was known for. That was its whole thing. The Mario franchise was built on physics. Momentum and gravity and traction. Super Mario Land doesn't play like a Mario title in this regard. It's slippery, it's weird, gravity will sometimes increase at random, and you occasionally lose all of your momentum while jumping. This will lead to a few deaths. Sorry to say.

Fortunately the game is pretty forgiving. There are numerous checkpoints throughout stages and spawning at one will remove all enemies from that portion of the level, so you aren't instantly being massacred upon revival.

A little less forgiving is the item placement. Power-ups are sparse, and you can go almost an entire world without ever finding two of them. Not that they aren't there, but that they're on an inaccessible area because of the multi-tiered nature of some stages. These stages are cool because they give you a reason to replay the game and explore a slightly different path. Unfortunately, you really have to know they're coming or you're probably going to miss them. Don't kick yourself though, because you'll probably pop the game back in sooner than later.

On the topic of power-ups there are three: the Super Mushroom, Super Flower, and Starman. The Starman, a classic, will make you temporarily invincible to any and all attack. They're a very good thing to find in this game, because the enemies are far more daunting than in pretty much any other Mario sidescroller. The Super Mushroom will, of course, make you larger upon consumption. The only new power-up is the Super Flower, which is similar to the Fire Flower. Instead of fireballs, however, Mario gains the ability to toss the superball. Superballs are basically bouncy balls. They ricochet off any solid surface, and can be a lot of fun. With good practice you can become a superball sharp shooter and learn how to deflect the ball into enemies who would otherwise be out of reach. To be honest, I'd really like to see this power-up reappear in a future Mario title.

The enemies are cool and generally stylized for each of the for worlds (each world is its own kingdom with its own unique environment, all of which are awesome.) Despite being aesthetically different, the enemies follow the same basic patterns. You've got Goombos and Bombshell Koopas in each world, which are your basic antagonists, and an additional hopping enemy which is stylized for each world and requires two hits to take down. There are also a few unique enemies per world, all of which have pretty simple attack patterns which are easy to grasp.

The most annoying enemy that I encountered was the Bombshell Koopa. Unlike the Koopa Troopas of games past, this Koopa's shell is a bomb. After crushing the turtle to death that bomb will explode. If Mario isn't out of there fast enough, his overalls will be overdones. But that's not the annoying part. The annoying part is that if you don't land directly on the Bombshell Koopa's head, but if you hit his shell by mistake, you take the damage. This freaking sucks. And it will get you more than once. And you will swear. It's okay.

There are four worlds in the game. The first two are designed around a particular element while the second two are based on cultures. The first world is your average introduction world, although the last level is a sweet Egyptian themed pyramid with an amazing musical score. The second world is the water world. Hold on, hold on, I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong—this water world actually doesn't suck. I think it's my favorite world, to be perfectly honest. The above-water stages will remind Mario-savvy gamers of portions in Super Mario Bros. 2 where you had to leap on narrow hills and avoid Trouters. Classic.

The third world is inspired by Easter Island, with multiple stone heads on the backdrop and similarly shaped native enemies. The fourth world is based around China, although it throws a little bit of everything at you, being the final area. Difficulty is on pretty easy up until about the eighth level where it kicks it up a notch. By the fourth world things get hairy, and you're going to start dying a lot. These worlds are each their own kingdom, all components in the larger Sarasaland, which speaks interestingly to the governance in the Mario world. Maybe I'll talk about that tomorrow. These kingdsom are the Birabuto Kingdom, Muda Kingdom, Easton Kingdom, and Chai Kingdom respectively.

Each kingdom is ruled by, of course, a king, who has been hypnotized by Tatanga and must be knocked to their senses. The boss battles are all really cool, and each boss is unique, although they speak fondly of the boss battles from Super Mario Bros. with an "Instant Win" switch located behind the king. After these battles Mario will find himself before a false Daisy, and reluctantly set off to find his princess in another castle.

There are two levels in the game which are different from your typical platforming experience. These levels are set up as scrolling shooters, something which many people find downright irritating as the end-game stage. Unlike most games, however, which just toss you into a schmup as the final boss battle or what have you, there is a balance. Every sixth level is a schmup. This means that, unlike the majority of games which do this, you aren't just being tossed into a different style of play at the very end of the game. You have the half-way point stage, the end of the Muda Kingdom, which introduces this gameplay to you. These levels really shouldn't be too much of an issue for anybody, and it helps that they're a lot of fun.

In general, this game wins by all accounts. Another phenomenal soundtrack from the Nintendo pen, aesthetics which are eerily pleasing, and gameplay which is generally solid although there are a few kinks. It is short, and that could be an issue for some people, but it's not for me. I'm gonna go ahead and rate this one an eight. It comes highly recommended. Keep in mind, though, that I haven't had the opportunity to play the version of this game available on the 3DS Virtual Console. I hear there are some differences. This review was specifically for the GameBoy release. Maybe someday if I have some extra change lying around I'll grab the Virtual Console version and let you guy knows how I feel about that one, but I'm growing a bit leery of Nintendo's online distribution. Modern Nintendo in general, to be honest with all of you.

I digress. Super Mario Land is a fantastic game, and if you can get your hands on it, do so.


Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.
I'm sure you've all noticed that I've been on a bit of a Diddy Kong Racing kick this week, and I'm sure you're all sick of it. Well too bad, Cynthia (oh, I've also been obsessively watching Scrubs), because I've got at least one more DKR post in me before I move on to yammering about Super Mario Bros., as I've taken up Super Mario Land as the next title in my Everything I Own Challenge. Got to Easton Kingdom today before that blasted game over... anyways!

Yesterday/Last Night/This Morning I posted my review of Diddy Kong Racing and started rambling a bit when I got to the characters. Looks like I'm still motivated, because this is the post I said was going to happen! This is the post about who the hell actually owns the characters from Diddy Kong Racing. And maybe a few other games as well.

It's a hard knock life, for us.

It would seem pretty obvious: except for Diddy Kong, these guys are all owned by RareWare. That simple, that cut-and-dry, right? I mean, we haven't seen a single one of these characters outside of Diddy Kong Racing except for Banjo and Conker, and they are both clearly owned by RareWare. They even got their own games on X-Box when Microsoft purchased the development studio in 2002. So the rest of these characters should have been taken over, too. Right?

That's some really sound logic. Diddy and the other Kongs were clearly purchased by Nintendo before they sold off Rare, and it's likely that they also acquired the rights to Krunch considering he's a Kremling. But as for Bumper, Pipsy, Timber, and Tiptup? They're all obviously Rare characters at this point. That's why Tiptup was in Banjo-Kazooie.

You. You are at the heart of so much drama. Just... Just... Just go away.

If Tiptup was owned by Nintendo, they would have changed him in the XBLA ports of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, right? Just like how in Diddy Kong Racing DS Banjo and Conker were replaced by Tiny and Dixie. Except... Tiptup was in that game, too. Wasn't he? If he was owned by Rare, shouldn't he have been replaced by a Nintendo-owned character? Hell, they could have replaced him with the real Tiny Kong, and never redesign Tiny at all. Donkey Kong could have replaced Banjo as the heavy guy, and the game would have been three Kongs stronger and there wouldn't be any Tiny the Sex Appealing Gypsy.

Diddy Kong Racing DS actually confuses everything a whole lot more. For starters, they did decide to include Tiptup despite removing the Rare flagship mascots. Now, okay. Maybe this could be overlooked because Tiptup is really such a minor character in the Banjo-Kazooie games. That's plausible. But if Rare could freely use him willynilly, why hasn't he shown up in any of the other Banjo sequels when almost every other minor character has been reused?

Oh, maybe because Tiptup is a Nintendo character.

Another interesting thing about Diddy Kong Racing DS: Timber the Tiger no longer wears the Rare insignia on his cap. It's been replaced by the Nintendo DS logo. Interesting, isn't it?

And getting back to Banjo-Kazooie for a minute, Tiptup isn't the only character from a Kong-related game to show up. Gnawty, one of the basic enemies from almost every Donkey Kong game, and a well-known boss character, actually appears in the stage Click Clock Wood, where Banjo has to help him get back to his house under the frozen ice or something (my memory's a little foggy on that one.) This Gnawty is obviously the same Gnawty from the Donkey Kong games, right down to being purple. Gnawty is a character which was obviously bough by Nintendo during the Rare trade.

Gnawty wasn't removed from the XBLA version of the game. This would make him the only Nintendo-owned character to show up on the console. And also a source of extreme confusion, much like Tiptup. And it brings the Tiptup scenario into question. If Gnawty, a Nintendo-owned character, can appear in the XBLA ports, why would they take out Tiptup? Could Tiptup be Nintendo-owned as well? Why has Rare not reused any of these characters in newer games? This company is like the King of Cameos. Surely the only reason is that they can't.

So after all this, who owns the Diddy Kong Racing characters?

Well, to be honest...

I don't even think Nintendo or RareWare could answer that one.

Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.

Diddy Kong Racing has been kind of a cult classic ever since its release in 1997. There were few kids growing up, that I knew of, who had it. Really only my best friend and myself. Which is a real shame, because this was one of the better titles for the Nintendo 64. A lot of critics and ignorant individuals who only gave it a passing glance simply scoffed at what they thought was a "Mario Kart clone." They were wrong. Diddy Kong Racing is Mario Kart 64's superior in almost every way. In fact, I'd say the only Mario Kart title which can hold a candle to this title is Mario Kart DS, which is an example of what every kart racer should be.

Diddy Kong Racing is kind of a bizarre game for a few reasons. The first of which is its protagonist, Diddy Kong. Diddy is kind of Donkey Kong's Luigi. Now this is actually his second starring role, as he was the primary protagonist of Donkey Kong Country 2 as well, however, that game was part of a trilogy and featured Donkey Kong as its title character (despite his being only playable in one game.) Diddy Kong was a popular character at the time, and kind of represents the nineties for Nintendo characters. He's almost a perfect embodiment of the decade: a hiphopping youngster who saves the day and crashes the party of them fickle old folks. Still, Diddy Kong was a sidekick, and not just any sidekick, but the sidekick of a side character. It's actually really surprising that this game wasn't Donkey Kong Racing, but I suppose it's just as well seeing how that turned out.

The other oddity is that, besides Diddy Kong himself, there are no returning characters to be found amongst the ten-character cast. They did add Krunch who is a Kremling (the enemy species at war with the Kongs in the Donkey Kong Country games. Krunch is modelled after the basic enemy grunts from that series), but he's a very different looking Kremling in a lot of ways. I think this is primarily because it was the first time a Kremling had been rendered for a 3D environment, but it was also the first time we got to see a Kremling who was a child. Up until then, all of the enemies had been adults. Krunch blends in with the rest of the DKR cast so well, in fact, that it was several years before it finally clicked on what he was supposed to be and why he was there, and I still sometimes have trouble remembering that he's just a grunt in King K. Rool's army.

Three of the other characters—Banjo the Bear, Conker the Squirrel, and Timber the Tiger (who acts as the secondary protagonist for this game)—were added as promotional characters so that when their own titles were released a couple years later gamers would be able to recognize them. This worked with Banjo, who went on to star in the Banjo-Kazooie franchise, and to an extent with Conker—the protagonist of Conker's Bad Fur Day and its remake. Timber's game, unfortunately, never came to fruition. One can only wonder what it would have been like.

Additionally Pipsy, Tiptup, and Bumper round off the starting cast (there are two unlockable characters, but I won't ruin that for players who haven't yet had a chance to grab this game.) Tiptup was later seen in the Banjo-Kazooie games, and I recently talked about how much confusion this caused for us nineties-childs. Pipsy and Bumper have never been seen again, outside of Diddy Kong Racing's DS remake. It's kind of unfortunate that all of these characters, who were full of so much perk and charm that they easily rank amongst the most memorable characters on any gamer's list, have fallen into a weird IP funk. Nobody is really sure who owns the rights to them since Rare was sold to Microsoft sometime in the early 2000's. This is all perfect fodder for another post, so I think I'll hold off on that until tomorrow (if I can keep motivated about it.)

The most mysterious mammals in video games.

Of course what good are a bunch of NASKONG wannabes without a pit crew? Aiding our lovable little pals is Taj the Genie, an elephant guardian who resides on Timber's Island, and strange sentient clock who goes by the name of "T.T." They assist the characters in different ways. Taj can transform the boring and average go-kart into a miniature plane or a hovercraft, allowing the racers to take to land, sky, and sea. T.T., whose name either means "Tick-Tock" or "Time Trial", can activate the Time Trial mode. He also keeps track of the player's progress and will, at any time, display for them the amount of trophies, amulets, and balloons they have collected. To beat the game, you're going to need all of them.

So what has brought this ragtag group of racers and ride-alongs togeher? None other than an evil, intergalactic space wizard known as Wizpig. His terror knows no bounds, and despite having the most absurd motivation in a Nintendo title (he wants to be the best racer in the universe, and he kills those whom lose to him), he's actually a really dark and sinister character who will definitely stick with you after the game is done. And, pulling his massive weight for him are four large and powerful island inhabitants who have been placed under his spell. Diddy Kong's objective? Release the spell on the four island guardians and defeat Wizpig in a one-on-one race-to-the-finish.

Yeah, it isn't the tightest or most logical story on the planet. But it's light and fun enough to keep you engaged, and it's probably one of the better storylines to accompany a racing game—a genre known for having absolutely no story at all. Although I will admit that, in my opinion, Nicktoons Racing for the GameBoy Advance had the best and most plausible storyline I've seen in a racing game so far. Maybe I'll review that for you someday.

While the story might seem lacking when summarized like that, the game really brings it to the fore by replacing the average "Grand Prix" type mode with an "Adventure" mode, which comes complete with an overworld that allows the player to drive from one race to another, all while staring down Wizpig's ghastly decor at every turn.

I actually really miss the extreme egotistical villains of yesteryear.

The game is a visual treat, even in the modern era. This might just be because I really appreciate the way older games look, what with the jagged polygons and such, but I think this game is simply awesome to play. It's bright, it's colorful, and it has an aesthetic which has become quite rare in modern times. I have to admit, though, that it hasn't really aged well. This is due in large part to the modern television screen, which simply displays at a higher resolution than the Nintendo 64 was designed to handle. Which is a real shame. If some of these polygons could be smoothed out, I think the game could probably hold up pretty well. Even with its limited textures and use of sprite-objects.

However, the graphics aren't entirely without their natural flaws. On occasion you'll notice some bits and pieces that have failed to load properly, or even at all, which can cause invisible objects or pieces of Diddy's hat to disappear mid-race. This became a real problem for me during the Silver Coin Challenges where your goal is to collect eight silver coins and finish in first. Well, sometimes those coins just would not show up. On more than five occasions did coins fail to load, only to show up during my second run. At least twice I parked where I knew the coin should have been and waited, watching as it eventually came into existence before my eyes. This is a game-crippling error, and I can't overlook it no matter how much I want to.

Actually, there are a few game-crippling errors. Don't get me wrong, this is still an amazing game. Any beginning or casual player won't ever have an issue with the way it runs, besides the lack of Silver Coin loadage. However, those who want to play on a higher level (and you're going to have to be one of them if you ever want to beat this game) will quickly grow weary of some of the intensely disturbing errors in programming. For starters, the physics are just totally wonked up. There really aren't any physics. There have been times where my character hit a bump in the road and spent the next five minutes literally driving down into the earth. They also have a habit of attempting to climb walls or simply bouncing because the road happens to be constructed of multiple objects. These are huge issues.

Kind of following in line with that, the characters don't control well at all at high speeds. Now I know that, to some extent, this is an attempt at creating realistic car physics. Of course you will lose traction at higher speeds. But that doesn't excuse the times when a character seems to be possessed with the desire to lose the race and turn in the complete opposite direction of where you want to go. There are times where you'll be cruising along and come across a zipper. Well it doesn't matter whether you push the joystick left or whether you jam the damn thing right, because the character's going to go wherever the fuck he feels like going. Usually this happens to be up a wall or into the river. This is never going to be onto the zipper or into the coin. Never. Never. Never.

The last issue with characters are the taller ones. They tend to get stuck on everything. This makes them less desirable to play as, because there are a lot of narrow tunnels where their going to crash their head on the ceiling and hang like a chandelier. And when they do manage to drop, they're probably going to be doing a wheelie for the rest of the race. This is extremely annoying.

Know what's even more annoying? Inaccurate hitboxes and objects which don't fill their whole square. You are going to get hung up on invisible corners so often that you will, at some point, want to toss the controller down on the ground and give up. These corners will reach out and ensnare you, ripping out all of your momentum. Oh, and then you'll crash into another one when you think you've gotten away. Enjoy watching every single other racer drive by you.

As cute as this game is, it gets brutal. One little slip-up and you're going to lose. No ifs, ands, or buts. You will lose if you crash into a wall or miss that zipper. You will not ever catch up to the other racers. Most of the time your loss won't even be your fault, it'll be the fault of the inaccurate hit detection, and this gets very frustrating. I also noticed some intense slingshotting in the later stages of the game, where CPU racers will catch up out of nowhere and continue cruising at impossible speeds right a whole lap past you. It's worse than playing a hacker over XBLA in Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing. You're not going to win. This is going to be a deal breaker for a lot of people. But grit your teeth and hang in there, because putting up with these faults is worth it.

Because despite all of the flaws, and maybe partially because of them, this game is a beautiful work of art that I encourage you at least attempt to master. A lot of people have called the game tedious and it does follow Rare's design philosophy of "collect and reuse everything." And that isn't really a lie. Playing the game straight through, cover-to-cover so to speak, is pretty exhausting. To really complete the game, 100%, you're going to be on every race track at least seven times. That's 140 times you'll see the same twenty tracks. This gets old.

A lot of people don't like having to collect things in video games. I noticed several reviewers from the time complain about the "forced replaying" during the Silver Coin Challenges, but I really didn't feel like that at all. In my opinion, the Silver Coin Challenges added a legitimate new dimension to a level you had assumed you already mastered. It took a simple level, something you'd already completed, and dialed up the difficulty. This is fun, and so, so satisfying to defeat.

Additionally, there are four mini-games and six bosses to defeat. Two of the mini-games take a note from Mario Kart's Battle Mode, requiring you to blow your opponents away before they do the same to you, while the other two games are completely unique to Diddy Kong Racing and take advantage of its environments and gameplay. These are really fun, but unfortunately they're so limited in number (again, like Mario Kart's Battle Mode) that you're going to get bored of them pretty quick.

The boss races are a lot of fun, and you can replay them after you've already removed the spell from the boss character. Two of these are unusual races which require you to go from point A to point B as opposed to completing a series of laps, and these are going to be the boss races that stand out the most. Younger or more inexperienced players will often complain that the bosses are unfair and too difficulty, and I admit that this was my memory of them. However, upon playing through the game recently, I learned this simply wasn't true. All of the boss racers (minus Wizpig) are actually slower than the top speed of the slowest racer available. I know this because I took the liberty of cycling through every playable character, just to get a feel for each one before I gave my verdict on the game. If the boss catches up to you at any time beyond the first few seconds of the rest, it's because you screwed up. Which isn't too difficult, because the stages have enough traps and hazards where you can almost consider the tracks themselves to be the real bosses.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I played each and every character to get a feel for them. They all have quirks, but they can all be used efficiently with enough practice. Obviously some characters, like Banjo and Krunch, are meant to be used by more experienced players while Pipsy and Tiptup are meant for the beginners. If you lose because of the character that you're playing as, try somebody else. There's someone there for everybody. And, here's the cool part: once you learn what you're doing, once you learn how to properly brake-turn and drift, every character is a weapon in your hands. You can complete every single challenge the game throws at you with any character you want. There is no lack of balance among the pre-designed challenges.

Player vs. Player, on the other hand, is a different story. Now I haven't actually played the multiplayer because I only have one working controller for my N64. However, I can remember from my youth, and I can tell you from having played the game again: there is no sense of balance with some of these characters. The two unlockable characters have some pretty poor handling, but it doesn't matter. Their speed will leave every other character in the dust. Now, maybe it's possible that in the hands of skilled players it doesn't matter who you play as, but I'm almost positive that the game lacks real balance. Fortunately, there's a cheat code that allows all four players to use the same character. So I guess that almost makes up for it.

The real selling point of Diddy Kong Racing was that it was a racing game which not only gave you cars, but gave you planes and hovercrafts. Each vehicle handles pretty differently, and each character uses each one differently. Some characters are really good with planes, while others... well... don't fly with Krunch. I have to say the planes are my favorite vehicle to use. They're just so free, with so many possibilities. You can even do barrel rolls. However, they're slower than the regular go-karts, so there's a difference there. And while the karts and planes can have really awesomely tight turning, the hovercrafts are slow and really aren't turning anywhere. But they're the only thing that can get it done over water. You have a lot of preference here, and there will be plenty of opportunities to acquaint yourself with each vehicle.

Sound and music is a big part of Diddy Kong Racing. Unlike the DS port, the characters are all voiced superbly. There's a little stereotyping with some of the accents, most notably Taj who speaks with a very stereotypical Indian accent, and there are some oddities with the characters (Smokey the Dragon is just amusing to listen to), but these are part of the charm of the game. I don't think anybody will be offended by Taj's portrayal, and he isn't cast in a negative light. He's actually the game's representation of goodness, replacing Wizpig's face as his own on areas which have been cleared.

Regular sound effects, such as crashing into trees, are as colorful and cartoonish as the visuals. Of course the silly "sproing-oing-oing" of hitting a palm tree quickly loses its charm and becomes the sound of a thousand restarts. As fun and jolly as it is, it's going to forever haunt my dreams...

The soundtrack is going to be hit or miss. A lot of people can't handle happy music, and I can't say that I really get that. They aren't going to be happy with this music. They're going to be even more displeased when they find themselves humming it later that evening, because almost every single musical track in this game will stick with you. It could be months later and you'll find Frosty Village playing between your ears. Personally, I set it to loop every Christmas. Drives everyone nuts.

But really, I love this soundtrack. It was composed by David Wise, who had previously contribute scores to the Donkey Kong Country trilogy and also hides a few dozen other big-name scores under his belt. Bit of a legend, really, and this game does him no injustice.

After all is said and done, I have to give this game a good score. Even with all of its glaring and obvious flaws, the game is good. It's hands-down a fun game, a memorable game, and a game every gamer and every parent with a gaming-inclined child needs to try. Don't let yourself pass this up. Even sixteen years later, this game will not let you down.

I give it a whopping nine out of ten on my brand new rockonmeter. Which will be represented here by asterisks because I haven't actually drawn the meter yet and can't do a thing without MSPaint, and I run a Ubuntu... soo... we'll wait on that.


Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.
If anyone at all has been paying attention to my Everything I Own Challenge, they'll know that I've started a new playthrough of the masterpiece known as Diddy Kong Racing. A game so good I had to have it twice. It's a game I'll be reviewing shortly (I only have three more worlds to complete in Adventure Two before I've 100% the game!), but we're not going to talk about how good the game is right now (maybe a little). Nope, today's post is going to be a bit of a throwback to my Mysteries of Modern Media posts... which were mostly about Diddy Kong Racing anyway.

FIRST some less-than-necessary history! It all started about fifteen years ago on a blistering cold winter day when my friend and I were cooped up in his game-and-cable-equipped basement. The N64 had just come out (I think) and I was a little slow to get on board with all that newfangled stuff, as I was pretty content with Mega Man X and King of Dragons on my Super Nintendo. That didn't stop me from digging through his library to play the ever-loving crap out of every game I couldn't yet have! And on this fine day I stumbled upon Diddy Kong Racing.

The game was a lot like Mario Kart 64, except twelve times better and with a far more memorable cast of characters (which is weird, since they're all Looney Tunes rejects.) Having not yet mastered game-fu, my friend hadn't unlocked anything, really, so all we had to pick from were the core eight members of the line-up: Krunch the Kremling, Diddy Kong, Bumper the Badger, Banjo the Bear, Conker the Squirrel, Tiptup the Turtle, Pipsy the Mouse, and Timber the Tiger. I had wanted to be Pipsy, but she was snatched up forevermore by my friend, so I settled for Tiptup, who had similar stats.

From that day forward, I was Tiptup. Whenever I was player two, I was Tiptup. Tiptup and I, we formed a bond. A tight one. He'd come to me at night and whisper sweet nothings through my window, offering turtle shell-shaped lollipops and "Magic Rocket Balloons." They were magical times. We really understood each other. He trusted me, and I trusted him.

I'll never forget that April First...

Not terribly too long after all that, I got myself an N64 and a copy of DKR, and swiftly brought the game to its knees. That was when a little-known classic called "Banjo-Kazooie" came out. It was something magical. I knew Banjo! He was that hick bear nobody ever played as. And now he had his own game. Oh boy, oh boy!

Of course I got the game. Of course, I fell in love with the game. And of course, it revealed that Tiptup wasn't who I thought he was. The Tiptup I knew was a small and frightful little guy who barely came to Banjo's knees. But when he showed up leading a choir of tiny turtles in Bubblegloop Swamp, he towered over the honey bear. Dwarfed him, even. There was no way this was the same turtle. No way this was Tiptup. It couldn't be, it just couldn't!

My life unravelled. Everything I knew was a lie. The late nights we'd spent together, the weekends lounging on the sunny beach, it meant nothing! To Tiptup I was just another kid with a joystick in my hands. It was foolish to think I was anything else. And matters only got worse when Banjo-Tooie rolled around and revealed that Tiptup was not only a user, but that he was already the father of nineteen tiny squirtles. Oh, the humanity! The betrayal!

But then something happened. Something that made my faith return! Something that brought the fond memories into a new light! Tiptup had a son, before Kazooie's very eyes. It was a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing named Tiptup Jr. A beautiful thing named Tiptup Jr. who just so happens to be the right size to climb into a go-kart, battle an intergalactic space pig, and be called a "kid" when facing older challengers.

That's right, you all know what I'm telling you. The Tiptup from Diddy Kong Racing is actually Tiptup Jr. Now, some of you weird people are going to go: "But why would they say 'Tiptup' instead of 'Tiptup Jr.'? Even the character refers to himself as 'Tiptup.'"

Think about that for one second. If your friend was named Mike Jr. would you call him Mike Jr. everytime you wanted to say something to him? Did he introduce himself as Mike Jr. and does he say he is Mike Jr. to his friends? No, he's Mike. So to his peers, Tiptup Jr. is simply Tiptup.

Saving the world, one race track at a time...

Nathan DiYorio is a floundering self-published author who fails to make a living by operating a blog of many opinions where he can often be found rambling about Hammer Bros., Marvel comics, and other such uninteresting things. He also sometimes transcribes public domain articles and stories for the masses to read over at this pathetic excuse for an archive.
I am murdering myself with projects and I can't stop. It's like I'm addicted to starting things. I just recently started working on a light novel series under the title "Prism." It's a series I've been planning for several years, and it's actually suffered from two false starts in the past. Unfortunately, production on "Lost Legends" and "Immortal" have grinded to an unappreciated halt, due in large part to me getting too sick to write last week and losing my momentum. A cautionary note to any aspiring writers: never, ever lose your momentum. October's here, so hopefully I'll be able to get "the Diary of Zach Neuman" back off the ground, especially since I've been reading it a lot in Write Club and am quickly running out of entries.

I've also been actively thinking about two graphic novel scripts, both of which have a small amount of work started on them. So that brings me up to six projects. There's also a number of short stories I intend to finish, as well as two smaller projects that I had planned before I got sick. I don't know how I'll manage to keep up with it all, while keeping it at least a tolerable quality, but hopefully I'll manage. I'm determined to have at least two finished projects at the editting stage by the end of the school year. We'll see if I can even manage to get that far.
  • Listening to: The party in the library :D
  • Reading: Just finished &quot;Zebrafish&quot;
  • Watching: Code Lyoko
  • Playing: Perfect Dark
I HAZ BURGERRRRSSS! Just thought ya'll should know.
  • Listening to: the washing machine drum along...
  • Watching: Code Lyoko
  • Playing: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Scott Pilgrim
  • Eating: Two cheeseburgers :D
You know, there's an odd satisfaction to bleeding. It's like all of my worries disappear in little, red drops.

I'm getting so far behind in all of my work, so very far behind. I need to get to Never Forget ASAP, I am determined to finish that before Summer's end. I must also return to my pained project, as well as my editting and school responsibilities. Unfortunately life just keeps throwing curve balls, and I was never good at hitting those. Ugh, I'm tired, oh so tired. Sometimes I just want to close my eyes and not wake up.
  • Listening to: Port of Adia DrumMix - JV (OverClocked Remix)
I'm done.. with everything. Feeling this way. I'm done. I don't need it. I don't need "love." I don't. We're done. Expect some writing soon. I need to work shit out, and I'm sick of hating myself.

Everything up there is pretty much all a lie, just so you know. I'm just going through the upset rebel phase.
  • Listening to: Last legal drug (la Petite mort) by Korn
Fate still hates me.

We're forgetting about the return of motivation, I won't be writing for a while.
...Yeah, she's like, everywhere I look. She was even on the bus. She's never on the bus. What the fuck Fate? What the fuck?

In other news, I think I'm strong enough to start writing again (though Fate wants that to stop, fuck you Fate.) So I'm going to continue work on Never Forget hopefull in the next week. I've also started a more contemporary piece centered around a disturbed teenager... and I'll get back to work on my various short stories soon. I hope.
I can't handle this for much longer, everytime I think I'm okay something happens to remind me of her, of our times. Everybody keeps telling me to "think of the happy times," but everytime I do that I'm just reminded of what I'll never have again. This, it just blows. I wasn't ready for this, for... anything this... painful I guess. My emotions were never hard, merely protected, and now they'll never be able to recover.

Can I die now please? Even my cat is rejecting me, he keeps biting me.