Star Fox Adventures

Star Fox Adventures is, therefore, irregular. On many fronts, it is a game that boasts visible qualities and a perceivable level of polish; nevertheless, when placed under a scrutinizing light, almost none of them remain unscathed. As such, while in many ways one is able to see that the always gifted hand of Rare was behind the construction of the title, it is not hard to realize the project was not among the smoothest and carefully carried out efforts the company put together during their partnership with Nintendo. Due to that, the last note coming out of that association is somewhat out of tune, signaling that the closing of an era was indeed fast approaching. In the end, Star Fox Adventures fails to fully convince fans and outsiders alike not because it presents Fox and his crew out of their natural habitat, but because it amounts to little more than a good adventure game that stumbles a lot and never truly establishes its own character.

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Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble

That wish to be bigger and to stand out is certainly the hidden theme of Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble. It is easy to understand why, back in 1996, the game was seen as a drop following two titles that left big marks in the minds of gamers all around the world. Hindsight, however, reveals an adventure that although not as excellent as that of Donkey Kong Country 2, for it boasts a lesser – yet excellent – soundtrack and fails to reach the same level-design excellence, shines pretty brightly in the hall of the best platformers of its generation. By understanding that its prequel did not leave much room for improvement, it spends a big amount of its running time trying to find ways to excel, and it comes out of it with an impressive overworld, a fantastic challenge, and a stunning collection of inventive stages that use all tools the franchise had established in magnificent and original ways. As a result, even if the timing of its release may have harmed it, the years that have passed ever since have allowed Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble to emerge as a giant of the platforming genre.

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Donkey Kong Country

That does not, obviously, mean Donkey Kong Country is a bad game. It is, actually, a major finding; a discovery of a universe of gameplay possibilities that, before it, simply did not exist. It transformed Donkey Kong from a usually mindless villain into a hero of his own vast and rich world, and it constructed an adventure that ranks among the Super Nintendo’s best platformers. The fact it comes out rather bruised from a comparison to all its sequels speaks more about their stunning quality than about Donkey Kong Country itself. Its gameplay has been improved; its visuals have been taken to higher heights; and its soundtrack, of very unique instrumentation and tone, has inspired much better ones. However, its birth paved the way to a historic franchise that is an integral part of the gaming vocabulary, and the resulting adventure is – by all means – still a fantastic and enjoyable gameplay experience, even if other Donkey Kong Country games end up amounting to packages that are more complete, well-balanced, and creative. It is, after all, only natural, because they have all had a pretty spectacular base upon which to build; and it was here that those original pillars were put in place.

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Yooka-Laylee

The just act of rebellion executed by Yooka-Laylee is, then, partially successful. When its cylinders are clicking in place, it shows the world of gaming that collectathons still have their place in a contemporary scenario and it loudly states the talent that made Rare’s historic run of excellence possible is now sitting outside its walls, far from the conniving environment of a company that has to bend to the will of its owner; and it does so by surfing on a wave of blatant influences coming straight from the Banjo-Kazooie saga. When it falls, though, it shows a smoother development cycle and the backing of a publisher or studio with deeper pockets and that could afford to delay the product in search for more polish would have done wonders to the game. As a whole, then, it is a title that must be played by those craving for a true successor to Banjo-Kazooie and that should be approached with caution by anyone that is new to the genre. Hopefully, the support attained by the brave folks of Playtonic will be enough to give Yooka and Laylee another shot at pure greatness. The chameleon and the bat sure have the potential, and they – alongside their gameplay style – are, after all this time, in the right hands; the ones that created them, albeit covered by a different layer of paint.

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Forgiving The Unforgivable

Through so many years of so many letdowns, it is clear that some fans turned their backs on Nintendo either due to one of those doubtful moves or because of the sum of all parts. However, the number of people who decided to forgive, wait and develop – once more – trust in the company’s abilities were fairly rewarded. For every appealing Eastern game that was not localized to the West there was an incredible RPG; for every year that Samus stayed in the limbo there were five hours of gameplay in the fantastic trilogy that followed the lull; for every horrible Mario game there was an adventure featuring the plumber that blasted into historical greatness; for every ridiculous song in Donkey Konga there was a stage exploding in creativity in Donkey Kong Country Returns and its sequel; for every CD-i Zelda game there were many unforgettable Hylian adventures; for every inadequate Star Fox game there was a new IP or a fun adventure starring a reborn Kirby; for every botched up relationship with third-parties there were unexpected partnerships that resulted in incredible titles; and for every disastrous system there were more than plenty of successful ones.

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Diddy Kong Racing

Diddy Kong Racing is able to, then, lift itself above the generic building blocks it uses. Differently from most kart-racing games, it may not be stacked with recognizable brands, characters, and assets, a reality that is slightly harmful to the overall experience. However, Rare – in the midst of a breathtaking streak of creativity – was able to infuse the title with enough content, genuine challenge, and refreshing ideas to transform it into the Nintendo 64’s most fun racing effort and one of the few games of its genre that rightfully deserves to be placed alongside the best entries of the Mario Kart franchise. That, in itself, is a feat that reveals a lot about the degrees of creativity and dedication that were employed in the game’s making.

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Donkey Kong 64

It is hard to deny the greatness of Donkey Kong 64. As a game that, even before release, wore on its sleeve the intention to be as big as technologically possible, it delivers in every single way. Given games of its kind would sadly fall out of favor during the generations that followed, it has remained as the largest and most demanding collection-based platformer ever since then, with no palpable contestants in sight. It is a game that may occasionally go overboard in its quest for scope and challenge, an exaggeration that will alienate many souls that will drown in backtracking and frustration. But the bottom-line is that it is fun. It does not aim for immensity for the sake of being big; it does so to make room for the insurmountable amount of ideas it sports. It is not a hollow behemoth, but a juggernaut exploding with spectacular moments.

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Return Of The Kings

Yooka-Laylee’s ever growing budget, which now guarantees the game will have a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and people’s willingness to cooperate go to show how much the gaming community still trusts anyone with the Rare logo stamped on their résumés. More than that, however, it proves that – on the shoulders of the project – lies the hope to not only finally get to play the long-awaited true successor to Banjo-Tooie, but to also revive a gaming era that is still greatly admired and a gaming genre that has been sadly left behind.

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Jet Force Gemini

True to Rare’s traditions, everything is done remarkably well: the 15 worlds are gigantic, present different environments, and are given life by a wonderful fauna, a rich flora, and alluring bluidings; all clear displays of the brillancy of the game’s artistic team. Playing through Jet Force Gemini is, consequently, experiencing a welcoming mix of atmospheric delights and thrilling action.

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Banjo-Tooie

In its endless megalomania, Banjo-Tooie tops Banjo-Kazooie by a considerable margin. What was once a stellar game turns – when infused with punctual fixes, the addition of clever ideas, and the expansion of others – into one of the biggest and most ambitious games the world has ever seen. Everything it tries to do is positively enormous, and although some will turn away due to its grandeur, those who fall in love with its desire to build one interconnected all-encompassing world by linking its stages together and sprinkling big amounts of backtracking into the formula will find unparalleled levels of satisfaction on its exploration and puzzle-solving. Banjo-Tooie is one-of-a-kind, and its gigantic and demanding ways have yet to be duplicated.

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