...And if you think that title is bad, wait until you see what game I'm playing.
Much like General Custer at the Battle of the Tiny-Huge Island, I have allowed myself to grow overconfident after demolishing Super Mario 64 by mastering its Retro Achievement set and have now set my sights on something even less attainable (and, dare I say, less palatable as well). That's right, I'm playing Donkey Kong 64 with the aim to complete its Retro Achievement set too. I had all the Zeldas and Peaches and Samuses to choose from and yet I've opted for the banana factory; Freud would have a field day. Donkey Kong 64 probably needs no further introduction given the site's history with it: you can witness Giant Bomb East coming undone in real-time by following the entertaining disaster that was Burgle My Bananas over here. Much like in any DKC minecart level, things went off the rails pretty quickly. (And if you want to read my in-depth impressions on the game check out the episode of 64 in 64 that it featured in.)
Stating for the record here so I can use it as an excuse later, but I am far less committed to earning this full RA achievement set than I was for Super Mario 64. If Super Mario 64 is having a sneaky cigarette behind the highschool gym with the delinquent girl you had a thing for, Donkey Kong 64 is being forced to smoke the entire carton after your dad found out. It's just all too much, and this is me—The Collectathot of Collectathons—saying that. It doesn't help that many of these achievements are for no-damage boss fights, an achievement category I vehemently hate for how little it respects the player's time (more so than even collectibles, before someone turns that around on me).
However, to help things chug along at a brisk pace I am affording myself one small indulgence and that's the Tag Anywhere hack made by Isotarge. By hitting the L-button or the D-pad you can instantly switch between Kongs where you stand, rather than having to hunt down a swap barrel. It doesn't make the game any easier but it does make it significantly more pleasant. It's also a boon I was happy to see didn't void any RetroAchievements: they're picky about using specific ROM dumps over there, so I suspect someone who contributes to the achievement sets deliberately included this hack.
N.B.: I'm bringing back the from The Kobayashi Mario. However, since it's still attuned to Super Mario 64's achievement set, the maximum cap has been raised from 10 to who-even-knows. Which is to say, a figure higher than 10 is more exasperating than anything the Mario 64 achievement set threw at me.
OK, let's get it on like some kind of primate video game character. Countdown until the moment when I decide I would much rather be playing an Ape Escape game instead. In fact, let's just preemptively say it's already passed.
Maybe the secret hardest achievement is this one, which you earn from having to listen to the DK Rap in full. And by "having to listen to" I of course mean "getting to listen to".
La Portrait de la Petite Cossette
Folsom Prison Blues
Freeing the four other Kongs (Diddy, Tiny, Lanky, and Chunky respectively). Usually the first priority on a completionist run to minimize the amount of running around in the early worlds. It involves unlocking the third world though, so it does need some legwork to get there. Don't look at me, I didn't choose those names.
Welcome to the Jungle
Beat the first boss. I only realized after this that there were no-damage clear achievements too. I won't bother including the default boss achievements separately from here on out.
D-D-D-Dragonfly (Default: Temblores de Tenochtitlan)
Second boss. The strategy is identical to the first: avoid its fireballs, wait for the obvious opening, and then throw an explosive barrel at it. I recall most bosses in this game getting much harder than this so I predict these no-damage boss fights will be the things I get hung up on the most.
It's On Like Donkey Kong
Kong the Destroyer
There's a Donkey Kong arcade machine you can play in the third world, Frantic Factory. First time you beat it—which is to say, all five of its levels on a single life—you earn a Golden Banana (GB) for Donkey. The second time nets you the N64 Coin and the first of these two achievements. The second achievement requires hitting a 30,000 highscore: the points (and difficulty) increase with each run though, so I earned enough just by reaching the end a third time. I'm no Steve Wiebe but I can handle three loops of some Barrel Ape.
Ruff in the Jungle Bizness
100% the first world, Jungle Japes. Most annoying GB here is beating Diddy's minecart race. I managed it the first time, just, but I recall it giving the Burgle My Bananas crew some trouble. Each Kong also has a timed challenge to reach an unlocked door, and some of those were tight races too. Otherwise, an easy world suitable for onboarding unsuspecting players who may have thought this was Banjo-Kazooie with apes and not a malevolent OCD Enabler.
Jump Up, Super Star!
Like Mario 64 there are some "expert play" technique achievements to earn. Sadly, unlike Mario 64, most of these are missable in nature. This is the first of nine missable achievements, each requiring you don't activate a certain flag ahead of time. (I've been informed that boss fights are repeatable, though I've yet to figure out how.) The goal here is to get a rainbow coin on top of the Angry Aztec (World 2) building without spawning a Diddy Jetpack barrel: the issue, to simplify things here, is that the roof is inaccessible due to its height. Since there's a boulder Chunky can lift in the vicinity, I just dropped that near the building and that gave me enough height as Diddy to reach the top with a crouching high jump. I'm not sure if that's something that's only possible with the Tag Anywhere hack or not, though. (There's also a glitchy high jump Diddy can use, but I can rarely get it to work.)
The Floor is Lava
Another tech achievement, but thankfully one that doesn't have a missable cutoff point. It involves reaching the top of Cranky's lab from the starting treehouse without ever touching the ground (hence the name). Only way you're going to get this is by unlocking Tiny's hair twirl glide and float from tree to tree, unless there's another speedrun strategy out there I'm missing. Kind of a fun idea though.
The Flower Songs of Nezahualcoyotl
100% the second world, Angry Aztec. This is where you free both Tiny and Lanky, so there's plenty of scrouging around for the coins they need to buy all the upgrades so far (that includes a musical instrument from Candy as well as Cranky's potions and Funky's firearms). Worst GB was the infamous "Tiny races a weird bug" mini-game that requires finishing a slide race while also collecting enough coins (and collisions with the bug causes you to lose several). I think the Burgle My Bananas crew spent a whole episode on that one.
Just use Lanky's balloon power-up once. You ever earn an achievement that you just know someone put in there as a joke? The very notion that there are developers and RA contributors out there not treating achievements as sacrosanct, tsk.
Jewel in the Crown
Earn four crowns from those battle royale mini-games. Nothing much to note here; there's going to be a much harder achievement related to these things coming much later.
This is a Frantic Factory GB for Lanky. Dunno why it gets its own achievement, but it is one of those annoying Simon Says memory challenges so maybe that's plenty tough for some folks.
Jumpin' Jack Flash (Default: Life in the Factory)
Frantic Factory's boss fight. This is the one where you're jumping around a grid as Tiny to avoid a jack-in-the-box. It's the first real challenging fight in the game, partly because you need to hit the boss five times to win instead of three and he'll do things like fire hard-to-dodge lasers or turn invisible. The no-damage clear took a while because of how stretched out that fight was and how long you have to wait for the boss to be vulnerable. Not a highlight, I'll say that much.
In the Toymaker's Workshop
100% on Frantic Factory (World Three). The GB you earn from the classic DK arcade game might be the hardest, though there's another obnoxious race with Tiny as well as the aforementioned memory challenge with Lanky. It's also not the easiest place to navigate in general with its multi-floor firefighter poles, though Tag Anywhere really helps a lot.
Life on the Nickel
This is for earning the Rareware coin (first) and then subsequently the highscore of 15,000 (second) from playing Jetpac at Cranky's Lab. Hasn't really held up as the screen's too small and hanging around its edges is suicide due to how often enemies will just spawn right on top of you. You can play normally, collecting score items to get to that target faster, or just hang around in the relatively safe middle area eliminating enemies as they appear. The latter's a slower but less dangerous way of reaching 15k (which, by the by, is three times what you need to make the coin appear).
The no-damage clear on the first boss. Turns out saving banana fairies unlocks special content, one of which is the boss retry feature. I'll be more vigilant in future about these no-damage clears.
Somewhere Beyond the Sea
Included in the special features are mini-games related to the game's two animal companions, Rambi the Rhino and Enguarde the Swordfish. This achievement is for scoring 200 points in the Enguarde mini-game: twice the score needed to top the highscore table. The idea here is that you earn points from endlessly swimming through rings; with all this training I now feel ready to take on the Superman 64 achievement set.
(The equivalent Rambi achievement is... going to take some time. Verrrrry RNG heavy.)
Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas
Simple milestone achievement for earning 100 GBs, the main collectible. For most 3D platformers, that would be near the full total. For DK64, it's not even halfway.
100% the fourth world, Gloomy Galleon. Requisite water level, but besides dealing with the swimming controls there aren't too many difficult GB challenges here. There is one race against a seal that kinda sucks, but it's not that much tougher than the other races. A few of the mini-games, which have like five or six varieties that increase in difficulty as the game goes on, are starting to get tricky.
Too Many Fish in the Sea (Default: Sea Within a Sea)
The no-damage clear and regular clear for the fourth boss, Puftoss. This was the point in the run where I really started to have second thoughts about taking on this achievement set. This boss was an absolute ordeal: in addition to Lanky's boat controls, which like the hovercrafts in Diddy Kong Racing aren't particularly great for reducing one's momentum to adjust for hazards in your path, the boss also has too many RNG attacks and you need to complete five full waves as you pass through rings to summon the lightning rods to damage it. So many projectiles flying around, so little chance of avoiding them. Not something I ever want to put myself through again.
I Believe I Can Fly
Another missable tech achievement. It involves getting to a specific area of the overworld hub to snap one of the banana fairies before you're supposed to. The normal route involves teleporting with Tiny with one of her upgrades to get to the top of K. Rool's fortress, but you can also use a Diddy barrel to jetpack over there way earlier. Issue is, the game forces you out of the jetpack mode if you get too close to the fortress (because it's sequence breaking) but if you approach it at the right angle and speed you can still just make it to that upper area. Incidentally, when you have the Tiny upgrade you're supposed to use, the achievement can no longer be earned; hence, missable. Total glitch exploitation achievement, which traditionally aren't part of these core sets but in this case someone made an exception. To be fair, once you know exactly where to aim (after checking some videos) it's not too tough to replicate.
This is a fun one. Like any retro platformer DK64 had built up a sizeable speedrunning community over the years. One of those runners—in fact, the same one that built the Tag Anywhere hack—had a gander at the game data to look for new glitches to exploit and inadvertently discovered a well-hidden dirt mound in the fifth world, Fungi Forest. Each dirt mound provides a rainbow coin which adds to the game completion % (if not in-game, then at least as far as speedruns are concerned), only this one was concealed in the tall grass and went unnoticed for almost 20 years. Suffice it to say, a lot of full completion runs suddenly became null and void to the consternation (and probably some amusement) of the whole DK64 speedrun community. Personally, I think if speedrunning DK64 is your idea of a pastime you're probably used to heartache. Anyway, this achievement is for picking up that coin (and yes, I looked up where it was).
Where the Lights Are
Another missable. This involves a GB in the dark attic of a barn in Fungi Forest. The ideal way to get this is to use Diddy's guitar to summon Squawks holding a light so you can actually see where you're going. This achievement doesn't want you to do that: you have to feel your way in the pitch-black across the rafters to get the GB. You can either memorize the route, which takes forever, or sparingly use the peanut popgun which causes the room to light up in a brief flash each time. Perilous, but not too difficult (then again, if I was low on ammo it'd be another story).
Jane, Stop this Crazy Thing!
Yet another missable. DK64 has a recurring mini-game where you ride a minecart around a multi-track circuit while avoiding two other carts with bombs in them for a length of time. It's a spin on the old Namco game Rally-X, but as long as you're able to predict where the bomb carts are going it's not tough. That is, if you aren't holding down the accelerator the entire time, which is what you need to do for this achievement. This really sucked, but the bomb cart AI is consistent enough that you can figure out a pattern to survive and it's not so strict that you have to follow an exact route for the whole timer duration. (Incidentally, there's three of these mini-games overall but the achievement only counts for the second or third, the latter found in Creepy Castle (World 7). The first, in Jungle Japes, only has the one bomb cart and is therefore considered too easy for an achievement.)
Dragonfly's Outro (Default: The Three Mushrooms)
The fifth boss, which is a rematch with Dogadon (the second boss). The fight is similar to the first battle with Dogadon, though a bit longer and more involved. It has two major snags: the first comes right before you score the third hit, after he sends an all-encompassing wave of fire at you. I found the best way to dodge it was to jump off the platform and double-jump to get back on, though the timing's tight. The second comes with the final stage of the fight where you have to stun him with the explosives, use the power-up barrel to become Hunky Chunky, and lay the smackdown before the power-up wears off and you repeat the cycle. Avoiding damage here is relatively easy, but you're on a timer due to your platform's slow descent into lava so you're forced to move quickly which of course opens you up to unfortunate mistakes in the eleventh hour. Overall, though, way easier than the previous two bosses.
So now that's over with, where does this leave us for Part Two? Well, we've still got World Six (Crystal Cave) and World Seven (Creepy Castle) left, which are both full levels with plenty of banana crap to find and more bosses to deal with. World Eight is a shorter area that leads to the finale, but there's a few collectibles there too. There's also the remaining collectibles in the hub area of DK Isles and a couple more missable tech achievements to earn. Finally, there's the multi-stage final boss fight against K. Rool and, yes, I will apparently have to no-damage the whole thing as well. That might be where I draw the line. Best to sign off on these things with some element of suspense, wouldn't you say?
- : 138 (69%)
- : 68%.
- : 34 of 59 (57.6%)
- : "Too Many Fish in the Sea" (no-damage victory on Boss #4).
(No, seriously, why am I doing this?)