Saturday, 5 November 2011

Diddy Kong Pilot

RareWare Central have taken a break from whatever it is they do these days to bring us Diddy Kong Pilot, a cancelled Game Boy Advance game featuring primates in planes. It's what the world needs at this time of economic uncertainty.

Diddy Kong Pilot comes to us from the distant past of 2001-ish, in the pre-Microsoft buyout days of Rare(ware). It was one of many games to be canceled after Nintendo sold their ties to the studio, but this one  perhaps has the most interesting story to tell. Prototype versions of Rare games have a history of being interesting - look at Banjo Kazooie's crazy development cycle for example, but Diddy Kong Pilot is in a league of its own.

Diddy Kong Pilot is essentially a watered down version of Diddy Kong Racing, a 1997 Nintendo 64 game. Difference is, you can only pilot planes, and the cast are mostly lifted from Donkey Kong Country titles on the SNES as opposed to being conjured up from scratch. You fly your way around several Mario Kart-esque environments, picking up items and shooting at people. It's all well and good and makes for a nice GBA game.

Being a prototype, it's lined with glitches, most notably a horrible shrieking sound that shows up on occasion after buzzers are launched, but it's mostly finished and is fully playable, prompting that ever-so-important question as to why the game was axed. Remember, Rare were quite happy to re-package their SNES hits on the GBA in the years following their buy-out, and even re-released Diddy Kong Racing on the DS.

Now of course, you could say it was down to the stupid premise - why indeed does Donkey Kong need to fly a plane, and why does flying over rough ground slow the user down? But hang on for a second, because despite my earlier claim, Diddy Kong Pilot did see the light of day... as... Banjo Pilot in 2005.

The story goes that after Diddy Kong Pilot was scrapped, work began on a replacement game featuring characters not owned by Nintendo. The choice was made to go with the Banjo-Kazooie series, and a fantastic-looking voxel-based 3D engine was developed. Then management halted the project and demanded the earlier Diddy Kong Pilot was given a new coat of paint, and thus Banjo Pilot as we know it arrived on store shelves.

It's a bizarre situation, because a limited time scale and a lack of sound man meant that Banjo Pilot is a very... un-Banjo-like release. The music was never changed, and the levels are mostly identical. You even get situations were monkey voices can be heard in the race results screen. Things generally don't feel right in Banjo Pilot, but you'll be happy to know this isn't an issue in Diddy Kong Pilot for hopefully obvious reasons.

Since this game wasn't really scrapped it fails to offer anything substantial you couldn't find in the Banjo version, but it's still a neat little piece of trivia and worth checking out. For one, all of the cast speak English - something that's not been seen in a Donkey Kong game since.


  1. The cast speak English in Donkey Kong Country Returns..

    Nice article though!

  2. This article was pretty depressing because it said "Rare Witch Project" Whilst it was all 100% RareWare Central that bought the game, made the videos and released the ROM.

  3. Yeah I realised that yesterday - false information from Sonic Retro. Fixed.