Donkey Kong Racing details emerge years after GameCube is a memory

Posted on March 2, 2014 - 2:00pm by Patrick Breeden

Details concerning Donkey Kong Racing, an early Nintendo GameCube project that never happened, emerged Friday.

Rare veteran Lee Musgrave spilled some information concerning the animal racing title that never happened. Musgrave told NintendLife that the racer was designed to allow players to switch animals in mid-race, instantly creating new possibilities and outcomes during the race. The original E3 trailer for the game showcased animals from the Donkey Kong Country games like Rambi the Rhino, Enguarde the Swordfish and Expresso the Ostrich.

Everything changed when Nintendo declined to purchase the remaining 51 percent of the company’s stake from founders the Stamper brothers. Rare eventually fell into the hands of Microsoft with a $375 million acquisition.

Check out the official E3 2001 reveal trailer for Donkey Kong Racing

Changing from Nintendo to Microsoft meant Donkey Kong was no longer an option. Musgrave recalls Rare tried to figure out what was next for the project.

“We tried to figure out what to do with it,” Musgrave said. “We made a prototype version for Xbox, but because nothing else had been made up until this point, we essentially built it from scratch.”

Rare made changes to the game to create a different feel. The company experimented with allowing players to be knocked off of the animals and even experimented with Diddy Kong Racing­-like adventure features.

“We decided to try and make it a bit more like Diddy Kong Racing in terms of it being an adventure game,” Musgrave said. “Over the course of the next 18 months or so, it went from being a track-based animal racer to a more open-world game with Tamagotchi-style features, in which nurturing your animal became a key mechanic.”

The tweaked project eventually morphed into Sabreman Stampede, an IP that originated from the Stamper brothers’ first development studio. Diehard Xbox Original fans likely recall the utter absence of Sabreman Stampede; the game suffered the same fate as Donkey Kong Racing.

“It was such a wide game in terms of content, and the development went off into the woods a little bit,” Musgrave said. “It took a long time to do, and at the same time we were trying to build engines for consoles we weren't familiar with.”

Donkey Kong is now in the hands of Retro Studios, a company that enjoys success with the character and fervently defends the Wii U. Rare, however, has worked on Kinect Sports titles for the past four years.

If, hypothetically, Nintendo were to acquire the old Donkey Kong Racing code and transform it into a Wii U and 3DS title, would you buy it? Discuss all things Donkey Kong below.

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