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In Which Donkey Kong Racing Became An Animal Cruelty Simulator

Sabreman's Revenge Nine years ago when Nintendo debuted the GameCube at E3, one of the games previewed in a very early form was a sequel to 1997's big Nintendo 64 release, Diddy Kong Racing.  This sequel featured more characters from the world of Donkey Kong and swapped out go-karts, hovercrafts, and airplanes in favor of rideable animals such as Rambi the Rhino and Enguarde the Swordfish from the Donkey Kong Country titles.  Known as Donkey Kong Racing, the game fell through the cracks when developer Rare was bought by Microsoft (for obvious reasons), but it didn't die completely right away.  For the next six years it wouldn't continue to evolve and mutate into something much different with a different license tacked on to it and a new format shoehorned into it.  Dredging up the old Sabreman character from Rare's distant past, Donkey Kong Racing turned into an open sandbox-style adventure title called Sabreman StampedeMundoRare has the complete story of how the game developed, stalled, lost its way, and was eventually canceled.  Part of the problem is that it picked up a horrifying gameplay mechanic:

When it moved to the Xbox, it went more into the adventure genre. In this game, we find out that Sabreman had a wife named Flo. They would crash land on the island in a hot-air balloon/blimp (the artwork seen seems to imply that they settled on a plane crash). Sabreman would talk and befriend the villagers, perform tasks for them, and learn how to ride the animals, which could get him to his destinations quickly, and allow access to new areas. These changes happened late in the game's lifecycle; according to our source, it was "somewhere in 2004/2005 that it took on more of a sandbox adventure style."

The concept of the game was "basically Grand Theft Auto with animals. You have a huge open landscape and you can catch animals, and ride them around." As you can see in the video(s), you grab onto an animal, which begins a minigame where the animal drags you as if you were in a rodeo. If you can hold on for a period of time, you can ride said animal. Catching animals was a controversial topic among the team, because the core gameplay "involved catching animals that didn't want to be caught - essentially it's a cruelty-to-animals simulator." There was concern about some specifics in that regard, such as "harpooning animals, and a gun that held a rabbit flopping about on the end which you'd then shoot at a lion to tame." At the same time, this was a late feature in the game and was still being discussed about up to its cancellation.

Due to the game's Donkey Kong roots, I have the terrible mental image of Sabreman hunting down Rambi, Enguarde, and the other Donkey Kong Country animal buddies and harpooning them in gory ways.  Despite all of the effort and resources that went into Sabreman Stampede, perhaps it's better that it withered on the vine.  I can't imagine that the majority of the audience would have been pleased with the end result.

(via GameSetWatch)