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Donkey Kong Racing became a 'cute version of GTA' before cancellation

Rare's unreleased karting game Donkey Kong Racing, announced for the GameCube in 2001, evolved into a title more similar to Grand Theft Auto before being scrapped entirely following Microsoft's purchase of the studio, according to former lead designer Lee Musgrave.

Speaking with Nintendo Life, Musgrave said the game changed radically from the team's original Donkey Kong-themed ideas.

"The idea behind the game, which was Tim Stamper's, was that the player wouldn't be constricted to just a single animal when racing," Musgrave said of the game's initial plans. "You would move between different-sized animals; bigger animals could smash through obstacles, while smaller ones were much more manoeuvrable."

The team put together a new prototype for the Xbox designed with heavy influence from then-popular Grand Theft Auto 3 and starring Sabreman, the hero of ZX Spectrum adventure game Sabre Wulf. The renamed game, Sabreman Stampede, went through another year and a half of development before being shelved.

"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.

"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," he added.

After becoming what Musgave called a "a cute version of Grand Theft Auto set in Africa," development on Sabreman Stampede "went off into the woods a little bit" before being quietly canceled.

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