Donkey Kong Country Returns
Hail to the Kong!
Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
For some of us, Donkey Kong Country was the Super Mario Bros. of the Super Nintendo. Classic platforming at its best. Amazing visuals at the time, a timeless soundtrack and of course, the lovable Donkey/Diddy Kong duo alongside a cast of colorful characters. I still remember flipping through the pages of my Nintendo Power magazine, digesting every single detail about the game...and yes, I was the proud owner of the famous VHS preview tape. Anywho, even though the games that followed (especially that boring one on the N64) never got my level of excitement up to the same level as the original, Donkey Kong Country remained - until today - one my favorite games of all-time.
You can imagine how happy I was when Donkey Kong Country Returns was first revealed at the Nintendo E3 press conference last June. Matter of fact, after I got some play-time, it was already on my list of most-awaited games of the year. Its with no surprise that I’m the one handling the review and I’m extremely happy to say that Retro Studios (the minds behind the Metroid games on the GC and Wii) has managed to accomplish something no Wii game has ever done up until now: make me play a game with sparkles of joy coming out of my eyes and a big monkey smile on my face. Maybe not throughout the entire playthrough, but enough to make my Wii earn a pat. Trust me, that console has not received much love from me this year.
The main story shares a similarity with the original game. No, King K. Rool isn’t the bad guy in this one; he’s been replaced by Tikis from the Tiki Tak Tribe. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, these evil humanoids have hypnotize all the animals on DK Island and tasked them with stealing all bananas, including DK’s hidden stash. Of course, Donkey and his pal Diddy aren’t too pleased by this and embark on a journey to find and retrieve what’s rightfully theirs.
Similar to what Nintendo did with New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country Returns evokes nostalgia in every single nook and cranny. Jumping, clinging and rolling across bright side-scrolling locales, collecting bananas, riding good old Rambi the Rhino, being propelled from one powder keg to another, finding secret areas and making sure to grab the letters K-O-N-G before the end of each level. Both Donkey and Diddy can also perform ground pounds, rolling moves and exhale powerful monkey breath with specific motion shakes. At the end of each level, there’s a pattern-based boss battle waiting for you.
Retro Studios was definitely inspired by the classic game but they’ve added plenty of twists and new elements to make it even more interesting and challenging. While most of them manage to complement themselves nicely to the experience, some don’t pan out well. Hidden Puzzle Pieces were added to the collecting gameplay and so was the ability to buy helpful items from Cranky Kong’s specialty shop after earning enough Banana Coins. Items vary from life balloons, invincibility potions, Squawks (remember them?) to locate hidden puzzle pieces and special keys to unlock secondary paths on the world’s map.
Whether you’re holding the Wiimote in one hand and the Nunchuk in the other or using the Wiimote sideways, controls are intuitive and work very well, even though the Wiimote/Nunchuk set-up ended up being my favorite. However, the most unusual thing I’ve found was the fact that Diddy Kong was relegated to a secondary role. Once released from his DK barrel, Diddy jumps on Donkey’s back and gives him an extra jump boost with the help of his jetpack. At no point - except on the two-player cooperative mode - does Diddy become a playable character, which for me ended up being a disappointment.
Speaking of the two-player cooperative mode, it wasn’t very conclusive nor fun. Again, making a comparison to New Super Mario Bros., playing this mode will require enormous communication and patience from both players involved in order to make the experience worth the effort. Whoever controls Diddy can always jump on Donkey’s back and let Player 1 complete the level while Player 2 shoots a peanut gun. I’m not saying it becomes incredibly boring and infuriating, but if you’ve tried to play a cooperative NSMB playthrough and failed miserably, there’s a slight chance the same thing is going to happen here. And yes, if you end up dying more than often on a given level, the Super Kong (basically the Super Guide from NSMB and SM Galaxy 2) will show up and complete the level for you.
After the main story mode is done, the Time Attack mode will allow you to replay your favorite levels in order to acquire gold, silver or bronze medals and set the best completion times. An online leaderboard feature would have been welcomed to make this mode more fun though.
Donkey Kong Country Returns fills a certain monkey void on the Wii. Not that Barrel Blast and Jungle Beat were awful (OK...Barrel Blast was pretty forgettable) but in all honesty, they weren’t THE Donkey Kong games I was looking for. Being an ode to the original Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, Retro Studios’ managed to keep parts of the classic gameplay and give it a nice refresher. Challenging? Yes, especially in the Mine Cart and Rocket Barrel sequences. Disappointing? A little. But one thing is certain, it never stops you from picking up the controller and give it one more round.
Even though some things were changed or completely removed (notably the underwater levels), DKC Returns feels a lot like the game we played back in 1994. Needless to say, its a great comeback for our favorite ape. Please, remind me to send Retro Studios’ a banana basket.
+ Solid control schemes
+ Visually striking
+ Engaging gameplay
+ The Super Guide addition is welcomed...
- Unable to control Diddy Kong
- Two player cooperative mode isn’t that fun
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Release Date : 2010/11/21
System : Nintendo Wii
Publisher : Nintendo
Developer : Retro Studios, Inc.
Category : Platformer
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
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