Nintendo delivers a golden goose just in time for this holiday season with Donkey Kong Country Returns. From the moment the game was shown at E3 back in June, there has been much buzz and anticipation. The hands on demonstrations at E3 gave a pretty good look into the game play, and now with the actual game shipped; it is no understatement to say Nintendo has lived up to the fan’s expectations for the franchise and perhaps even exceeded them.
It has been over a decade since Donkey Kong Country 3 was released on the SNES and there hasn’t been any big Donkey Kong side-scrolling platformer since (Donkey Kong 64 doesn’t count). With RARE being bought out by Microsoft it seemed those outstanding games we got in the 90s would be the end. Retro Studios (the guys who have been working on the Metroid series for the past few years) took the reigns for Donkey Kong Country with a lot to live up to.
Playing Donkey Kong Country Returns is like taking a trip down a nicely repaved memory lane. It looks just like you remembered it as a kid, but even better. Donkey Kong Country was all about amazing graphics, beautiful stage design, fun game play and of course our main characters Donkey and Diddy Kong. All of the elements from the past are there with a lot of new polish that will leave you coming back for more.
The visual aspect of the game is stunning. Games like DKCR just show you what developers could do with the Wii when they’re not busy making crap. Component cables are a must to fully appreciate how beautiful the game is. The bright vivid colors pop out in a fun and non-headachey or epileptic seizure-inducing manner, which is always good!
The game controls are pretty good, though some “waggle” is required. The controls are simple and responsive, always critical to a DKC title. Donkey Kong has the usual moves, he can tumble into bad guys, ground pound (waggle) to find secrets and also defeat bad guys and new to DKCR Donkey Kong can blow big gusts of air (hold down + waggle). This is most useful when finding things. Timing and precision is key, there will be many frustrating and difficult spots until you learn exactly the right way how to advance through a level. After muttering some obscenities, you will eventually figure it out. Luckily these tricky spots don’t really come across as annoying or unbearable.
DKCR also appeals to the OCD gamer. As in all DKC games, the letters K O N G are spread out across the various levels, as well as pieces of a puzzle. Trying to collect these things, while making it through a stage is enough to make you kick a kitten. Luckily, the developers seemed to have cared for the kittens by at least saving the puzzle pieces you get as you go (so long as you don’t quit the level), basically meaning if you died getting a piece of the puzzle – no worries, you won’t need to get it again on your next life.
The only downfall to this game, would be the story… or… lack of story? There are these Tiki-like monsters that decided to jack Donkey Kong’s bananas. Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong spring to action to get these bananas back. (Despite the fact that you’ll literally get thousands of bananas on the way to the end of the game, but I suppose Donkey and Diddy aren’t that smart) The Tiki monsters use their powers to hypnotize other creatures with their snazzy little jingles, presumably to merely delay the inevitable butt kicking they will get in the end. Donkey Kong isn’t really a game that requires a story, so this isn’t a huge issue. It is also a little disappointing you cannot play as Diddy Kong unless there are two players.
In the end, Donkey Kong Country Returns may even be better than the original games. The hard work off the developers has really paid of and shines through each part of the game. A fantastic choice for gamers of all ages and backgrounds!
Final Score 5 out of 5