The Donkey Kong Country Trilogy stands as one of the best grouping of video games you can possibly find, and certainly one of the best platforming experiences next to the holiness that is Mario and early Sonic. Nintendo set out to recreate the glory of DK’s finest hour, tasking Retro Studios with the job. Did Retro pull out another success story? Well let’s find out together, shall we?
Donkey Kong Country Returns is exactly what it sounds like in every sense of the word. Donkey Kong returns with Diddy Kong, both absent from true platforming since Donkey Kong 64, as well as the Donkey Kong Country spirit, last seen in 2D over 10 years ago on the SNES. Everyone was sort of skeptical when Nintendo sent Retro to work on Metroid Prime, but that turned out fantastic. And wouldn’t you know it, they did the same thing with Donkey Kong and made an excellent game.
Whereas Kirby’s Epic Yarn ended up being a game where difficulty wasn’t the central force, Donkey Kong Country Returns will have you screaming in fury at your own shortcomings regarding your platforming ability. DKC Returns is hard. Very hard from what I’m gathering. And good, because I’m fresh off of Super Meat Boy, so I like my platforming hard and my apes of the aggravating variety, whatever that means.
As you’d expect, Donkey Kong’s bananas have been stolen by another group of complete fools, this time Tikis instead of Kremlings. I’m sad to see the evil crocodiles absent here, but it does free up a lot for level and enemy variety. Besides, the Kremlings’ story is done. Time for something fresher.
And despite being touted as a complete return to form, there’s a lot of new bundled up in here. The highlight for me is the use of two planes of action where, at times, DK is hurled into the background and back to the foreground. It’s a simple concept, but it works great here. Each level is incredibly detailed with an abundance of things going on everywhere. It’s not going to win any graphical contests since the graphics aren’t pushing any boundaries, but it looks beautiful as a Donkey Kong Country game.
It also sounds like you’d expect a DKC game to sound like with a handful of remixed themes and new music that fits in perfectly with the aesthetic. Controls, too, feel good. You usually won’t have reason to blame the game for lost lives, even if you’re forced to use some waggle controls here and there. Why the basic roll attack was delegated to flicking the Wiimote is an odd choice, but oh well, can’t win ‘em all.
Continuing the trend of Nintendo platformers, there is a Super Mode in place here should you fail too often. Die enough times in a level and a silver Kong will appear to assist you by just beating the level, though it won’t technically count and he certainly won’t pick up any bonuses. You’re on your own for bonuses, which are thankfully plentiful just like in the old games. While you can speed through the main game relatively fast, collecting everything will be what keeps you around longer than the price tag would suggest.
As mentioned before, Diddy Kong joins DK again, though you can’t play just as Diddy unless you’re playing co-operatively with another player. Basically, Diddy just adds two extra hearts to your life meter and allows you to hover for short periods of time using his rocket barrel. The good news with co-op is that it works a lot smoother than New Super Mario Bros Wii, i.e. the levels were built with two players in mind.
I can’t stress how well Retro nailed DKC with Returns. There’s not enough bad to complain and too much good to come up with interesting things to say. If you own a Wii and love platformers, this has probably been a very good year for you thus far. Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Metroid: Other M, and now Donkey Kong Country Returns? Someone at Nintendo must be looking out for us. The point here is that DKC Returns is absolutely worth your time and money, so go buy it as soon as possible. Retro Studios does good work, so let’s just hope they get another Nintendo property soon. Star Fox anyone?
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