Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Developed by Retro Studios
Published by Nintendo
for the Nintendo Wii
Released November 21st, 2010

Vintage difficulty replicated at its finest:

After 15 years, the world finally returns to Donkey Kong Country. Back in the 90's, Rare created one of the most influential and widely remembered video games with Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo. The DKC games would go down as the defining series of the 90's in the minds of most gamers. Three generations later, Nintendo along with Retro Studios decided to try and bring Donkey Kong and his fans back to the glory days. While Donkey Kong Country Returns may not feel like the Donkey Kong Country 4 fans had hoped for, it does bring a solid platforming experience all unto its own.

DKCR begins with an erupting volcano releasing an evil group of creatures known as the Tiki Tak Tribe. The Tikis use a serene melody to hypnotize the animals of DK Isle and force them to steal away Donkey Kong's hoard of bananas. DK and Diddy, immune to the Tikis hypnotic power, set off to rid the island of the Tikis and restore DK's precious bananas. Unfortunately, both King K.Rool and the Kremlins are absent from this story which is an omission that definitely lowers the nostalgic value.  While the Tikis do bring some character to the game, it just doesn't feel the same.

When looking for the nostalgia factor, it'd be wise to open your ears. The music is a blast of nostalgic bliss. The songs are remixed versions of mostly DKC1 songs. Remixes of old classics such as Jungle Hyjinx and Minecart Carnage sound great while the remix of Forest Frenzy with its arrangement of instruments actually sounds better than the original. It really is a shame that David Wise wasn't on board for the game but the title seems to hold up well with both classic and original tunes. I'd bet that Wise would be extremely satisfied with the renditions made to his masterpieces. When it comes to the sound effects, the new grunts that DK makes sound awkward while Diddy sounds too whiny, although it's not like you'll be paying attention to the sounds the monkeys make after those beautiful melodies hit your ears.

While failing to bring forth any nostalgic emotions as the music was able to do, the graphics are beautiful. The graphics have that cartoony look that only Nintendo can achieve. The silhouette levels, that take place during a setting sun and portray DK, Diddy, and the entire foreground in black with the exception of the glowing red of DK's tie and Diddy's hat, look absolutely stunning. It once again proves how Nintendo can compensate graphical power for pure creativity.  The jungles and oceans in the background are vibrant and feel just as alive as everything else in the game.  In my opinion, it would have been neat if they focused on old-school pre-rendered background visuals that the first three games achieved so well. The visuals remind me nothing of the first DKCs but they are still pleasing to the eye.

The controls take a while to get used to. There are two ways to play; with a nunchuck or with a sideways Wiimote. The nunchuck feels more appropriate as there is no way of getting out of shaking the controller in order to roll. With the sideways Wiimote, you'll just end up pressing 1 in hopes of rolling only to run right into an enemy or off a cliff not to mention how awkward it feels. The implementing of motion controls in this area seems very unnecessary. If Nintendo wanted to achieve the nostalgic feel that they had hoped for then they should have incorporated the use of the Classic Controller. I guess I just have it programmed in my mind to press B to roll, not to waggle a stick around.

New to the series are climbing on grass-covered walls and blowing wind. Blowing wind (holding down and shaking the Wiimote) is an unnecessary addition to the game as it just feels weird to slow down the flow of the game in order to blow a dandelion or a candle to get a puzzle piece. Climbing on walls is simple and adds a lot to the gameplay as it is pulled off so well. Looking back at the older games, I wish they would have implemented this technique back then. Ground pounding with the motion controls seems more appropriate and feels really satisfying flailing your arms as DK smashes down a stone block.

Multiplayer allows both DK and Diddy to play together simultaneously. If one player gets lost behind, he will teleport back to the other player. If one player dies, he can either press a button and come back to life immediately at the cost of a balloon or he can wait until the other person grabs a barrel and releases him. When riding Rambi or controlling a barrel, both players have the option to control so it comes down to either losing control and dying or to allow one player to sit back and watch.

It's a shame that Diddy cannot be played in single player. In single player, Diddy helps out by giving DK two extra hearts and by using his signature jet-pack to stay afloat for a short period of time. In multiplayer, player 2 takes control of Diddy. Diddy is a blast to play as. He's quick and nimble when he needs to be and not only can he use his jet-pack but he can also use his peanut shooter while ground pounding. It really is unfortunate that the game does not allow you to switch between the two in single player just like the good ol' days

Those who shun the Wii for its plethora of casual games be warned; this game is tough! The difficulty isn't a result of bad controls or poor game design, it's sheer ruthless gameplay that tries incredibly hard to prove that the player is no match to the games superior level design. You'll be surprised how many times you'll go to Cranky Kong to replenish your stock of life-giving balloons. You'll be needing them more than you'd ever imagine. Beating the game is tough enough, but achieving 100% (including collecting all of the K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces) is a true challenge. The levels are designed brilliantly to provoke split-second thinking and strategy. Despite no familiar faces like Gnawty the beaver, the bosses are unique and require more than just the normal 3-Hit-Pattern to stop these beasts in their tracks. DKCR is a great throwback to the old SNES games that took you many days, many tantrums, and many headaches to beat.

In the end, Donkey Kong Country Returns doesn't rely on bringing the players back to the SNES days but instead gives us a brand new adventure with familiar faces that is of the same caliber as the first three games of the series. DKCR gives us a must-have experience tied together with tightly woven platforming along with cheerful graphics and groovin' music. If you want a game that will really put your gaming skills to the test look no further than Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Fun:  4/5

Playability: 3/5

Camera:  3/3

Lasting Appeal:  3/3

Graphics:   2/2

Sound:  2/2

Difficulty:  2/2

Variety: 1/1

Flow:  1/1



  1. Good review.I believe you forgot to mention the time attack? Correct me if I'm wrong. One thing that I really like about this is the Time Attack. lol

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Time Attack did add a ton of replay value to the game and it was a great addition to the series. Looking back, I don't even think the originals had time attack.