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The nineties were approaching its sophomore years, digitized graphics  and crappy FMV games were heralding a new age of video games. Nearly  everyone was about to jump into the gold rush, Panasonic, Philips, Sony,  Atari. Things looked bleak for the aging Super NES, surely it couldn't  compete with such awesome looking games like "Night Trap", "Wing Commander",  and "Plumbers Don't Wear Ties". Turns out Nintendo had an ace up its  sleeve, with a new deal with Rareware and buttload of money spent on  giving them special SGI machines, the British born company would bring  out the 800 lb. gorilla, literally. Donkey Kong Country not only  prolonged the life of the SNES, it brought back the character that made  Nintendo who they are today. However, since parting ways with Rare back  in 2002, Nintendo has had a tough time keeping the big ape in the  spotlight, or giving him a new mainline entry game. Turns out they  needed the help of outside friends once again as Retro Studios steps up  to the plate to once again breath new life in a classic franchise with  Donkey Kong Country Returns.

stealin my nanas

Retro has always had good artists  working within their Texan walls, but here we get a glimpse of whole  different kind of style. Instead of the bleak, futuristic worlds of the  Metroid Prime series, we get the colorful, cartoonish world of their  take on Donkey Kong. While DK and Diddy look mostly the same, the title  has all new enemies instead of Kremlings and a new style all of its own.  Gone are the plastic trees and gritty pirate ships, instead you get a  more soft shaded take on the tropical island Donkey Kong calls home.  Instead of using digitized graphics, the whole game is made up of  polygons yet still played entirely in 2D perspective. What this adds is  the ability to show off much neater tricks in the background and  foregrounds of levels, as well as provide multi-plane gameplay. Blasting  towards and away from the screen becomes second nature in the title,  though admittedly this can cause some confusion on what platforms are  safe to land on in a few rare instances. Outside of Cranky Kong and  couple animal pals, you won't find any other monkeys or new allies  within the game. Not sure if this would really bother anyone, but no  Chunky Kong pineapple rocket launchers for you! The only real downside  to the graphics is that they can be a bit plain sometimes. The art style  and framerate are still great, its just that the game makes no effort  to put any special graphical touches or textures in the game at all with  one special exception. A few stages in the game are played in  silhouette, looking identical to titles such as Limbo. These areas are a  real treat to look at and provide some clever twists on the gameplay.   Still, it would have been nice to see a bit more hardware pushing from  Retro but its really hardly worth complaining about.

For the  soundtrack DKCR sticks as close to the original Donkey Kong Country score as  possible, while series composer David Wise is nowhere to be found, the  sound team in Japan have relied heavily on his work for the title. Just  about every track from the SNES classic is represented or remixed here,  which is good as the country games have some incredibly great music. They  even manage to throw in Aquatic Ambiance despite the no swimming level  policy.  There is no voice acting in the game and all the cut scenes are  handled without dialog or text. This is fine as we are talking about a  Donkey Kong game here. The only chatter you will find is from Cranky  Kong, which is the way it should be, and no he does not have a voice  either.

holy craaa

As for the gameplay itself, it follows the original  country formula pretty closely. The title should be a big hint, this is  very much in the same vein as New Super Mario Bros was to its own  series. The game starts with a bizarre cast of floating tiki masks  erupting from a volcano on DK Island and hypnotizing the local wildlife  to help steal Donkey Kong's Banana Hoard. The Tiki Tribe also tries to  hypnotize DK himself only to find themselves quickly on the apes poo  flinging list. From here its another adventure around the island and its  geographically diverse locations. The game is set into eight main  worlds with 6-9 levels in each world plus a boss fight. That is not all  either, unlocking all the KONG letters hidden in each level in a  particular world also unlocks a balls hard hidden level for you to  complete. Also hidden in every level is a range of puzzle pieces that  when completed unlock art and music galleries for you listening and  viewing pleasure. If you need another excuse to play, each level also  has a special speed run challenge. Suffice to say, Retro stuffed this 2D  platformer like a thanksgiving turkey for you so you will get your  monies worth. You can also play the game with 2 players, and while it  avoids the chaos of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it still isn't the ideal  way to complete the game unless your looking for even more of a  challenge.

While Kirby's Epic Yarn is just barely a month old,  it couldn't be more obvious the developers between that game and this  are worlds apart, both figuratively and literally. You will die in  Donkey Kong Country Returns, a lot. While 1up balloons are easy to come  by and there is infinite continues, do not expect this to be casual  friendly because its got pretty colors and animals on the box. Thankfully  Retro proves again their design superiority by making the game tough but  fair. At no point in dieing like a pedestrian walking around Hiroshima  in early August '45 did I feel cheated out a life. While some of the  boss fights border on tedious, you will always die due to lack of skill.  This is an incredibly tough thing to do, and few have ever pulled it  off. Still, DKCR doesn't get to far ahead of itself, this is not the  same soul crushing difficulty as N+, Super Meat Boy, or some particular  Mario hacks. You will need plenty of skill to win, or at least  perseverance.  The super guide is back, once again showing how to beat a  level but not find any secrets. There is one catch to the game though,  and that would be the rolling mechanic. While doing a ground pound and  blowing wind by shaking the Wii remote feels fine, having to run and  shake the remote to roll is, well cumbersome. It just does not offer the  precision of a good button press and by the end will be sorely missed.  Also new to the game is holding a button down to grip vines and grass.  Previously it was automatic so DKC veterans will have to train their  brains to hold down the grab button.  Also, because rolling is done with  shaking now, there is no "run" button, not to worry though as DK is  constantly at a sprint now anyways.

artsy kong

Despite plenty of clever  throwbacks to the SNES game, DKCR is also chock full of new ideas and  clever twists on old ones. Mine cart sequences are never just about  hoping over pits, and each new level introduces something new to player  whether big or small. One interesting change/addition is in single  player you never play as Diddy Kong. Freeing the little monkey from a  barrel will entail the rascal to climb onto your back. Once there you  can hover momentarily in the air with a jetpack. This is a great feature  as it rewards skill and makes you try harder to keep the little guy  alive. Both DK and Diddy have two hearts now, rather then being dead  from one hit each. This won't save you from many an untimely demise, but  it will make the challenge more tolerable. Still when your on rocket  barrels or mine carts, one hit is all you get before meeting the grim  reaper.

release the kraken

Most of the world themes come straight from the first country,  though Retro saw fit to throw its own look and twist on everything.  There are a couple new worlds so don't expect everything to be a  complete throwback. All in all, Donkey Kong Country Returns gives you  everything a Kong fan could want and more. The level designs are nearly  flawless across the game and outside some motion control annoyances,  there really isn't anything wrong with the title. It is a bit sad and  annoying, as offering Classic or Gamecube controller support would have  immediately remedied this problem and would have frankly made this a  nearly perfect game. While the motion controls certainly don't ruin the  experience, they can get in the way. Putting that aside this is another  wonderful title for the system and has given Wii owners another triple A  first party experience. Retro looks on track to becoming one of the  best developers around after this.

Final Verdict - 9/10
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a nearly perfect return to form for the classic Gorilla. Outside some annoying motion controls, this Kong provides fun, frantic, and blisteringly hard romp across 8 colorful worlds. If you love platformers and a challenge then you have your game of the year right here.

Latest Comments
Ryan Moore
November 24, 2010, 09:45 AM
Good review. However, the Hiroshima "joke" is in pretty bad taste.
November 24, 2010, 07:07 PM
"However, the Hiroshima "joke" is in pretty bad taste"

I agree.

This game will be so awesome! And it's almost upon us (3 December in Europe)!
November 24, 2010, 07:58 PM
clearly you didn't get who the joke was on.
November 24, 2010, 08:22 PM
Nah, it was all right. I mean, come on. You've never heard a Hiroshima joke before?

Also, I know that you've been asked this several times and still refuse to answer, but Henrie, why do you never use the quote button? Ever? It's easier than copypasta.

(not trying to be a jerk, I'm just really curious)
Matt Simmons
November 24, 2010, 09:52 PM
Take your political commentary to off topic.
November 25, 2010, 07:08 PM
"Also, I know that you've been asked this several times and still refuse to answer, but Henrie, why do you never use the quote button? Ever? It's easier than copypasta"

Well, I aswered it back then by saying that the way I do it works for me. Maybe I'll try the quote button someday, maybe not.

I just saw you typed "copypasta". That made me Lol! You did that on purpose, right?
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