Donkey Kong Country Returns
Donkey Kong’s days of stealing princesses had been long gone since the debut of Donkey Kong Country back in 1994. I remember this 2-D side-scrolling game as being the first time I ever saw 3-D graphics on the SNES, thanks to the superb artistic talents of developer, Rare. With its excellent gameplay and lush environmental graphics, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy quickly became one of my favorite series, even to this day. With that said, you can imagine my excitement with the release of Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Nintendo Wii, a 2-D side-scroller with a 3-D flair. With Retro Studios taking the reigns on development and design, I knew this memorable franchise was in good hands. And wow, what sweet justice they did, transcending beyond Rare’s game plans and level design, for way more fun than a barrel of monkeys will ever yield you!
The storyline is all too familiar; Donkey Kong’s precious banana hoard has been stolen, yet again, this time by a faction of mysterious Tiki creatures (King K. Rool and his Kremlings have been retired in this remake). These musical antagonists use voodoo to hypnotize the animals on the island, then employ them as bosses for each of the eight “worlds”. Monkey pal, Diddy Kong, accompanies Donkey on this journey of reclamation, and grandpappy, Cranky Kong, owns several shops along the way to help replenish inventory, for a fee, of course. Advice and criticisms still remain free.
As a solo player in this game, you will only be able to play as Donkey, unlike the original series where you could switch between the two. Upon breaking a marked “DK” barrel, you will summon Diddy, who rides on your back and is strapped with a handy jetpack. This little device provides an extra bit of flotation and precision during those long jumps and small landings. After two accidental encounters with enemies, Diddy will be lost, and you will discover just how vital his jetpack is, so, strive for keeping Diddy with you at all times. It makes the game much more maneuverable. Contrary to the original series, the multiplayer allows two players to game simultaneously. Being the second player is the only way to actually play as Diddy Kong, who has the same special actions as Donkey, only with varied animations. If either player dies, a barrel hanging on a balloon will drop from above, so that the player may be freed and resume play. Kudos for this change, as the old way required a tag-team, wait-your-turn, play style.
The game can be played with the combination of the Wiimote and Nunchuk or with the Wiimote alone. Having played both ways, the Wiimote by itself was definitely more viable. Donkey has several moves, in which shaking the controller will cause him to crouch and blow away dandelions, windmills, and lanterns to uncover goodies, or blow out fire auras on certain enemies; ground pound, which can be used to break rocks, plants and walls, push landings into the ground, or subdue enemies, and finally Donkey can curl up into a ball, and roll for extra speed in jumping or for taking out several adversaries in a row. Becasue the controls in this game are a bit awkward and clumsy, using the Nunchuk caused a lot of accidental deaths, since the slightest misdirection will cause you to roll off of a landing.
The Wii’s 3-D engine is definitely pushed to the max when it comes to the gorgeously, vivid level environment. The classic barrel cannons are littered throughout the levels, only this time, some of them will send you flying into the background for a more creative gameplay, while having the foreground still in view. Some cannons will even launch you around pillars and mountains for an extra awesome 3D effect. Swinging from vines and riding mine carts on railroad tracks are even more exciting with the third dimensional axis. While you are questing along the foreground, the background always seems to have some activity going on, whether it be boulders rolling around, pirate ships launching cannonballs at you, or an octopus menacingly swinging its tentacles to destroy your pathway. Memorable levels included a tidal wave crashing forth every so often while you seek for cover, and a level completely shrouded in a silhouette veil, overlooking a vibrant sunset.
Mind you, this game is by no means, a walk in the park…at all! Levels will become more complex and challenging as the game progresses. It will become so difficult, it’s a good thing Nintendo provided straps to keep players from flinging their Wiimotes out in frustration. Not to worry, help arrives in the form of Super Guide; die eight times, and a pig will give you the option to have a white-furred Super Kong play the level on your behalf.
This remake of Donkey Kong Country surpasses all expectations. It incorporates all the fantastic features and classic mechanics from its predecessors and presents them to us with an amazing, modern twist. The artwork and soundtrack are phenomenal and the feat of, not only finishing the levels, but collecting all puzzle pieces and K-O-N-G letters, plus a time trial mode, make the replay value a tremendous one. Yes, the game is ridiculously hard, but the challenge is what keeps it enticing and addicting. I docked a point for controls, which can be clumsy at times, but who would expect a huge gorilla to ever be graceful? This should, by no means, deter anyone from grabbing a copy of this game and going bananas with it!