Donkey Kong Country Returns ReviewIt's on like a glorious reboot of a SNES classic!
Everyone has their own favorite old-school videogame series- The game or games that will never get old, titles you could dust off after years of playing modern classics and instantly get back into the groove. For me, Donkey Kong Country was the anthem of my childhood gaming and DKC will likely always be my favorite series of games. When a beloved classic series has been kept in the intellectual property treasure chest for a long time is revived, updated and thrust the limelight on the current-gen consoles, you can see wildly mixed emotional reactions from people when they catch wind of the reboot. I believe that developers should be given plenty of room for experimentation by the fans when a game franchise hasn't seen the light of day in a decade. It seems to me that expanding upon gameplay, characters, universe, features, updating visuals and remixing timeless tunes from Metroid, Banjo-Kazooie and Zelda is a vile thing that inspires long-time "fans" to spew hate and vitriol all over the dev teams for "ruining their childhood" or some other rubbish. Donkey Kong Country Returns brings me back to my childhood alright and I'm loving every second of Tiki stomping, banana collecting and mine carting action.
Donkey Kong Country Returns takes place on the DK Isles, where a new set of villains, the Tikis, have hypnotized the jungle's animals to force them to steal Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong's bananas. Naturally, DK won't take grand theft bananas lying down and braves the island's natural pitfalls to reclaim this golden booty from the musical miscreants.
After all the years without an adventure with Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy, it was extremely welcoming to go back to the varied environments that had wowed me back in 1994's Donkey Kong Country. The full creative power behind DK and his world has shifted from Rare, who established everything is IS Donkey Kong as we know it today, to Retro Studios who completely understand how Donkey Kong Country should look, play and feel.
As a DKC veteran, the controls felt a bit weird to begin with: "Where's the 'Run' button? There's no way I'll be able to make that jum- Oh. I made it! Cool!" but the Wii Remote works exceptionally well as I made the Kongs effortlessly jump, swing, roll and slam their way through the stunningly attractive levels. Some of the action is controlled by shaking the Remote up and down, such as performing summersaults and slapping the ground with DK's hands; it feels oddly natural to shake the Remote like an ape to find all of the hidden secrets. Perhaps the only complaint I have about the controls is that the Wii Remote doesn't feel natural in one's hands after playing for an hour. It's not Retro's fault, but it just feels awkward as if I was cradling a Lego block in my hands after playing for extended sessions.
Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? It is obvious that Retro Studios spent numerous man hours studying what made Donkey Kong Country so great on the Super Nintendo. While they didn't reproduce it piece by piece, (What fun would that be? I already own the classics!), many of the most important elements are present. Rambi the rhino is on hand to smash through Tikis, Cranky Kong will trade Banana Coins for items while berating Donkey Kong at every opertunity and the majority of the unforgettable ambient tracks David Wise composed for DKC have been remixed for this modern trek across the island.
I couldn't ask for more level variety for Donkey Kong Country Returns- On the way to the Tiki's volcano-top fortress, DK and Diddy travel through colorful jungles, calm beaches, stagnant caves, fossil-encrusted canyons and crystal mines lined with miles of rickety cart rails. Donkey Kong Country has always been about running and bounding through the stages at top speed as the music becomes more ominous, the baddies close in on our hairy heroes and the level itself becomes less and less survivable. There are tons of moments of pure excitement that will push your platforming skills to the limit and you will feel like you beat several of the levels by the skin of your teeth. If you do overcome the main challenge and recover the banana hoard, Donkey Kong Country Returns is stuffed full of other goals including tons of collectable K-O-N-G letters, puzzle pieces, time trial mode and mirror mode.
Sure, there are no Kremlings, no underwater levels and Funky Kong hasn't stuck around to ferry me around the Island's environments in a barrel-shaped jumbo jet. Am I upset? Will I complain that Donkey Kong Country isn't DKC without those features? No way! I'm just thankful that Nintendo decided to bring back the series at least one more time so fans would be able to explore DK's world in a new way and that those unfamiliar with rhino riding or barrel blasting have a good reason to check it out. Brilliant, nostalgic, exciting and entertaining as it's always been, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a must-buy for Wii owners of all ages.
-Arnold B. Carreiro
Developed by Retro Studios
Published by Nintendo
ESRB: E for Everyone
The Arnold B. Carreiro Rating System
A - Awesome! Why haven't you bought this yet? Go! GameStop doensn't close for another 2 hours!
B - Great game! It'll be something fun to play for a good while. It's better than most games, but shy of perfection for some reason. You should check it out!
C - Meh. It's not a BAD game, nor is it good. Enjoyment may be limited to a certain audience though. Perhaps some aspects of the title are great while others are bogged down by bad design/gameplay/etc.
D - Not too great... Too much of the game lacks polish to be appreciated to the general gaming public, but there might be enough here for someone to enjoy. Maybe...
F - A complete train wreck. Vampire Rain is the last "F" game I've ever played. The bargain bin is too good for an "F" game.