Review by SwigGYx_x
"You will go bananas for this game. Yeah, I said it."
The Super Nintendo has truly been the birth place of some of the greatest game series in video game history, and Donkey Kong Country is one of these series that has a universal appeal: no matter what age you are, Donkey Kong Country will endear itself to you. After appearing in a variety of different genres and platforms, the proclaimed "King of Swing" has finally returned to his roots thanks to Retro Studios, developers of the critically acclaimed Metroid Prime series for the Gamecube. And I'm happy to say, those talented folks have now made one of the greatest games for the Wii.
The story in DKCR isn't that superb or important, so I will keep this brief. An evil bunch of tiki-creatures calling themselves the Tiki Tak Tribe have showed up on Donkey Kong Island. Using their hypnotic abilities, they enslave all the animals on the island and steal Donkey Kong's banana horde. Thus, your adventure begins, and you get down to business. And no, Croc is not even mentioned!
If you are a fan of the DKC series, the first thing this game will give you is a nostalgic punch to the face (in the nicest way possible) - the opening, the style, the feel of DKCR all brings to mind Donkey Kong's successes on the SNES. When it gets down to the nitty gritty, Donkey Kong Country Returns plays just as its predecessors. Almost all of the fundamentals are there - jumping on baddies, swinging on vines, collecting bananas and other items, constantly getting shot out of barrels, graceful platforming, etc. On top of all this, Retro has designed some amazing levels, giving you plenty of areas to explore and secrets to find. This is one of the best - if not the best - platforming game I have ever played, and the sheer amount of fun and joy I had while playing is unmatched to anything I have played in a long time. Although it probably isn't as hard of a game as previous installments (the difficulty curve doesn't really ramp up until world six), it gets hard. Real hard.
Luckily, there are a couple things that you can do to ease your frustration. For starters, the Super Guide mode that made its debut in New Super Mario Bros. is back. Basically, if you die 10 times in a row, you will be asked if you want the game to run through the level for you. Sure, its an easy way out, but it beats trying to play the same level fifty times over. Another thing that will make things easier for you is that you can buy some helpful items from Cranky Kong's shop like Banana Juice (temporary invincibility) or Heart Boost (grants you an extra heart for one level). You can even buy balloons, which in turn gives you more lives.
On the down side, however, the absence of the underwater levels that were in previous games (which were my personal favorites in older DKCs) is a bit disappointing. Another thing that's a bit strange is that there is only one animal friend you can hop onto to and ride around (luckily its Rambi, the best one) in a few levels, where as there was a few more in the classic Country games. Still, only hardcore enthusiasts like myself will really care about these small details.
There are also some new additions to this Country game, and while they are met with open arms, most of them feel a bit out of place. One example is that Donkey Kong now has a blowing feature, where you force a small gust of wind from your mouth to blow on objects on the foreground, usually revealing something secret. Another is that on top of collecting banana's and coins (the latter of which you will spend at Cranky's shop), you will now collect puzzle pieces, and collecting all of them in each level will unlock some art. And to top it all off, you now have a health bar by the form of hearts. Blowing mechanic? Heart and puzzle pieces? These things do not scream Donkey Kong. However, these are obviously small complaints, and do not bring down the experience. It just feels like the people at Retro could have thought of something a bit more fitting.
The layout of the huge world map has a New Super Mario Bros. sort of feel. There are eight worlds to go through, and there are a handful of areas inside those worlds. There will also be an intense boss battle at the end of each world that will really make your brain work. All of the worlds have a theme, so you will see just about everything imaginable: jungles, beaches, caves, ruins, etc. And while they may not have the same impact graphically as the first Donkey Kong Country did on the SNES, everything looks phenomenally gorgeous nevertheless. Everything is very vibrant and lively, and just looks downright great.
When it comes to the music, again, it is amazing. While there isn't many new tunes, there are so many great renditions of classic tracks that it's easily forgiven. One or two covered songs sound a bit too much like their original for my liking, but everything else has been remixed fantastically. This is the only game I have ever played where I literally went to the extras screen, and actually listened to the music you can unlock. I would buy the soundtrack if I could, so I believe that is saying something.
When you get right down to it, DKCR is oozing with content. It should take you roughly 15 hours or so to complete the game, but there is so many optional things you can do after that. You could easily spend a good 40 to 50 hours collecting every single puzzle piece or K-O-N-G letters scattered throughout each level, and in doing so will give you some pretty nice rewards. Donkey Kong Country Returns also has some co-op play to increase this games appeal, but beware, it is pretty brutal on your lives if you have a bad partner. There is also a Time Attack mode, where you will sprint through the level as fast as you can, trying to beat a pre-set time, and doing so will net you some nice rewards. As I mentioned before, you can also unlock some nice art galleries and some fantastic tunes as well, which are neat.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a true gem to fans and newcomers alike. While some small new additions feel a bit odd, everything else is dead-on what you would expect from a DKC game. Retro Studios has proved once again that they have the talent to revise some great gaming classics, and I am very excited to see what have planned next. Buy this game, dust off your Wii, and go ape.
9/10 - You will go bananas for this game. Yeah, I said it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/10
Game Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)
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