Review by ChronoCactaur
"Donkey Kong Country returns from the depths of the Super Nintendo... Wii?"
Donkey Kong is a Nintendo veteran at this point. His first appearance, or rather that of his grandfather Cranky Kong, was in the Donkey Kong arcade game in 1981. It wasen't until 1994 with the release of Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo that the new Donkey Kong(formerly Donkey Kong Jr.) would finally give the Donkey Kong series its own identity separate from Mario(formerly Jumpman).
Donkey Kong Country, when released in 1994, was noted for its amazing graphics at the time, but also for it being a partnership between Nintendo and Rareware, a third party developer who at the time was developing exclusively for Nintendo consoles. The partnership created one of the best 2D platformers on the Super Nintendo, up there with the likes of Super Mario World & Yoshi's Island. What sets Donkey Kong Country apart from Mario was the tag team system that could be done with Donkey Kong & Diddy Kong, which allowed for single player and two player options. The platforming itself was dependent on rolls, vine swinging, animal buddies and barrel tosses moreso than jumping. That's the original SNES classic paraphrased, so what does this new Wii game bring to the table?
Retro Studios, developers of the Metroid Prime Trilogy(also available on Wii), were contracted to develop a "revival" for Donkey Kong, in light of his dip in quality prior to 2010. What Retro Studios ended up creating was the best Donkey Kong game since Donkey Kong 64.
While Returns can be considered a sequel to Donkey Kong Country 3, it is much more like a Donkey Kong Country 1.5 than a proper sequel. Gone are the filler kongs and majority of the animal buddies, instead we are left with Cranky Kong & Rambi. As one can tell, Retro decided to take a minimilistic approach to this soft reboot... but really, who misses Candy & Funky outside of a small vocal minority? Enguarde will be sorely missed, but is largely unneeded due to the lack of underwater levels in Returns. Rambi is kind of promoted in this respect to being the "Yoshi" to Donkey Kong's "Mario", as he can be found, albeit infrequently, in levels.
Donkey Kong Country Returns abandons the level format of the original SNES trilogy. Instead, levels are formatted much like a Mario game, I.E Level 1-1. There are also new "temple" levels that are unlocked by obtaining all KONG letters in each level of a given world, of which there are 8. When you consider that some worlds can have as many as 8 levels, you'll find Returns is much more content-filled than the average Donkey Kong Country game. Going back to the minimilistic approach, the "tag team" system of Donkey Kong Country is now gone in favor of having Diddy Kong become a power-up for Donkey Kong. Diddy Kong can still be controlled individually in co-op, but due to the game's difficulty and controls, co-op can be a bit too chaotic for serious gameplay.
In terms of difficulty, Returns is the apex. While the regular levels don't truly pick up in difficulty until World 4, you'll find that even the easiest level in Returns is harder than the hardest level of most Kirby games. The difficulty is racked up even further when considering time trials, puzzle pieces, and other collectables that have to be collected to obtain perfect scores in levels. The temple levels, unlocked by obtaining all KONG letters, are a notch above the difficulty of any given world, though I found that the difficulty consistency for the temple levels was a bit different than that of the regular levels, in that Temple 3 isn't as difficult as Temple 2, while Temple 1 is unusually difficult for the first world. All in all, if you're tired of modern games being "too easy", Returns might be your cup of tea.
When one considers what was taken out and what was kept for this new Donkey Kong Country game, one could ultimately call it the best entry... in fact, if it wasen't for one major design flaw, this game would have gotten a 10/10 from this reviewer. Unfortunately, the one major flaw of the game is something that can be game breaking... the controls. In Donkey Kong Country Returns, players can choose between the horizontal wiir emote position or wii remote+nunchuck. The latter option is much more comfortable, as you'll need to shake the wii remote in order to do quite a number of actions, including rolling which used to be performed with a button press in times of old. Because of this, the horizontal position is very uncomfortable, as one has to hold right while shaking the wii remote, whereas with the nunchuck set-up one could just shake the wii remote while movement is done with the nunchuck's stick. Because a major action like rolling can only be done with motion control, it hinders the majority of gamers, especially those with cerebral palsy or any disease that hinders hand/arm movement. Again I must stress... if rolling wasen't forced to be a motion controlled action, this game would have been a 10/10. For most gamers, you can adjust to the rolling, and it's made easier with Diddy Kong on your back as he enables Donkey Kong to roll infinitely... but overall, there should have been a Classic Controller option for Returns.
So if you're looking for that definitive Wii Donkey Kong game, or a game with some high difficulty, this game is right up your alley. Just watch out for the difficulty spike that happens in world 4 and you shouldn't go bananas.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/23/12
Game Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)
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