Review by gamer_boy997

Reviewed: 07/07/11

Donkey Kong Country 4? No. But that's only because it was intended to be as original as possible, and it succeeded.

To spark up the Wii for the holiday season of 2010, Retro Studios decided to come in and “revive” an old franchise that was loved by the general audience of Nintendo. Donkey Kong Country was a great choice due to how it amazed many players with its astonishing graphics that were way ahead of its time period. Of course, we also can’t forget its delicate gameplay and other qualities that were very strong. Fourteen years after the last installment, Retro felt that they should spice things up a bit. They created a new game, although it wasn’t necessarily a “fourth installment” to that series. All haters of this game are most likely viewing it as such, which is a huge mistake.

I’m not going to lie, but I did look at it as such. Guess what? I was disappointed, because I expected bonus levels that had the same exact goals. I expected enemies that were brutally similar to the old ones. I expected all the elements to be the exact same as the rest of the series. That’s definitely not what Retro did. If they did do that, they would have called this game “Donkey Kong Country 4.” What they really wanted to be as different from Rare as they could, and they did a good job at that. They created not a “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” of this series but more so a “Terminator Salvation.” (Okay, so both of those films were disappointing to most viewers but that’s not the point.)

Does that mean this game sucked? All I can say is if that’s all you depended on for whether or not this was a good quality game, you made a tragic mistake. That’s not what Retro made it to be, and that’s not what it should be looked at as. What it should be looked at as is a refreshing 2D platformer with modern mechanics of the original Donkey Kong Country franchise, with some twists thrown into the mix. It should not be looked at as “different” from the franchise, but a “modern step-up” from the franchise. Now, you’re probably wondering, “What’s so good about that?”

Well, let’s look at this installment into more detail. To start off, the graphics are the first thing that grabbed me out of the “This isn’t Donkey Kong Country 4!” mood to the “Wait a minute, this has a nice modern touch!” mood. Yes, the graphics were that amazing. I don’t mean the regular amazing you hear in every other review. I mean utterly amazing. So amazing that it has a nice atmospheric feeling to it. So amazing that it feels like you’re looking at natural beauty. So amazing that the Wii just doesn’t have the right to be considered part of this generation anymore, (I apologize if the Wii isn’t THIS generation anymore. That was when this review was written). Hey, those sound just like the special qualities the original Donkey Kong Country franchise first brought on to most players when it was first released, doesn’t it?

So yeah, the graphics are great, but what about the gameplay? All I can say is that the gameplay, although not exactly like the original franchise, does have a few selected elements and it does take things to an extreme. Which elements have been kept? Well, I can go on for hours and hours on end naming all the details, but I’m just going to leave it at this statement: This game is a 2D platformer with so much to discover, just like the previous installments.

What is there to discover? Quite a bit, which is what leads into replayability. There’s bonus levels to find, secret items to collect, and hidden levels to unearth. The replayability is phenomenal and is a huge step-up from the original franchise. It may take you roughly 10 hours to beat just the regular game itself, but when you get to replayability, your amount of play time has just tripled, and at the very LEAST.

As I said the regular game takes roughly 10 hours to beat. I feel however, that this is more of a minimum. The difficulty for this game, though very gradual as the game progresses, is definitely one that will make this game last a lot longer during your first playthrough. Despite playing as two Kongs with two lives for each of them, and the multiple checkpoints in each level, things will no doubt be frustrating at times. With gimmicks that are occasionally introduced (though not too overused) and well laid-out levels, before you know it lives are quite easy to lose. At the same time though, they are quite easy to collect. There are a lot of methods for getting extra lives (a lot of which are re-used from the original franchise). These methods include collecting bananas, life balloons, golden K-O-N-G letters, which come in large quantities in the hidden bonus levels. So in the end, things do balance out.

In addition to all the items for getting extra lives, there are also puzzle pieces and banana coins. Puzzle pieces are mainly for the sake of collecting and fully completing the game. Banana coins however, are much larger in quantity and are used to buy special items at Cranky Kong's shop.

Of course, there is a lot more to talk about. I could go into detail on the replayability and gameplay bit by bit. I feel however, that this will not only take too long, but also spoil some of the fun from your first playthrough. Details should be left alone so the game may be more of a surprise and enjoyable experience for the reader.

So, we’ve got the amazing graphics and replayability. These are the two key elements that make this game a true classic. That said, there are still four extra mechanics to talk about: sound, music, controls and the story.

For the sound, there is honestly not much to say. Nothing is annoying or repetitive, sounds are detailed and in the Wii's quality, so no harm done here.

Now for the music. The music definitely takes advantage of the original franchise. This is where the game definitely feels like part of the previous installments despite not necessarily being one of them (at least in my opinion.) That’s because a majority of the music is remixed from the very first Donkey Kong Country game. Yes, a majority. I guarantee that if you played the first game a lot in your childhood, you will hear a lot of nostalgia running through your ears when you play this game. The music is remixed so that the same “feeling” is kept, but so that it's also capable of the Wii’s generation.

Let's not forget the controls. In this game there are actually two ways to play. One is holding the Wii-remote sideways, which is the usual choice for most 2D platformers on the Wii. The other is holding the Wii-remote and the Numchuck, which is ironically the usual choice for most 3D platformers on the Wii. An extra control scheme can't hurt though, since there's less of a chance of the player feeling uncomfortable with the controller. Shaking of the Wii-remote is used, but is kept to a good minimum and is not overused.

So, the eyes are comforted, the ears are comforted, and the gamer is comforted with some spicy gameplay and comforting controls. There’s just one thing left and that’s the story. Well… to be honest, that’s where the game lacks the most. The story is simply this: Donkey Kong’s banana hoard is stolen not by the usual King K. Rool, but by a group of tiki enemies with hypnotic spells. Donkey Kong now must go on another journey with his good ol' buddy Diddy Kong to save his hoard of bananas, and that is that. Let’s be fair though: The franchise’s stories weren’t all that amazing either. In fact, games like this are never meant to have a complex story in the first place. What Retro really tried doing was being both original yet similar to the previous installments. Well, looks like they hit the bullseye again.

So overall, Retro Studios was not aiming to create a Donkey Kong Country 4. They were aiming to create Donkey Kong Country Returns. Anybody who hates this game simply doesn't understand that. They did their best and their best was incredible. They created both a game that reminds you of a popular franchise, and a game that contains unique elements that blow you away.

All I have left to say is buy this game. It’s one of the best in the Wii library and one of the best 2D platformers I’ve played in a long time. You will NOT be disappointed.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Donkey Kong Country Returns (US, 11/21/10)

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