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Ya'ver drink Brazilian bold from fkn dunkn donuts!
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Donkey Kong Country Returns [Wii]

Serious Monkey Business

We have to go all the way back to 1994 to the era of the Super NES, Nintendo having heavily put the marketing spin on its new side scrolling adventure extravaganza, Donkey Kong Country, a RARE title which spawned one of the best selling SNES games of all time, with over a whopping 8 million sales and rave reviews all round. Subsequently, RARE released the sublime and heavily favoured Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, another top seller and fan favourite, and when 1996 came around RARE went for the hatrick with Dixie Kong's Double Trouble albeit with less favourable reviews. The Super NES wasn't the only machine to be graced with the heavily popular titles, with the GameBoy receiving versions of the key franchise and later ports for the GameBoy Advance.

The side scrolling action was laid to rest for a long time afterwards, the Nintendo 64 saw a 3D action adventure starring new characters amongst old favourites, and while it is still a quality game in its own right, there was too much pressure for it to live up to its legendary status and fans seemed less impressed. Donkey Kong has since featured several titles on his own and with other game franchises however none of them have been able to meet the level of brilliance achieved back in the mid 90's, although the original trilogy still sits favourably with fans.

RARE has since long left its direct affiliation with Nintendo, thus Retro Studios, an American based company has been given the rights to take the Donkey Kong Country series and go bananas with it, and boy have they done something special with that privilege.

My jungle, I cannot deny her. My jungle screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her monkey.

Us Monkeys Together

Things seem to have changed on DK Island, the Kremlings seem to no longer pose a threat (well no wonder since all the times K.Rool was defeated by the DK clan) and all seems well. After a volcano eruption the Tiki tribe surfaced and begun to hypnotize all the islands animals to do their bidding; namely hoarding all of DK's bananas (those dastards!). When one of the Tiki shaman tries to hypnotize Donkey, he merely looks on bemused, then punches the little fella into the sunset and the adventure begins, it's now up to Donkey and Diddy to rescue their banana hoard and bring peace back to the island.
It's been a while since we've taken charge of Donkey and he's learned a few tricks since the last time we met.

Holding the Wii-mote sideways immediate familiarity is discovered, the directional pad used to move Donkey left, right or to crouch down, with 1 assigned to run and 2 designated to jump. Fairly straight forward stuff, the special moves however are achieved through shaking the wii-mote. Standing still and shaking will make Donkey pound the ground, allowing him to destroy rocks or crates, shaking while running enables him to do his patented roll attack and continually shaking keeps him rolling on in such a fashion to make Fred Durst green with envy. What is new however is Donkey's ability to blow air while crouching, shake the wii-mote and donkey can blow flowers to reveal precious coins or bananas, or to put out flaming enemies, rendering them harmless.

Tapping 1 will give Donkey the ability to pick up barrels, or more cheekily, place Diddy on his back allowing for both of their abilities to be combines. What that means is when hitting jump a second time in mid air, Diddy will use his jet packs to temporarily hover for a second or two, allowing for more precise jumps. Shaking the controller will fire off his peanut gun stunning enemies in front. This tag team method also serves to double up the health, a feature which has seen an overhaul from days of yonder.

No safety rails, OHS are gonna love this

The Apes of Wrath

Each character now has two hearts each, allowing for either character to take at least one hit before losing a life. Picking up hearts, or throwing DK barrels will replenish their supply, and using special one off items purchased from Cranky Kong will add another heart. This new scheme certainly makes making mistakes less punishing then what was on hand before, but it won't necessarily stop you from losing at least a dozen lives on the more treacherous levels. Should a character lose all his hearts he can be resurrected at any time by hitting A, and a DK barrel will appear on screen floating by a balloon. Shaking the controller can navigate it closer to the live player, but will not automatically make it easy for them to reach. When dodging some treacherous landscape when things are tense, going out of your way to resurrect your little buddy can result in more harm than good. Using good judgement to bring a player back is a nice little element given to the player and has allowed for more smooth and continuous play, reducing frustration and allowing for more fun to be had.

Co-operative mode sees player one controlling Donkey and player two controlling Diddy. Should a player fall off the screen they have 3 seconds to get back on before they lose a life, a tricky little feature that further encourages team work. When combined together player two can shoot off Diddy's peanut gun as Donkey takes control. At any time player two can jump down from this combination, however unlike the old country games the second player can no longer be thrown about the place to get to hard to reach coins, thankfully this means that the first player cannot continuously kill the second player and reduces the amount of tom foolery as experienced in New Super Mario Brothers, being a tool to the other player is rather hard to be, aside from running too fast through the levels leaving your chum to die.

Speaking of levels, DKCR has some real doozies, whereas before levels were static affairs, save for a design elements such as rising and falling water, or rope that would burn away, Retro Studios have gone for a different approach, with levels that dynamically change as progress occurs. Platforms will change shape, appear, disappear come forth from the background and disappear just as easily. The change in camera, with zooming in or out makes everything seem more alive and active. The game has borrowed several types of levels from the old DKC, most notably the minecarts have returned, without some of the ridiculous jumps we had to make before. Barrels have also made their triumphant return, taking advantage of the 3D nature of the game and having us blast DK into the depth of 3D space, collecting all the bananas and coins he likes. The timing challenge is still there too, on occasion I found myself chipping away needlessly at my live stack in due to my nervous twitch to crack that best time for the level. The only level design that hasn't seen its return are the swimming levels, apart from the ridiculous notion to expect monkeys to hold their breaths for extended periods of time, Retro Studios have opted to omit them all together, citing it disrupted the flow of the game. A bit of a disappointment, however the inclusion of the beautiful music which normally accompanied these grandiosely challenging stages is a nice touch indeed.

Revisiting old grounds is a real rush and a joy, but for those who really want to put their skills to the test will be pleased. Until they throw the controller in frustration and go cry in the corner, for DKCR has a hidden level in each world, unlocked by collecting each KONG letter for each stage, and by god are these hidden levels incredible. No checkpoints, fully fledged levels held in a temple, each one harder than the previous. They have all the toughest and best elements in the game, falling platforms, tight jumping areas, hair trigger, split second decision making, all the way through without a breather, until you find yourself at the very last platform, only to find yourself in a lava pit and you have to do it all over again. These levels are the pinnacle of frustration, not for the level being too unfair, but for your own mistakes that lead to your demise. No doubt these are the best levels in the game, and a real rush once you manage to conjour the cajones to see it through. Just try not to cry once you lose your 50th life in a row.

Unlike the old DKC however the return to these locals have done away with the seemingly unfair design and have opted for a still challenging, yet more satisfying affair. No longer do you feel gipped for mistiming a jump which is something I used to feel a great deal. Other levels featur some really neat elements such as platforms that disappear the further you progress, forcing you to think on your feet and react accordingly, these may be tough levels, but entirely achievable without feeling cheap.

The only real issue that comes from the new level design is the way it affects multi-player. At times there are levels where both players need to be combined to get through it fine, while this is fine for player one, player two can easily sit through an entire level without having to do anything worthwhile and as a result can get a bit boring for those controlling Diddy. While this isn't a regular occurrence, it can break the teamwork dynamic and disrupt flow of the game.

If the missus is making bananas again

Beneath the Canopy

DK Country Returns has adopted a more contemporary graphical approach utilizing 3D visuals as opposed to the pre rendered techniques used of old. While not as immediately striking, the team has done wonders to make everything as smooth and lush as possible. The animation are scarily good, watching Diddy lightly tip toe around Donkeys more deliberate steps is quite remarkable to see. Colour is a big feature to bring the jungles and enemies to life, the jungle may not pop or feel as dense as the older games, but the new cleaner look more than makes up the difference. I suppose this is a real testament to how advanced the SNES DKC games were visually, although the new game does still look really nice and really vibrant. The audio however is a real highlight, the new soundtrack is a magnificent remix of the classic Donkey Kong Country music and gives the new game real character, and when played through surround sound with good subwoofer, it just sounds incredible.

Token Up

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a bona fide gem in the Wii's game library, it perfectly takes what made the original trilogy great and brings it straight into the 21st century. Perfectly fun, enjoyable, pretty with incredible sound, I don't think Retro Studios could have done a better job. Replayability is there in spades, be it to collect all the items from every level, beat the time attack to reveal more rewards or to play the game in reverse mode, there is plenty to achieve. The only real problem anyone would have with the game is the use of shaking the Wii-mote, at times I would have preferred to just hit a button. This is a really small complaint really, as DKCR is a game that anyone and everyone can enjoy, which I guess by definition is the best outcome any game can achieve. Side scrolling adventure at its best.


Hackin 'n Slashin
28,630 Posts
Were those barrel cannon sequences also in earlier games? and what do you think of them?

2,078 Posts
The only thing I missed in your review was a paragraph dedicated to the ultra-hard, anger inducing, very frustrating, incredibly challenging, yet pretty cool Temple levels. :)

The Hunter
15,879 Posts
Terrific review Snicko! If I had a Wii I'd have gone out to the store to buy this game right away.

Google Moogle
202 Posts
LOL, I had made a review too.I guess no one took a look at mine (joking). Well anyways you did a better review anyhow. Cool review (with pictures). I actually did find this game more challenging than the rest of the donkey kong country series though, but did manage to finish all donkey kong countries of the SNES one without dying from start to finish. If anyone believes that. And I usually do hour speed runs with dying as minimally as possible in them. Usually only 0,1 or 2 times during set courses.
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