It was 16 years ago when Rare released the original Donkey Kong Country for the SNES. It was one of the first games for a home video game console to use pre-rendered 3D graphics. I was hooked from the moment I started playing it. Since then I never thought I would see another Donkey game again, until now. Donkey Kong is back again for some more chest pounding and ground stomping and he’s bringing Diddy Kong along with him for an amazing adventure.
The story is pretty simple. Gone are the Kremlings and are replaced by the Tik Tak Tribe who put a spell on the animals that inhabit DK Island so they can steal the bananas. It’s up to Donkey and Diddy Kong to get those bananas back. You’ll make your way through eight worlds: jungle, beach, ruins, cave, forest, cliff, factory, and volcano. Each level has a distinctive feel. You’ll come across various challenges and enemies as well.
The first thing you’ll notice is how amazing of a job Retro did with the graphics. The game looks absolutely incredible. The character models move very convincingly and are very detailed. The environments themselves are gorgeous. Leaves on trees sway back and forth. The water effects are some of the best that I’ve seen. The way players are shot out of a barrel into background and then back to the foreground is simply genius. One level in particular that stands out is the silhouette stage with Donkey Kong’s red tie and Diddy Kong’s red hat and shirt giving the level a unique look. Certain platforms crumble under Kong’s weight. It’s simply the best looking Nintendo Wii game to date. The level design and attention to detail is jaw dropping. The audio is pretty good and it features remixed classic Kong tunes that are both jazzy and catchy.
The game is also very hard. Even the most skilled gamers will be challenged. The challenges aren’t impossible but they will lead to a lot of lost lives. Some of the most frustrating parts of the game include the mine cart and barrel blast levels that require precise timing and quick reflexes. There is even a time trial mode that allows players to race through levels as fast as possible to get certain medals. My main issue with the game is the controls. Retro didn’t include support for the classic controller which is a major dissapointment. I did enjoy using the Nunchuck and the Wii Remote although, I would have preferred using the classic controller. Motion usage is available in the game when shaking the Wiimote, which allows DK to perform a ground pound. The problem is that there are instances when the game confuses it as an attempt to roll which leads to a loss of lives in the process.
Nintendo was kind enough to include a Super Guide which is activated after dieing 8 times in a level. At that point Super Kong will run through the level. It basically gives a person more confidence to beat the level the next time around. The downside is that Super Kong will not get any collectibles which means the player will have to go through the level themselves. There are several collectibles such as, Kong letters, puzzle pieces, balloons, and hearts.
The game can be played in single player or cooperative mode. Players can only play as Donkey Kong while cooperative mode allows a second player to take control of Diddy Kong. If one player dies in two player mode, he can be brought back by hitting a DK barrel that floats into view. Diddy Kong takes a more passive role, though he can use his peanut popgun. He also has a jetpack that makes difficult jumps easier to accomplish. Donkey Kong can grasp objects such as grass. He can ground pound. He can roll to take out enemies. He can even blow to reveal items behind a plant and to blow enemies that are set on fire. With Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong a player can take four hits before dying and with Donkey Kong only it takes two hits for a player to die. DK barrels can be hard to acquire so it’s very important not to lose Diddy Kong.
Other than Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong the only returning characters are Bambi the Rhino, Squawks the Parrot and Cranky Kong. Bambi makes a few appearances but not many. Squawks is mainly used to point out puzzle pieces. Cranky Kong has a shop where a player can purchase items using the banana coins.
Even though Donkey Kong Country Returns is a difficult game I still enjoyed it. It’s very addictive. It looks very impressive and is very detailed. It has a very catchy soundtrack. It’s also the best platforming game on the Wii.