Donkey Kong Country Returns Preview

Donkey Kong is barreling his way to Wii, courtesy of the much-heralded Retro Studios.

By Evan Campbell. Posted 06/22/2010 01:16 1 Comment     ShareThis

Donkey Kong Country Returns 01

At E3, people seemed to be enthused about the rebirth of Donkey Kong Country. As I sat at Nintendo’s press conference, a group of guys behind me shouted, cheered, and exclaimed in unison, “NO WAY!”

I, on the other hand, clenched my fist together in anger. I could not believe that this was the game Retro Studios’ had been working on for close to three years. I imagined a more atmospheric and moody title from the developer, something similar to the Metroid Prime series. I wanted a new universe and characters, something never seen before from Nintendo.

Instead, I got an update to a mid-‘90s platformer. This did not look innovative. The trailer shown at the presser basically looked like a remake with updated visuals. A few hours later, however, my knee-jerk reaction and quick observations were proven wrong.

You see, I actually got to play the game. And after picking up the controller, I remembered why I loved Retro so much in the first place. The developer has created a platformer very unlike anything from the Big N for Wii, as well as a barrel full of fun.

The first thing that caught my eye was the character instilled into the art and visuals. As I moved Donkey Kong to a cliff bordered by water, a shark leapt out and flipped backward before re-entering the watery depths. The shark showcased fantastic animation, with a mixture of head swaying, chomping, and tail slapping. To see so much attention placed in a secondary enemy demonstrates the love being put into this title from Retro.

Donkey Kong moves fluidly as well, with a focus on his physics. He slides instead of turning on a dime, adding a wrinkle to the platform design. DK also can smoothly transition to a roll, imperative to some of the tougher challenges present in levels. And controlling Nintendo’s iconic mascot through the difficult platform sections was a breeze thanks to clever controls. Motion allows for our hairy hero to pound the ground, giving a nice tactile feel to the action.

But Donkey Kong is not alone, as Diddy Kong also returns in a much more prominent role. The hat-wearing monkey gives DK a health upgrade and air boost when set free from his barrel. For some unexplainable reason, Diddy is also equipped with a popgun, but you will not see us complaining.

Diddy Kong also allows for two-player co-op to be present throughout the entire game. You and a buddy can team up to tackle any and every level, including boss battles. Sadly, Noah and Tidman were never around to try out the new feature, but there is no doubt the feature is welcomed. I would hope that online co-op is available, but with no mention by Nintendo, it is doubtful.

Boss battles, though, will be plentiful, strategic and loads of fun. The one adversary available in the demo gave me a run for my money. For example, the monstrous, horned banana slob seen in the trailers will eventually leap little by little across the screen.

With my trusty platforming skills, I gracefully walked up to the cusp of the foe’s landing area, waiting to waltz right by after the next jump. But, surprisingly, this will not work, as the beast scooped me up in its mouth and chomped away a heart bar. This change-up (which was not the only one) put a clever spin on the fight — which repeatedly made me look like a fool — and made victory that much more satisfying.

Ultimately, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a tremendous victory for Retro. The demo flipped my gut reactions within the first 10 minutes. And I have no qualms thinking you will be enchanted as well.

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