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Donkey Kong Country Returns: Not Intended for Weenies

  • Apr 27, 2011
  • by
Donkey Kong has always been one of Nintendo's staples.  He was, along with Mario, one of the first characters Nintendo ever brought out the door.  He hasn't actually starred in a lot of games, but the original Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo was perhaps one of the most recognizable game to anyone who calls themselves a gamer.  Unfortunately we haven't been able to really play as Donkey Kong in a while.  We've been able to control him in mini game collections such as Mario Party and in the fighting game Super Smash Bros., but aside from that, DK rarely gets a game to call his own.  Perhaps it was nostalgia that caused Nintendo to bring him back for another Donkey Kong Country game.  And keep in mind the last time we saw a truly original Donkey Kong Country was in 1996... and Donkey wasn't even the main star.  Was returning to Donkey Kong Country such a good idea? 

Turns out, it really was.  Donkey Kong Country Returns is filled with as much nostalgia as it is new content.  It is also one of the more challenging Wii games out there as well as being one of the most graphically ambitious for the Wii.  And we'll get to that in a minute.

Donkey Kong Country, like Mario, has never been a game that you pick up for story.  It's all about the gameplay here.  The plot is simple enough, a bunch of Tiki like monsters have taken control of the animals on the island and they've stolen DK's bananas.  It's up to Donkey Kong and his pal Diddy Kong to go and get his bananas back and along the way they'll come across various traps, ride minecarts, fly rockets and more.  The levels here are some of the most well designed in a 2D platformer.  And all the staples of Donkey Kong are there.  As you go through levels you'll find bonus rooms, shoot through barrels and collect Kong letters.  Those are, of course the familiar elements.  There are a few new things. 

The first and most obvious tweak is that you can't switch between Donkey and Diddy and instead you now have hearts.  Diddy spends most of his time on Donkey's back and he's able to help him hover across gaps.  The inability to switch between them is a bit of a drag, but a second player can join in and control Diddy on his own.  In the original SNES games playing two player was usually taking turns or waiting for one person to switch to the other.  Donkey Kong Country Returns allows both to play at the same time.  Unlike New Super Mario Bros., however, you're not encouraged to cooperate AND compete.  You are very much encouraged to only cooperate.  And it shows.

Each level is usually a straightforward path with you running from left to right and bashing baddies in the way.  While they're not the classic Kremlings from the first three games, you'll like some of the designs for the enemies here.  There are a few changes to what you need to accomplish, however.  Instead of Kremkoins or Bonus Tokens you go into bonus rooms to collect puzzle pieces.  Every level has a set number of puzzle pieces.  Not all of them are in bonus barrels, but a good deal of them are.  Collect all the puzzle pieces and you earn a badge that shows such.  The KONG letters have also changed slightly.  You collect them all in a level to earn another badge.  Collect KONG on every level in a world and you unlock a hidden bonus stage that is often more challenging than anything else the world will throw at you.  You can also go back for time trials to collect a third badge. 

Getting through Donkey Kong Country Returns can sometimes be a test of skill.  When New Super Mario Bros. came out I had heard several people complaining that it was too difficult and by far one of the hardest Mario games ever.  Those statements had, in my mind, been greatly trumped up.  I never found New Super Mario Bros. Wii that challenging.  I know several people who did, however (but this is coming from a guy who believed that the first Contra was also a relatively easy game).  Donkey Kong Country Returns hasn't been greatly exaggerated with its difficulty.  It really can be a challenge at times.  The good news is that the challenge comes from design.  Mostly.  There are some moments where you won't figure things out until you die first.  Clearly Nintendo knew they created something challenging because extra lives are ridiculously easy to come by.  There is almost always a balloon near a checkpoint and you can buy several of them using the games form of currency--banana coins.  It's pretty easy to have way more than fifty lives.  The only problem is that when playing two player, you always lose two lives at a time, which can cause your lives to dwindle faster.

The game also has a Super Guide as well.  For those who don't know what that is, when you die too many times, eventually you can have the game complete the level for you if you're having too much trouble.  New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2 both had this feature.  It doesn't come without penalty, however.  Those looking for completion will not get it as the super guide will only complete the level, it won't unearth any secrets.  A fair trade if you ever actually need it.  Donkey Kong Country Returns may be a challenge but there isn't much that is too terribly taxing that you should need the Super Guide.  Much of everything in Donkey Kong Country Returns is all about pattern recognition.  So if you're having too much trouble in some of the levels, the best solution is to slow down... sometimes. 

If there is anything that Donkey Kong Country Returns must be commended on it's definitely it's superior presentation.  Simple cartoon like animations bring the game to life, but what really helps is the amount of detail within each level.  The levels are so well designed that you sometimes will find yourself in the background, foreground, etc.  You'll be amazed at how much this game can throw at you at any given time.  Much like the SNES titles, it's gorgeous to look at. 

The music on the other hand is a 100% nostalgia trip for anyone who ever played the original Donkey Kong Country.  Nearly everything here is a remastered, rearranged track from the original Donkey Kong Country.  It's good stuff to listen to considering the soundtrack to the original game was fantastic as is.

Donkey Kong Country Returns mixes the best of the old with some new material.  There's not a lot that keeps the game down.  The only thing that might be off putting to the novice gamer is the steep difficulty level of some of the levels that require a bit of trial and error and in other cases some expert gaming skills.  But throughout it all it remains consistently fun.  If you had an affinity for the Donkey Kong Country games in the past then by all means pick up Donkey Kong Country Returns.  It's not only a nice bit of nostalgia but also a nice bit of fun as well.

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April 29, 2011
So, I just want to be straight on this, are we discriminating against weenies or just implying that they could not handle the intellectual requirements of the game? Because this little guy says he can handle it...
April 29, 2011
April 27, 2011
excellent review! I've always enjoyed your write ups when it came to the classic video game titles; youmake superb points as to how and what are the improvements over the previous games. Truly shows that you are master of your domain. :)
April 27, 2011
I love Donkey Kong so much! I want to play :D This will definitely 100% bring back a nostalgia trip for me. Thanks for sharing!
More Donkey Kong Country Returns reviews
review by . February 03, 2011
posted in GayGamer
Donkey Kong Country Returns is an awesomely fun game. You get to jump and swing around the jungle, grabbing bananas and squashing enemies. Making it through a level is almost like a long, intricate dance, only you've got olympic-level gymnast skills, insane upper-body strength, and there are trampolines and deadly obstacles everwhere.      The game is really challenging, too - even the first level is hard to complete on the first pass. But even when you finish a level, you …
review by . December 23, 2010
I've never played a game that's both so frustrating and so fun at the same time. Here are some thoughts a bit more than halfway through the game:    The GOOD    The graphics are gorgeous. While Donkey Kong Country Returns' graphics don't have quite the same "wow factor" as the original Donkey Kong Country did for SNES, Retro Studios did an amazing job. Some of the cutscenes almost look like Pixar films. The music really evokes the classic soundtrack, with …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this video game


Inspired by earlier games in the Donkey Kong Country series, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a new take on a beloved Nintendo franchise. The first Donkey Kong Country game developed for play for Wii, this new iteration blends familiar actions, levels and characters with a whole new graphical treatment and feel, as well as new control schemes and play options. Features include: a co-op play option allowing you to team up as Donkey Kong and Diddy, radically different visuals ranging from nearly 3D treatment to others that appear in silhouette, two different controller schemes and more.

Donkey Kong Country Returns game logo
A New Country for Old Friends

Under the influence of a group of evil Tikis, the animals of Donkey Kong Island have raided Donkey Kong's banana hoard and stolen his stash of bananas - and being an ape of large appetites he understandably wants them back. Good thing that you are along for the ride. With Donkey Kong Country Returns, Retro Studios brings Donkey Kong back to a banana and platforming hungry public in a new side-scrolling adventure with familiar characters and new levels that reignite the passion players had for the Super NES original and all things Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong and Diddy from Donkey Kong Country Returns
Join Donkey Kong and sidekick Diddy in a whole new side-scrolling adventure.
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Like earlier Donkey Kong Country games, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a side-scrolling platformer, but although the game contains classic references, as well as levels and activities reminiscent of earlier ...

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Number of Players: Single player, Multi-player
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios, Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: November 21, 2010 (NA)
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