Of all of the Nintendo characters with games of their own, Donkey Kong has some really stellar titles under his tie. The Donkey Konga games were great and innovated the way that people play games, but the most iconic Donkey Kong series is the Donkey Kong Country games developed by Rare Studios. The games were released on the SNES and pushed the graphical capability of the system with it’s 3D-like graphics and challenging platforming that was not seen in many games prior. The trilogy on the SNES are heralded as some of the best on the system, and have had re-releases on the Game Boy Advance as well as on the virtual console.
In 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare and thus the series was cancelled. The games were still very much appreciated as time went on, but there was a hankering for more action in the DKC world. In 2010, Donkey Kong Country Returns was released for the Wii developed by Retro Studios, who previously worked on the Metroid Prime series. The game was received very well save for the controls, which required motion controls to do certain actions making the 2D platform feel very awkward. I got the game when it was first released, but did not make it far due to the bad control scheme that was mandatory for the Wii. I never thought it was a bad game, but I felt as if I should have gotten farther in the game with a more classic control layout. Flash forward to a month ago, when I picked up the 3DS version for $20, thinking I should give it another try with a more traditional control layout. I’m very glad I did.
DKC Returns is a blast from start to finish. The art design is very appealing and really lends itself well to the character, as it makes a goofy, cartoonish world that is vibrant and silly. Every single level of the game is an absolute joy to look at, considering they all take their “world” themes and run with it in a different direction in every level. The Jungle has a lot of old statues that DK can blast through and is jam packed with bananas. The Seaside level is really creative with the tides as well as making fun pirate levels. I found myself going back to certain levels to play through them just to experience the music and level design, which is fun time and time again.
This game (at least the 3DS version) has virtually no control problems. Everything is smooth, responsive and really easy to play with. The only issue that I have with the controls is not even a fault of the game. I played the game on an original 2DS model, making the grass grabbing very difficult considering how hard it is to really know if I am actually pressing the L button. I thought that it would be better to map that action to a face button, but I quickly realized that it would make things a lot more difficult considering that some obstacles that are on the grabbing grass need the face buttons to get around them. Once I noticed this, I was able to get used to the system and get on with the game.
Though this game is easier to play on the 3DS, that doesn’t mean it is easy. The first two worlds are relatively easy to breeze through, but the third world is where the real challenge hits. There were some levels where I would lose more than ten lives to get past it, and though there is a skip option, I never used it knowing it was a slip up that I could easily get by. The biggest difficulty that the game presents is the massive amount of collectibles that are jam-packed in every level. There are Bananas, Banana Coins and Puzzle Pieces that are in every level to make more replay value and another thing to do to 100% complete the game. Obtaining some of these seem really difficult to get to or impossible to find. That is an issue that I have that is not very big in the grand scheme of things considering they are not necessary to beat the game, but since some of them are really challenging to get, I was not upset when I came to the conclusion that Puzzle Pieces will be left behind. It’s not that big of a deal, but for completionists, the collectibles become more frustrating than they are challenging.
I have played the original Donkey Kong Country and there are some noticeable differences between DKC Returns and the original, with the biggest being the inclusion of Diddy Kong as a power up. In the original Diddy Kong acted as an extra life. If you were Diddy and you picked up a DK barrel, Donkey Kong will be the substitute character. In DKC Returns, Donkey Kong is always the base character, and picking up a Diddy barrel will put Diddy on DK’s back and adds a little air time to a jump courtesy of Diddy’s jet pack. I actually like this one way more than the original considering any hit on either character will knock that character off the screen and the player would have to hunt for another DK barrel. DKC Returns is far more forgiving and allows for more explored places thanks to the little boost that Diddy has.
DKC Returns is a modern masterpiece. One would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with the game without sounding too nit-picky and there is so much to come back to, even if it is just normally playing through a level. The fast game play and energizing feel that the game has is infectious and addicting.