Exactly how “Country” is Donkey Kong Country Returns? In the gameplay shown so far, Retro Studios and Nintendo appear to be diverging in some interesting ways from the Donkey Kong Country template that original developer Rare set up. Did they think fans like me wouldn’t notice?
What about the core tenets of any Donkey Kong game with “Country” in the title? What exactly in Donkey Kong Country Returns is, well… returning? Not to be a whiny fanboy, but if that’s the name developer Retro and publisher Nintendo are going with, the game had better have…
1. Awesome Music
Absolutely essential for any platformer, sure. But it’s especially important here, because one of the most memorable elements of the DKC series is its standout soundtracks. Robin Beanland, Eveline Fischer and the phenomenal David Wise are unparalleled in their mastery of the SNES’ sound-making hardware, having cranked out not only tons of iconic sound effects but also more memorable hits in the span of three games than other professional composers have in their entire lives. We love the DKC soundtrack to death, enough to showcase it not once, but twice for our Game Music of the Day. If Returns opens with an auto-tuned Justin Bieber singing over 100 bpm sampled bongos, we promise there will be blood.
Status? Sounding pretty good from what we’ve heard, but we haven’t heard much - and it’s hard to make out a lot on the noisy E3 showfloor. The trailer shown at Nintendo’s press conference featured a redone version of Wise’s classic Jungle Theme that was pretty sweet. Still, is Returns going to stick only with remixed versions of Wise’s stuff? Is Wise going to get back onboard to do more? Or who knows, maybe we’ll get some tracks from the folks at OverClocked ReMix?
If there’s one thing that is synonymous with Donkey Kong, it’s barrels. From the start of DK’s career, barrels have always been there, playing an integral supporting role. Throwing barrels, breaking barrels, riding on barrels, transforming into animals as a result of barrels, and - most importantly - getting launched out of barrels at high speeds. What would a DK game be without barrels?
Above: It would be this
Not only that, but Returns has the all-important mine cart level covered, too. Collective woo-hoo!
Above: No need to lose sleep over that
Only one disappointment: In a recent interview, Kensuke Tanabe, a Nintendo manager working closely with Retro Studios, essentially confirmed the disappearance of the iconic underwater levels in DKCR. They “felt slow,” he said. Well yeah, they’re supposed to. They’re a reward for finishing a tough level - that’s why “Aquatic Ambience” was written, remember? Couldn’t Retro have taken cues from DKC2 and had sections where the Kongs jump in and out of the water? We’d have been OK with that.
3. Shiny things to collect
There are two ways to play DKC - playing to get from the beginning of each level to reach the end goal, or playing it THE RIGHT WAY. Getting those hard-to-reach collectibles is such a huge part of the experience; finding every secret bonus barrel, collapsible wall, hidden coin or trinket is what separates the true heroes from the amateurs.
Above: It’s funny how often we align ourselves with Cranky Kong in regard to games these days
Status? Confirmed! But with one concern.
There will be bonus rooms in DKCR, and completing a bonus room (in the case shown here, by collecting all the bananas) will reveal a hidden puzzle piece. There appear to be 9 puzzle pieces per level, and collecting them all surely does… something.
In the hands-on footage we’ve seen, bonus rooms seem to be fairly uncommon. It seems that a majority of puzzle pieces and trinkets are uncovered by ground-pounding or by using DK’s “blow” move on interesting places in the environment, revealing hidden paths. That’s fine, unless it starts to get too repetitive - we want to earn our puzzle pieces through gaming skill and death-defying leaps of faith, not by frantically waggling the controller every few steps.
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