7 things Donkey Kong Country Returns needs to be authentic

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?

Above: Probably not. But you should download their free DKC-themed albums anyway 

2. Barrel Blasting!

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

Status? Check.

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: Damn straight!

Some of those secrets were so brutal, oh man. Remember the secret-within-a-secret in Oil Drum Alley? The horror of looking for hidden rooms in Web Woods? The wonder of finding the super-secret alternate ending of DKC3 (even if said ending kind of sucked)? And I found these secrets before you could just get all the answers on the internet, too. You lazy kids today don’t know how good you have it.

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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  • Anduin1 - August 31, 2010 11:51 p.m.

    No Kremlins no buy from me initially, I need to see extensive play testing to see if this worth $$$ or just a rental or a "mod" stonval appointed,
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  • philipshaw - August 24, 2010 12:32 p.m.

    You have every right to want this stuff in the game,still a bit nervous about this but so I will wait for reviews before buying it
  • ThePigHostage - August 24, 2010 8:27 a.m.

    @jmcgrotty I think it's supposed to say "until the Player's Choice edition of DKC was released".
  • jmcgrotty - August 24, 2010 7:12 a.m.

    Not to seem anal about typos and stuff, but I am curious what is missing in the caption "Rare wasn’t even given credit on its own game’s box until the of DKC was released in 1997." Until what was released?
  • keefster - August 24, 2010 5:05 a.m.

    I can't wait, my wallet is taking a beating with all the games coming out this fall.
  • JDMDrifter - August 24, 2010 2:32 a.m.

    Jesus Christ Newman as soon as I got to the animal friends part I shit my pants in fear for you see I have an extreme fear of spiders and that picture was a bit much. Overall though well written.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - August 24, 2010 2:09 a.m.

    I wouldn't say that a lack of underwater levels means a lack of Enguarde. Retro can make it work if they're creative. For example - say one of the bosses is a Loch Ness monster-type guy, and the only way to damage him is to throw Enguarde at him like a spear. It could work!
  • ThePigHostage - August 23, 2010 9:56 p.m.

    @JNewman Rare could never sue, as they have absolutely zero legal right to the characters (as mentioned in the article). Nintendo owns the characters and can do whatever they want with them. And DK Jungle Climber pretty much was a platformer - though it really doesn't make a difference. So yeah, I just don't see this as a likely reason for the Kremling's exclusion.
  • taterboob - August 23, 2010 6:49 p.m.

    I hate to split hairs...but I'm going to anyway. Diddy's not a chimpanzee. Chimps don't have prehensile tails.
  • garnsr - August 23, 2010 5:10 p.m.

    I never liked Donkey Kong Country much. It came out at the point when I was getting tired of swimming levels, and especially mine carts, and jumping to pick up items floating in the air. It just seemed calculated to be how a game was supposed to be at that point in time.
  • HardlyBirdman - August 23, 2010 2:33 p.m.

    ugh....Kong family......Diddy's a shoe-in, and you're right, the game would be lacking without Cranky......but other than Funky Kong and Dixie, I won't miss a single one of the others if they don't show up. In fact, I think that it would be a selling point.
  • Waldo - August 23, 2010 1:26 p.m.

    If the new badies are any good this could launch a whole new series (I hope). I've always kinda hoped for a co-op DKC though. Me and my bud would always pick a dude and pass the controller when the other died. That kind of team play was really cool. You felt like you were playing even if you weren't. Even my folks were impressed at how great the games looked on the SNES. You know they did something right when your mom tells you how cool the game your playing is!
  • TheElephantManchurianCandidate - August 23, 2010 12:50 p.m.

    Hmm You've made me wonder if I still want this game.
  • JNewman - August 23, 2010 12:47 p.m.

    @ThePigHostage Great point, though I'd throw out there that none of those games you mentioned are platformers, but gimmicky other types of games. If you were Rare and were thinking of suing, you'd have a much weaker case against, say, Donkey Konga than you would with a game that so clearly models DKC's structure (and title, for that matter). Still, good catch!
  • markshell - August 23, 2010 12:40 p.m.

    Diddy Kong was a great game for sure, but it wasn't supposed to have Diddy in it. His addition to the game and title was a last minute thing just to give it a household name so it could sell like it did. That cute little universe had nothing to do with the Donkey Kong Country universe. Magic Carpet Elephants? Wizpig? Timber the tiger? Oh come on.
  • CH3BURASHKA - August 23, 2010 7:08 a.m.

    I was pretty pissed when they said there wouldn't be any crocs. All the enemies so far have been very Wii-friendly, very colorful and purdy. Maybe that's just the Cranky Kong in my talking, but I would very much like them to stick to the roots as close as possible. The tiki boss is retarded, though.
  • slimjim441 - August 23, 2010 4:59 a.m.

    I'm not worried at all. This game is going to be great. I have complete faith in Retro. They did a phenomenal job with the Primes, and I believe they'll do just as good with DKC. There are some things you mentioned that would be kind of disappointing without them, like not including the whole crew, or no Kremlings, but it's not like they would be major down falls. It would be like how everyone was a little bit disappointed when 'The Touch' wasn't in War for Cybertron. Or that Kraid wasn't in Metroid Prime (not by choice, they didn't have the time). Anyway, Retro Studios will not disappoint, and you can bet your last golden banana on that.
  • ThePigHostage - August 23, 2010 1:52 a.m.

    Am I the only one who remembers that Nintendo has been using K. Rool and the Kremlings in several games after Rare's departure? DK King of Swing DK Jungle Climber Donkey Konga He's even a playable character in DK Barrel Blast and Super Mario Sluggers. So I don't see why Nintendo would suddenly think it's inappropriate to use him in this game. There must be some other reason.