All of ‘em, but honestly, we’d settle for just King K. Rool. Everyone knows Donkey Kong’s true rival is Mario, from back in the Pauline/Jumpman days. But as Donkey Kong Jr. pointed out, nobody really likes seeing Mario portrayed as a bad guy (except maybe us), so Rare wisely decided to give the Kong Klan a different motivation and villain in DKC.
Above: Get these back
Above: From this guy
And it worked. King K. Rool is not the most threatening boss you’ll ever see at first glance, but after he kicks your ass repeatedly, you’ll learn to fear him (and his consistently kick-ass boss music). Furthermore, like any great villain, K. Rool’s got the resilience of a tank, taking endless slapstick-y punishment yet never failing to make it out alive.
Status? … Uh-oh.
As you know by now, developer Rare was the creator of the Donkey Kong Country series, taking the Donkey Kong character copyrighted by Nintendo and essentially giving him his own game universe. According to the United States Copyright Office database (which is actually way cooler to look through than you might think), the entire Donkey Kong Country SNES game was a “work for hire” - Rare was paid to produce a game with Nintendo characters that Nintendo would own all the rights to. So, if Nintendo wanted to, say, roll out another “Donkey Kong Country” game (as they’re doing now), it would be able to without paying Rare a cent.
Above: Rare wasn’t even given credit on its own game’s box until the of DKC was released in 1997. Freelancing can be tough, man!
Rare never copyrighted the characters of K. Rool nor the Kremlings in the DKC universe, because doing so would violate the “work for hire” agreement made with Nintendo.
What all this means is that Nintendo has every legal right to have Donkey Kong square off against the Kremling Klan again in DKC Returns. But Tanabe has flat out said, “There will be no alligators in this game."
Why? Our guess is that Nintendo’s just being polite. Even though Rare is no longer on Nintendo’s payroll, the Kremlings are undoubtedly Rare’s creations; Nintendo using them without permission just because they could would be a little dickish. As much as we bemoan the lack of Kremlings, we have to admit, not taking advantage of its contract is a pretty classy move on Nintendo’s part.
Above: It seems we’ll be getting this Tiki-inspired boss character in DKCR instead
But… now that we think about it, if ownership issues are holding back certain characters of DKC from returning, what will become of…
5. The Kong Crew?
The Kong dynasty is already huge; Rare has had no qualms in the past about adding to the family (DK 64, anyone?) whenever it released a new title. DK’s lineage spans multiple generations, as well as an uncomfortable number of species:
Still, the Kong family, like the Kremlings, is comprised of nearly all Rare-made characters owned by Nintendo. Obviously, Diddy will be in DKCR, but what about the others?
The official word on this is still mum. According to Tanabe: “There was a direction from Mr. Miyamoto as to up to what point in the series' legacy to draw from, but I think it will be the most fun for people to play it themselves and see who pops up along the way.”
That’s pretty far from the outright “no” we got with the Kremlings. At least someone from the Kong family is popping up along the way, huh? If so, we’re willing to bet our lunch money that that means we’ll be seeing our favorite crotchety old geezer once more. After all, Cranky’s technically got more ties to Nintendo than Rare - according to some versions of series’ canon, Cranky was the same Donkey Kong that kidnapped Pauline all those years ago.
At least, we hope so. We think you’ll agree: DKCR wouldn’t be complete without a little fourth-wall-rupturing snark from good ol’ Cranky. We can already hear him whining, “All this Wii Waggle is making my arthritis act up…”
6. Animal Friends
Even if Expresso the Ostrich was a bit crap, the animal friends in DKC were pretty essential, at least in terms of mixing up the gameplay. Squawks could fly, hold lights, or shoot coconuts; Rambi could charge through enemies and breakable walls, and Ellie the Elephant could shoot water from her trunk. Sure, some were more fun to use than others, but each animal friend had that spark of personality that made us love them.
Above: Remember Squitter? How Rare made this work is beyond us
Status? We already know that with a lack of underwater levels comes a likely lack of Enguarde the Swordfish, but as for the rest of the animal buddies, we’ve seen nothing. According to Tanabe: "I know people certainly have enjoyed them in the past so we are definitely considering those elements of gameplay. But you'll have to excuse me for keeping this secret for a little while longer."
Still, we’d bet on some animal-riding happening. DK Jungle Beat had both bird-riding and wildebeest-riding, even if those animal friends were not given names or personalities. We’re hoping to see some more familiar faces show up in DKCR, and Tanabe knows we want ‘em, but we’ll have to wait to see what we get.
7. Alliterative Area Aliases
I’ll also settle for level names with lousy rhymes, or with the letter “k” inserted where it doesn’t belong (for komik effekt, of kourse). Oh, Rare humor. You’re so sincere and dopey, like your friend’s goofy dad. Even when you’re trying to be dark and serious, everything about you is so damned likable. Actually, as much as we like Retro Studios, this is personally my biggest sticking point on DKCR. Will it have that Rare-exclusive goofy sensibility, that cartoony, slapsticky magic? Or will it be all brawn and no heart?
Above: DK Jungle Beat did an admirable job bringing some personality into DK’s adventure, but it didn’t have much in the way of humor
All we have to go off with Retro Studios is the Metroid Prime trilogy. Freakin’ awesome, but as serious as the plague. So, what can we expect? Comedy gold?
Status? Still up in the air. On the Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon, Nintendo big-wig Reggie Fils-Aime and Jimmy played through a bit of DKCR’s opening level, which included a cute opening - Jimmy and Reggie had to shake their wii-motes to make Donkey and Diddy burst out of DK’s house. But that’s not quite a joke, is it?
There does seem to be a good deal of personality in the way Donkey and Diddy animate - we like the way the two look when too close to a ledge, or when Diddy walks upright before breaking out into a run. Still, the only real humor in this video comes from watching Jimmy Fallon try to jump on Reggie’s back not once, but twice in the span of a couple seconds.
What do you think? Are we being niggling Nancies? Does Donkey Kong Country Returns have everything you want from a remake? Or do you wish Rare was more involved? Let us know in the comments below!
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