Latest Game Reviews

Donkey Kong Country Returns Review - Wii

8.5
Gameplay: 9 stars 9
Graphics: 9 stars 9
Audio: 8 stars 8
Multiplayer: 6 stars 6
Innovation: 5 stars 5
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Introduction

It’s funny how much a brand can change in the space of a few years. Rare was the shiny jewel in Nintendo’s second-party crown. In the mid-nineties, they produced hit after hit, beginning with Donkey Kong Country and then, of course, Goldeneye 007. Fast-forward to 2003, and Microsoft’s audacious $375 million takeover of the company was bemoaned by die-hard Nintendo fans. And yet the company’s output had wavered; both Donkey Kong 64 and Star Fox Adventures were departures from their respective franchises, and not in a good way. Now, eight years later, the once great company is devoid of its original founders and making Wii Sports clones for Kinect under Microsoft’s ownership.

While Rare was undergoing a gradual demise, a new company was experiencing increasing, triumphant success: Retro Studios. Originally founded to produce mature titles for the upcoming Gamecube platform, administrative troubles saw Nintendo fully acquire the company as a first party in 2002. The company went on to experience great success with the revolutionary Metroid Prime series. In 2008, Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to develop a new Donkey Kong game, and asked fellow producer Kensuke Tanabe who he recommended for the job. Tanabe suggested Retro, since president Michael Kelbaugh had been involved in the original Donkey Kong Country series. And so, in late 2010, Retro Studios delivered Donkey Kong Country Returns to stores.

Gameplay

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a classic platformer in every sense of the word. It is a 2D side-scroller, at times devilishly difficult, and a fantastic game overall. Classic, classic, classic.  The game oozes love for the franchise, and perfectly balances the nostalgia of old-school gameplay with the modern needs of the Wii-owning audience. Compatible with the nunchuk, and yet able to be played without, the game doesn’t mess with the banana-collecting, barrel-blasting, mine-karting formula we all fell in love with a decade or two ago.

Surprisingly, where I always tend to favour the nunchuk and Wii remote combo, such as in Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I found that in this context it was unintuitive. Something about the setup felt wrong – perhaps the use of the B or Z triggers to grab objects rather than a different face button. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that the sideways Wii remote just felt more inherently right than the alternative was inherently wrong. Plus, being able to make one sharp shake with two hands on the remote gives you more control than a one-handed waggle when in the midst of action.

There are a few minor additions to the gameplay that add to, rather than reinvent, the experience. First is a ... (continued next page)


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