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E3 2010: First Impressions: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Nintendo's famous ape is back and better than ever!

When Rare developed the original Donkey Kong Country title for the Super Nintendo console, many were in awe of the impressively-rendered graphics they had managed to syphon out of the Super Nintendo's 16-bit hardware. Now with Rare a part of Microsoft, Nintendo needed someone to reignite the series and decided to look up an old friend for the job. Retro Studios, based in Texas, are already plenty familiar with Nintendo's hardware given their work on the Metroid Prime series, so the match should be the perfect formula for resurrecting one of Nintendo's most beloved franchises.

The first thing you'll notice about Donkey Kong Country Returns is the familiar gameplay mechanics and feel of the game. Fans of the original Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country releases will immediately feel at home with this new title. Everything from the platforming aspects to the ability to hop from enemy to enemy in rapid succession. It's clear that Retro wanted to retain the classic control scheme, but they didn't stop there.

While the basic gameplay elements retain the nostalgic feel of the original 16-bit releases, there are some new twists to make things interesting. You play the game using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, so basic movement is accomplished using the analog stick on the Nunchuk while jumping is executed using the "A" button on the Wii Remote. Of course you can also shake the Wii Remote to make Donkey Kong pound the ground if you feel like getting into the more modern aspects of the game.

As if that weren't enough, Diddy Kong himself even manages to play a much bigger role this time around. By having Diddy Kong riding on Donkey Kong, certain special skills become available to the player ranging from the ability to hover short distances using a Jet Pack, to taking out difficult enemies using the Peanut Gun. And if you can round up another player, you can even have them take control of Diddy Kong and help you out throughout each of the game's levels.

It would be an understatement to say that the play control in Donkey Kong Country Returns is smooth and responsive, but suffice it to say, fans of the original releases will find themselves jumping right in and immediately enjoying the nostalgic feel the game exhibits. Even the new motion controls work perfectly and add a nice modern feel to an already classic gameplay experience.

Of course, not to be outdone by the game's new gameplay techniques, Retro have also managed to capture the classic look of the game while still tossing in some absolutely stunning 3D rendered backdrops to pull the whole thing together. The amount of depth in the multi-layered scrolling is amazing and there will be many times when movements will be taking place farther in the background to further give the game a more animated feel. Even as impressive as the visuals were in the various Super Nintendo releases, it's still shocking to see the type of vibrant and detailed visual presentation that the developers at Retro have concocted for this brand new Donkey Kong Country title.

Only getting the the chance to hear a couple of music tracks from the game, it's difficult to get a feel for how the game will be from an overall standpoint, but the classic musical pieces fans fell in love with in the original release have never sounded better than they do in this new game and even the sound effects get a nice update to further compliment the audio package. It will be interesting to see how many classic tunes make a comeback in the final release, not to mention finding out how the new material stacks up.

There's absolutely no doubt that Donkey Kong Country Returns is going to be a massively popular title with classic Nintendo fans who couldn't get enough of the series during the 16-bit era. Retro has perfectly captured the classic look and feel of the game, yet still managed to include enough new Wii-specific features to draw in an entire new generation of gamers. Kirby's Epic Yarn is still probably my favorite first-party title from the E3 2010 show, but Donkey Kong Country Returns is definitely not far behind it.

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User Comments (41)

Deviant_Mugen

#1

Deviant_Mugen said:

Great impressions, Corbie. Apparently you'll also be able to play this game with the Wiimote NES-style, but since you didn't make mention of that in your impressions I take it the only available control scheme available for the demo was the Wii and nunchuck, huh? This game looks fantastic, and I can't wait to get my hands on it...

By the way, ehen can we expect your first impressions for Other M (if there are any)?

CorbsAdmin

#3

Corbs said:

I actually didn't play Other M at the show as I had a certain amount of time and had to pick and choose what I wanted to play. Since it's coming so soon, I decided to pass, although I really wanted to give it a go.

Deviant_Mugen

#4

Deviant_Mugen said:

@Corbie: Nooooo! :(

Oh, well, I suppose I'll have to look elsewhere for those, then. Great job on your other impressions, though, Corbs...

LoopyLuigi

#5

LoopyLuigi said:

I hope we can play this on our classic controllers for a deeper retro game experience!

AVahne

#7

AVahne said:

Can we play with the classic controller? I want to play it the same way i played the old SNES games.

FonistofCruxis

#9

FonistofCruxis said:

Do you know if player 1 can play as diddy kong in co-op? I like the sound of co-op but I'd like to be able to play as diddy kong in co-op sometimes as well as donkey kong.

jpfan1989

#10

jpfan1989 said:

I am hoping that I can play using the Classic Controller to fully get into the Retro feel

motang

#11

motang said:

Ever since Donkey Kong Jungle Beat came out I wanted a game like that but in the way DKC was, now finally I will be getting that, thanks Retro! :D

zeeroid

#15

zeeroid said:

@Zork2: Y'know, with the 3DS coming out soon, I'd say there's no better system to put sidescrollers on than the Wii. Also, interestingly, in an interview, Retro said that in spite of being played in 2 dimensions, DKCR will have a great deal more detailed graphics than even Metroid Prime 3. Apparently, the Metroid Prime 3 engine that Retro had wouldn't even be able to handle the level of detail in DKCR. Sounds like a brilliant retail release for Wii to me.

Objection

#16

Objection said:

Glad to hear the graphics are nicely done/designed,as that was the one aspect that underwhelmed in the trailer.

Twilight_Crow

#17

Twilight_Crow said:

Awesome impressions, as a big fan of the original DKC series, for me, this sounds like a dream come true :D, YAY for 2D platforming!
Once again, thanks for all the great work Corbie.

RyuZebian

#19

RyuZebian said:

Woot! Maybe I should finish the original game first before buying this... It's just so hard at times! The GBA port was awesome, because you could save your game whenever you like! Also, monkey dancing FTW. Please Retro, have monkey dancing! :D

maka

#21

maka said:

I didn't like the original DKC very much but I loved Jungle Beat. The level design was much, much, much more interesting... I wonder how this title compares with Jungle Beat, as when I saw the triler it did seem very similar in style

CorbsAdmin

#23

Corbs said:

I know the feeling pixel. I popped the original in my Super Nintendo for a couple of hours last night. :)

TKOWL

#24

TKOWL said:

I've heard that the controls feel like New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Was that the same for you?

DaVeMaN99

#25

DaVeMaN99 said:

Why is everyone thinking this should be on 3DS? Is it because its in 2D...?
If so... "sigh".
Game looks amazing, classic controller support would be great, but Im fine with the regular Wii remote.
So you move with the nunchuck and just press A to jump right? Theres no run button, and you shake to do the spin attack?

#27

said:

Is funny how last year when NSMBWii appeared everybody were hostile and even calling Nintendo lazy but with DKC they are praising it...what the hell?

With tha said, I enjoyed the DKCs and I am going to get this one on xmas.

and to everybody that is saying "why wii? why retail? better DS": SHUT.UP.

CorbsAdmin

#28

Corbs said:

There is a run button, I tried it out during the hands-on play, I just couldn't remember whether it was the "C" button or the "B" button. It's there, trust me. LOL. :)

Also it felt more like the original Donkey Kong Country game to me than Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Ravage

#29

Ravage said:

This sounds awesome, I am extremely excited :)
Thanks for the impressions Corbie.

GC-161

#30

GC-161 said:

Corbie, based on other sites impressions, it seems that on solo mode you cannot select Diddy but only DK is available. Diddy is only there to help DK out with his jetpack and peanut gun. Only in co-op mode is Diddy available.

Here is a neat excerpt from a hands on impression:

"Remember those K-O-N-G letters strewn about each stage that, when you collected all of them, gave you an extra life? They're back too. But that's not the point. As I played through my first ten or so minutes of DKC Returns, I saw the letter "O" suspended over a pit that, at first glance, was placed low enough in the pit that nabbing it would certainly require suicide. Instinctively, though, I rolled off the platform and into the pit, grabbed the "O," and jumped in midair out of the roll to the other side -- something that only a DKC veteran would not only know how to do, but know that you could do.

When I did that, the Nintendo rep smiled. "I see you're familiar with Donkey Kong Country," she said. "You bet," I said as I continued playing. "I played those games to death back in the SNES days." Her reply? "Welcome back." Welcome back indeed."

Feld0

#31

Feld0 said:

This game's definitely on my Christmas list, and is gonna make saving for my $2000+ MacBook Pro that much harder.

I need to go back and play through the original DKC games sometime. I've only made it a few levels into the first one...

DaVeMaN99

#32

DaVeMaN99 said:

@buffaloblob
Thats because they put basically no effort into the presentation. The game, honestly, looks very basic. It looks better than the DS version sure, but really, no effort into the presentation. We just got NSMB DS a couple years ago too, so it really didn't blow anyone away with its style. The main focus of the game was multiplayer too, which was really fantastic. We can't really experience the multiplayer by watching people play. Basically, watching the game is very boring, and leaves you unimpressed.
Now with DKCR, the game visually looks fantastic, with many different details and what not. We didn't get a DKC game in more than a decade, so it brings in a lot of nostalgia and what not. The game really is a joy to watch, with great animation and such. They really put a lot of effort into the presentation, and it shows.
I will probably end up liking DKCR more than NSMB Wii, since DKC2>all other Mario platformers (sans Yoshis Island <3). NSMB to me, had great level design and was one of the best games to play with friends, but it was way too safe.

J_K

#33

J_K said:

#30: That's 'class' right there how that rep approached you and said that. It's good they got Retro in on the business with this as they're the only company I could figure anymore that can with stable assurances no f'up a classic series from Nintendo unlike the bums at Namco and a few others have helped bury stuff like Starfox in disgrace. That N64 remake is so a huge freaking apology on 3DS if I've ever seen one. :D

I couldn't much stand DKC2 or 3, but 1 I absolutely adored. Only learned the other day it was co-developed with Miyamoto unlike 2 and 3. It makes me think about how I don't trust Zelda games anymore beause it seems when he works them I like them, but when lackey Aonuma does they bother me something serious and I never finish 'em. Sure it could sound like a convenient excuse, but I only learned all this after playing these various games so it makes me worry about a few franchises once he gets old and retires. :

J_K

#34

J_K said:

DaveMan/Buffalobob -- Yeah I'm double posting but this is on the NSMB Wii thing. My brother is a 3rd party company producer who has buddies all over, word is out of him that SMB Wii was actually a DS game they beefed up. They were going to DS it again but as it was (#5) still selling like crack they didn't want to kill the sales so they upped the visuals a bit and added the 4P mode in for 'variety' but basically it's just a sequel they slapped together pretty fast. It's my least favorite I think as I got bored and quit, steams me you got to buy the full ending with coins as it's a slap in the face after doing all those stages. DS was worse with 1/3 of the game locked without using alt-exits and then saving was outright broken for a portable having to buy saves with limited coins. I have yet to finish either, don't feel too rotten about the fact either which makes me sad not angry. :(

#36

said:

Speak for your selves. I enjoyed NSMBWii and 13 million people around the world too. I agree that the lack is not "ZOMG!" but who cares?! The game is pure platform bliss, is incredibly fun and addictive and I hardly played the game with others. I don't know what people was expecting seriously. And the "nintendo was lazy" idiocy should really stop. Nintendo may be many things but they are never lazy. They did a top notch work in every sense as always.

DaVeMaN99

#39

DaVeMaN99 said:

Oh and i meant all other mario platformers besides yoshis island and both mario galaxies. Wow, i like to say "and what not" a lot too...

Haydengamer

#41

Haydengamer said:

This game kinda reminds me when new super mario bros. wii came out. Kinda like a remake of a game.

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