E3 2010: First Impressions: Donkey Kong Country Returns

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.