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PAX 10: Donkey Kong Country Returns is on the right track


1:40 PM on 09.06.2010
PAX 10: Donkey Kong Country Returns is on the right track photo



It was super weird going from Kirby's Epic Yarn to Donkey Kong Country Returns at Nintendo's PAX Prime booth. While both titles can sort of be viewed as reboots of their respective franchises, the contrast in difficulty and approach is startling.

With Kirby's Epic Yarn, you are getting simpler controls -- think New Super Mario Bros. Wii -- and what has to be the least-punishing difficulty in recent memory. With DKC Returns, you're getting a swift kick to the backside. It was certainly the hardest (but never unfair) game I played at PAX.

That was the first mental notch I scratched out on my list of must-haves.

As a long-time fan of the series, I'm no longer worried about what Retro Studios is doing with Donkey Kong Country Returns. Alongside many of you, I was cautiously optimistic during the game's unveiling at E3. You see, I play Donkey Kong Country 2 to completion on a near-monthly basis.

Yeah. I'm one of those.

For someone like me, there's a lot that can go wrong with DKC Returns. Stuff that most players likely won't even pick up on or care about; that's perfectly fine. For us veterans, we have an idea -- based off of the original three Super Nintendo games -- what this series should be.

  • It should be tough enough that first-try playthroughs of a level don't automatically result in a win.
  • You ought to feel challenged -- both physically and mentally -- as a result of the level design and placement of hidden items.
  • The music should sell you on the world, and warm your heart.
  • Bosses need to be plentiful, diverse, and pose a serious threat.
  • Animal buddies. 'Nuff said.

There's more, but my brain is struggling after a week of non-stop excitement at the convention. Based on what I played and saw of DKC Returns, I think Retro Studios is on the right track here.

Talking with the Nintendo rep responsible for looking over this demonstration, I got the feeling that they -- Nintendo and Retro -- realize what made the SNES titles so beloved, and how to adapt those ideas into a Wii game for 2010. We genuinely reminisced about the golden days of platformers, and openly professed our love for the genre. Bless your heart for employing these fine people, Nintendo.

Then there's the new stuff: being able to jump between the foreground and background, simultaneous two-person co-op play, mechanics like ground slams and Diddy Kong's jetpack, etc. While all of those bullet points are things I want, it'd be silly to go after those and nothing else. We have the classic games to go back to at any time, after all.

The only thing I didn't enjoy about DKC Returns was the startling lack of kremlings. Perhaps it's best that not everything remain the same, though. Perhaps not. Also, I can't help but think Rare has those characters on lockdown in some dust-covered vault.

Whatever -- November 21 is going to be a day for Wii owners to remember; I'm positive of this.






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