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Nintendo Wii Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

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Nintendo in Japanese should mean fun. Every time Nintendo or one of their studio’s releases a new title based upon one of their core characters (this time Donkey Kong) it has a tendency to be a good game. Donkey Kong Country Returns falls into this category and will certainly be a welcome addition to the slew of Mario, Kirby, and other Nintendo titles on the Wii.

As you might imagine, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a sequel to the 1994 SNES game Donkey Kong Country. In a similar fashion as New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii, Retro Studios made this sequel mimic the original as much as possible. You still play as Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong and jump around picking up bananas and balloons and so on. Even the storyline is pretty much the same — some Tiki monster thing comes to Donkey Kong’s island and steals all of his bananas, so he’s on a mission to defeat the fruit stealing tiki things all about the island. That’s pretty much it.

Visually, this is a very polished return to Kong Island. All of the colorful scenery and monsters encountered are nicely rendered cartoons. The environments are busy and provide a visual depth that keeps things exciting as you move along. There are even dimensional elements in the background that can be interacted with that seem as if they would work beautifully in a 3D title.

As 2D platformers go, Donkey Kong Country Returns is on the “difficult at first” side of things. After learning the rolling, ground pounding, blowing, jumping, and rhino riding controls, you’ll find that each move is required to access Kong letters, puzzle pieces, bonus levels, and various secrets found throughout every level in the game. While puzzle piece completion unlocks various galleries, Kong letter completion unlocks a Mirror Mode that allows the player to attempt to play through the game in a far more difficult fashion, going through each level backwards with one heart and no Diddy Kong assistance. Of course, the majority of those motivated to play in such a fashion are folks who just have to have 100% completion of every game they own.

The comical enemies and joyful music will make this adventure an enjoyable one for kids and adults alike. Cartoonish totem monsters wobble around on fire forcing Donkey Kong to blow their fire out before doing the “Mario pounce,” jumping on their head to defeat them. Pirate ships sail in the background firing cannons at Donkey Kong as he rides a jet powered barrel through levels as well. Then there are Jabberjaw-like sharks which leap up out of the water below. One will also encounter bosses that belch, waddle, bomb, shake, and race their way about, challenging your fighting skills.

With that said, you are not going to find anything new or groundbreaking about this game. As platformers go, the level design and controls are pretty much just what the ones were for the SNES original, the only motion control feature of the game seems to be shaking the controller to perform the ground pound maneuver.  In the end then, what you have is a slightly updated version of a 15-year-old title.  Fifty dollars is probably a bit much to be asking for a game that stays a bit too faithful to the original with little innovation.

Then again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Fun is still fun and if this is a gift for the kids, they’ll love it!

Donkey Kong Country Returns is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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