One of Nintendo's best known franchises is making a comeback on the Wii in a true side-scrolling platformer. The latest iteration, Donkey Kong Country Returns, is very much an homage to the classic from the now-ancient SNES console, and looks incredibly similar at first glance. This iteration has been handed over to Nintendo subsidiary and Metroid reviver Retro Studios, taking over from Rare whilst not really taking the franchise in any new direction.
Instead, fans of the franchise will see all the classic platformer gameplay that we've come to expect from Donkey Kong and his diminutive sidekick Diddy. It's effectively a remake of the series complete with all the banana grabbing, baddie squishing, vine swinging, pop gun popping, barrel throwing, mine carting, and boss fighting action you could possibly want.
Purists will argue that the term 'remake' might be inaccurate, given that the game will have its own story, setting, baddies and levels, but it really does look like DK Country for the Wii. Of course, the biggest point of contention will be the motion controls. The harder levels of DK Country were all about precise timing, especially when it came to jumping into those secret locations to find the missing "G". The motion controls in DK Returns are naturally inclined to satisfy the more casual gamer, and lack a certain degree of finesse. However, the younger crowd will no doubt find some enjoyment in shaking the Wiimote and nunchuck in an alternating fashion, to make DK slap the ground to cause a small shockwave. It's a neat mechanic that will get your brain in monkey mode, but I'm still thankful for the availability of the classic control scheme with a sideways Wiimote.
Many of the core elements of the franchise are ever present in this game, notably including the very familiar animations and movement of the protagonists. However, most will be quick to notice the revamped graphics and 3D polygonal renderings of the characters. The maps are rendered in spectacular detail, straight through to the animated backgrounds, a franchise standard. Of course, there are going to be new gameplay mechanics, including an interesting tweak on the 2.5D gameplay where barrels can be used to shoot the player to a secondary 2D plane in the background. Additionally, one of those "why not" moments likely led to the strapping of a jet pack to Diddy Kong's back, paving the way for a new flavour of puzzles. The game also borrows from New Super Mario Bros. in its partner respawning, whereby fallen characters float down in magical bubbles waiting to be freed by the survivor.
In the end though, DK Returns is all about classic DK jungle gameplay and puzzles with a few added tweaks and features. Hold on to your bananas for now, it's only due out for the Holidays.