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Donkey Kong Country E3 Hands-On

Donkey Kong Country Returns Screenshot - 781492

After a few disappointing E3 showings in past years, Nintendo walked away from E3 2010 with many of the biggest surprises from the show. Many began to think that the big N simply forgot what fans wanted. That thought was smashed when Nintendo came out of the gate swinging, announcing a number of sequels to hit franchises in dire need of new entries. One of the biggest revelations was that Retro Studios, developer of the last three Metroid Prime games released, was jumping from Samus to Donkey Kong with Donkey Kong Country Returns, a true sequel to Rare’s 1996 Donkey Kong Country 3. After seeing the game at the show, it’s apparent that the FPS developers are treating DK very, very well.

Donkey Kong Country Returns is a true return to form for the series. It’s not going to be 3D, such as Donkey Kong 64 was, and they’re not reinventing it as is the case with Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It is, in every way, shape, and form, a new entry in the Donkey Kong Country series; the name should be taken literally. Players control Donkey and Diddy Kong in traditional 2D platforming, maneuvering jungle environments and defeating classic DK enemies with a handful of different abilities.

Both Kongs can execute ground pounds, achieved by shaking the remote, and each character comes packed with a unique ability that can be used to help solve puzzles and navigate the levels. Diddy, for instance, can use his jetpack to clear gaps, while Donkey can blow gusts of air and uncover new areas. These moves will both be necessary in order to complete levels, meaning players will either need to switch characters from time to time or play cooperatively.

Just as was the case with the other games in the series, DKCR comes packed with two-player cooperative play, allowing friends to jump into the large feet of Donkey and Diddy throughout the entirety of the game. This is how it was shown off at E3, and this is likely how a majority of people will end up playing it. It’s obvious that the game was made in the vein of New Super Mario Bros., as Retro has taken a lot of the elements that made Nintendo’s platformer sell over 14 million copies since release. They’ve lessened the penalty for dying in multiplayer from being forced to sit around until a barrel is found to coming back, New Super Mario Bros Wii style, floating in a barrel being carried by balloons.

By bringing it to the current generation, Nintendo has also improved the graphics, though it seems as though the character models don’t look as strong as they did in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. That’s not a terrible thing; mind you, just a note, as the visuals still are fantastic. The levels shown at the show looked great as well, and trailers for the game show later areas in which Retro takes interesting stylistic approaches to the series. What was shown off, however, was impressive, and it’s apparent that the developers have done a fine job with both the characters and the environment.

From the looks of things, Retro has done something great with the Donkey Kong Country series. They’ve brought the iconic character back to his roots in a way no one thought possible, and done it while advancing the gameplay and graphics enough to keep up with the current generation. Or, at least, that’s what their E3 showing proved. With a release scheduled for later this year, it’s only a matter of time before we find out if Donkey Kong Country’s return is triumphant as it looks like it’s going to be. We’re thinking it is.

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Jonathan H. Cooper
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