Friday, November 26, 2010

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns is fantastic. I cannot say enough good things about it. As far as I am concerned it is the best Wii game of the year. I will be extremely surprised if anything out does it in the next couple of months.

What I love most about it is the fact that it’s the same quality as the original Donkey Kong Country but it has its own magic. Anyone who played the first Donkey Kong Country knows what I’m talking about, the aesthetic approach in terms of gameplay, graphics, and music just created this indescribably amazing atmosphere. Donkey Kong Country Returns does the same thing, but in a different way. That means that it doesn’t overshadow the original, it compliments it. It is what a sequel should be.

The graphics aren’t cutting edge in terms of polygon count or shaders, but it’s some of the best art in the industry. Retro is fast becoming Blizzard level quality when it comes to their art direction. I would rather look at what is going on in Donkey Kong Country Returns than what’s going on in Black Ops. (That’s assuming you can tell what’s going on in Black Ops.)

The controls are precise, but require some getting used to. You have the choice between Nun chuck and Wiimote or just the Wiimote. Strangely enough, the Nun-chuck and Wiimote is the best option even though it seems that it would feel kind of weird using an analog stick for a side-scroller. However, largely due to how the waggling works within the game, you’ll want to get used to using the nun chuck combo to save yourself some grief.

You see, shaking just the Wiimote is far more awkward than shaking the Wiimote and Nunchuck in tandem. Moreover, the nunchuck and wiimote work separately as waggle inputs, which means you can shake just the Wiimote, or just the nunchuck. Essentially you get two waggle inputs as opposed to one and those two inputs working together seem to cover each other quite well. I personally had trouble with the game registering my waggles when I used just the Wiimote. Oh, and it’s really nice to not constantly have to press a button to run. If you use just the Wiimote, you have to constantly press 1 to have DK run at full clip. With the analog stick you just push it all the way to the right.

On a quick side note about the controls; I read several reviews where reviewers said that a misfired barrel roll got them killed. THAT NEVER HAPPENED TO ME. I’m beginning to think that the people who review these games barely play them or are simply terrible gamers.

Which brings me to another point, the difficulty; it’s bad but not that bad. I got through the every level in the game (not including the bonus stuff after you beat the game) in a single evening without using the super guide.

Keep in mind, I couldn’t beat the second boss in Ninja Gaiden and constantly get destroyed in multiplayer games.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. I lost track of how many lives I lost. I’m guessing it’s somewhere between 150 and 200. But the game handles death in such a way where you’re just like “OK, whatever.” You are always given a chance, and the deaths almost always feel like your fault. It’s almost never annoying. And the feeling of beating a level you didn’t think you could beat is better than sex. I remember at one point I just kept dying, and I just started laughing gleefully because I knew I would get through it. I knew the feeling of satisfaction that was coming. It’s difficulty done right.

The super guide exists to help people who aren’t really in to games, or children. If you consider yourself a gamer and you use the Super Guide, then you should be ashamed.

Though, I will say, you’ll dread seeing the damn rocket barrel. The rocket barrel levels are the new mine cart levels. They are easily the most difficult level type to deal with. But even those levels are designed well.

Hell, all of the level design is goddamn brilliant. The first hour or so of gameplay is fairly underwhelming, and at first it feels like just a rehash of Donkey Kong Country, but then Retro studios goes off in its own direction and there are just some jaw dropping moments of amazingness.

Takes this little gem for example

Or this one

Oh, and just look at this

It’s pretty much all amazing.

Even the damn rocket barrel levels are impressive if annoying.

The enemy design is a mixed bag. While I don’t like seeing the Kremlings gone, the tikis have their own presence. They feel like something Rare would have created, but didn’t and they don’t feel out of place. In terms of gameplay, I liked that some required more than a simple bop on the head to kill. However, the animal enemy designs left a little to be desired, aside from the turkey on stilts and the little blue critter things the animal enemies just felt anemic. I missed the vultures and wasps of the Donkey Kong Country games.

What I don’t miss are the Donkey Kong Country Bosses. The Donkey Kong Country Returns bosses are simply better. Well, K. Rool was actually a better final boss, but for the most part, Donkey Kong Country Returns has better bosses.

For the sake of comparison

1st Boss in Donkey Kong Country

1st Boss in Donkey Kong Country Returns

It’s essentially the same strategy. Avoid boss going left to right, but DKCR just does it so much better.

Finally, the music. It lives up to the pedigree, but there is a retro twist to it. All of the tunes are remixed from the original DKC. Sorry, no DKC2 music. Atleast, none that I heard. I swear I heard some Metroid Prime stuff in there. This track especially sounds Metroid Prime influenced, AND it’s been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it.

This may sound extremely cliché, but it’s so true: If you own a Wii, you owe it to yourself to get this game. Retrostudios has cemented itself as this generation’s Rare.

Verdict: Buy it.

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