Review Context: I have played the Donkey Kong Country series, except for Donkey Kong Country 3 due to hearing mixed things about that game. I also played the Wii version of Donkey Kong Country Returns, but skipped the 3DS version.
Date Playthrough Started: Close to February 21, 2014 (Release day)
Developer: Retro Studios
After the success of Donkey Kong Country Returns people were excited to learn that Retro Studios next game would be for Nintendo’s new system. Rumors were running rampant that it might be a new Metroid game or something completely new. When Nintendo revealed that the next game was a sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns many were disappointed. Now that the game is released does the final product show we should have never underestimated the company, or should we still go bananas this isn’t a new game?
Retro Studios took a lot of care into the details of this game since this is their first jump to HD. The results of what we get is one of the best looking Wii U games edging out Mario 3D World and Rayman Legends. What you get is crisp colorful levels with themes from jungle, snow, and yes food(Trust me you’ll be carving for a cherry popsicle with sherbet in the center). With the added fur shading done on the Kong family and the enemies you can’t help but think what Retro can do with their next game.
Through all the details for the game come at a price. The loading screens between the levels become choppy for awhile however Nintendo released a small system update and now the opening loading screen for the game is quicker. The game runs at 720p resolution with 60 frames per second.
This game supports three controller schemes. Gamepad, Wiimote & Nunchuk, and Wii U Pro Controller. As a first since Retro had no use for the Gamepad touch screen, other than Off TV play, the screen goes dark during gameplay. I mostly played the game with the Wiimote & Nunchuk scheme since I prefer that scheme from DKC Returns. I have played with the other options and they work just as well if you don’t want to do any motion moves. They even give you the option to change the button configuration to your liking. Since the game requires quick reflexes for jumping, it’s best to make sure you play the game with the control scheme that suits you.
The game starts out with Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky celebrating Donkey Kong’s birthday (I find it funny other reviewers forget to point out that it’s the 20th anniversary of the Donkey Kong Country series) when its interrupted by Viking animals (just go with it) turning Kong Island into a frozen land with the Kong family having to retake what was taken from them.
What makes this game stand out from other platformers is that no level is the same. One moment you have a standard level the next you have to drive a mine cart through a lumber house. With that also comes collectibles to unlock hidden content (music, art, figures). There are also hidden paths to unlock more levels.
Speed runs have become a standard for games like this and it is nice that Retro went the extra mile to not only include them in Time Trail mode, after you beat the level, you can have your run uploaded to the game so people can see you owning the level.
Now the meat of the game is the difficulty. I’ve read a lot of peoples thought on this and some made it feel like it’ll be Nintendo hard, but upon playing it; I can say the game gets tough, but not rage breaking hard. It has more of a trial and error feel to when you die; you know the mistake you made so you don’t screw up again. As for the boss battles, there are no mid checkpoint boss portions so if you die you have to start again fresh and most of the bosses took me three tries to beat them. If you feel the game is to tough for you, you can visit Funky Kong’s shop to buy items to help you since the Super Kong from Returns is gone. If you want more mayhem the game supports local co-op for two players while player one is stuck with DK, the second player can be Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky.
Each Kong has a different ability to help DK out on his journey. Diddy gives him a mini boost with his jet pack and a huge burst of speed underwater. Dixie outdoes her boyfriend again by using her pigtails as a helicopter to help DK hover for a short time and has DK move at a stable speed underwater. Cranky’s ability is to use his cane to pogo jump on enemies and obstacles in the game and his underwater ability is whipping his crane on oncoming creatures. Also new to the game is the return of underwater levels which gives DK an oxygen meter you have to keep an eye on and a Kong Pow meter. When you deal damage and collect bananas the meter fills up and when it’s full you do a tag team move that’ll turn the enemies on screen into helpful items.
The audio in this game is top notch from the ambiance of noises in the background to the Kong’s reaction to certain events.
The big news for fans of the series is that fame composer, David Wise was returning to do the soundtrack. Upon hearing the soundtrack in the game, which you unlock after you defeat the boss of the world, he hasn’t missed a beat with his original music. He also did some remixes to fan favorites and underrated tunes even going the extra mile by using old tunes and changing it up for us who remember the memorable tracks he gave us in DKC & DKC 2.