Monday, June 21, 2010

Donkey Kong Country Returns but will the Kremlings?

 It's about time!I could hardly describe my excitement at what I saw when getting home from a busy day at work. Donkey Kong Country, my childhood success story and addiction was returning. Nintendo had blown my mind successfully. Teeming with nostalgic enthusiasm, upon watching the quick reveal trailer and various gameplay demonstrations, this DKC aficionado was both pleased and worried at the result.

Donkey Kong Country and its successors on the SNES are widely considered some of the best platformers to ever grace a console. While family friendly and overly silly, there’s a deep connection to the game that’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s the genius of the level design, the beautiful soundtrack by David Wise, or the collectibles that keep you coming back long after you’ve cleared the game. Whatever keeps bringing you back, the Kremling infested islands are a magical place few games have managed to replicate.

That’s my first issue.

 Pirate ships are always welcome.Where are the Kremlings? The K. Rools are a requirement to any evil plot as is their assortment of funky cohorts and angry animals. In the gameplay videos, you see Donkey and Diddy Kong racing around jumping on the heads of frogs and punching these weird tiki-monsters. Not once did we see any footage of a crocodile-like enemy. What gives Retro? Sure, Rare may have departed for Microsoft and their Kinect thing-a-majig, but you can’t abandon the iconic enemy of the series. It’s heresy.

I’m also a little concerned about Koins. Yes, Koins. DKC2: Diddy’s Kong Quest created bonus koins as well as DK coins. If you managed to collect them all you were treated to secret stages in a “Lost World” environment which also contained the one true ending to the game. The third game also followed this approach to great success and I’d love to see DKCR do it too. Even if DKCR goes with the standard bonus barrel approach of the first game, that’d be fine. But no matter what, this game needs to have bonus rooms to be viable. It’s a must!

 Visual style? Check!On a more positive view, the new visual style fits the series perfectly and the levels look to have the same exciting versatility as its predecessors. Riding a mine cart as the level is being blasted apart by cataclysmic volcanic activity was exactly what I wanted to see. That and threading the needle through a massive enemy octopus pretty much confirms that Retro is no slouch when it comes to level design.

Retro is a fantastic studio and I have high hopes for the game in their capable and meticulous hands. But being such a devoted DKC fan, I do hope they’ll look to the old titles for some help. One can only look past so much before faults become apparent.

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