I think that my favorite surprise from the Nintendo Press Conference was the introduction of Retro Studios forthcoming Donkey Kong Country Returns, a side-scrolling platformer in the same vein as the SNES classics. If you watch the press video, and you are my age, you probably experienced a lot of the same emotions that I did: that music oh gosh that music oh look diddy hey you swing on vines YES MINECARTS YES PLEASE MORE MINECARTS
Looks good, huh? Well, I made sure to stop by and play it today at the Nintendo booth, since I’m super excited at the prospect of the game, and also it’s one of the few games where there was not a terrifying, daunting line of dead-eyed nerds waiting to look and touch and play. I watched a couple of people playing a cooperative beach level (one played Donkey Kong, and one played Diddy Kong) before playing the demo minecart level.
First off, the game is truly a treat. It is a gorgeous title, full of lively scenery and characters moving into and out of the background. Whales and sharks leapt around. Barrels, marked as they were in the original Donkey Kong Country titles, still shoot you around the level, and often times take you to secret banana-collecting rooms. One secret room featured two barrels sliding back and forth on either side of a banana filled chamber, with a moving exit barrel trying to take you out of this banana heaven. This strongly, strongly reminded me of the original games. The controls are tight and feature minimal wag (only, really, when you smack the ground), and as I played the level, I never thought: “oh, that was the fault of the wii remote.”
As I mentioned, I played the demo mine cart level, which started with you running through a rickety mine, leading up to a series of small mine carts on collapsing tracks. I died around five times due to poor jumping as I was unfamiliar with the level. It was great. There were collectibles (including some puzzle pieces, hey, what’s up Rare), but it just honestly felt great to be playing a Donkey Kong game made by a competent set of designers. We know that Retro can take a classic franchise and spin it into pure gold, and they may have just done it twice. Seriously, watch out for this game. I really, really liked it.