by Nicholas Taylor
For those of you who don't know what Gamex is (in other words, every one of you), it's the biggest gaming expo in Sweden, and it's currently taking place at Kistamässan in Stockholm. I got some time to talk with Patrik Johansson, who is in charge of press at Bergsala (Nintendo of Sweden). I also got to spend some time playing Donkey Kong Country Returns, which was their main featured title at the expo.
For those of you worried that esteemed developer Retro Studios might not have managed to capture the true Donkey Kong Country spirit in the game, put those worries to rest - this is, for all intents and purposes, the true Donkey Kong Country 4 that the fans have been craving for such a long time.
Fresh renditions of classic Donkey Kong Country-tunes blasted from the speakers as I grabbed the controller and started playing. People familiar with the series will have no trouble getting into the groove again, as the mechanics are about the same as before. You jump, you roll, and you can slam the ground by shaking the wiimote and nunchuk to uncover hidden secrets, as was shown way back in E3. As most trailers have shown, the game makes spectacular use of combining foreground and background, something that wasn't quite possible in the same way back on the SNES, and truly feels like a return to form for gaming's favourite primate.
What really makes a Donkey Kong Country-game, though, is not the sum of its parts, but how they all blend together, and the atmosphere that lies below. Even though most, if not all, enemies seem to have been replaced by new creatures (for example, as was confirmed back at E3 as well, no Kremlings), once you get into the game it doesn't really bother one much. The enemies are pretty creative and for the most part stay true to the jungle theme of the game, and after a while playing you find yourself not missing the Kremlings at all, as horrible as that may sound.
When speaking with Johansson about the title and Nintendo's expectations of it, he admitted that given how huge the bang created by the Donkey Kong Country trilogy back on the SNES, they aren't expecting it to reach the same level of hype as it did back then. They are, however, very confident in the quality of the title and it's not likely that they'll be disappointed by its sales either.
I asked if they saw this as their big holiday title, or if the Super Mario All-Stars re-release was what they were pinning their hopes on. His response was that Donkey Kong Country Returns is definitely their holiday title for 2010, and that the Super Mario All-Stars pack for Wii is simply for people who recently picked up New Super Mario Bros. or New Super Mario Bros. Wii and loved it, and now they can pick up the old titles and see what they missed way back when.
The 2D renaissance that Nintendo have managed to bring about, helmed by New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, looks glorious so far and Donkey Kong Country Returns is definitely no slouch when compared to our plumbing hero's adventures. If you enjoyed the original trilogy, odds are you're going to love this game as well. The only thing that might work against it is if the length disappoints, something that I could hardly judge by the small demo I got to try out. Even so, though, the Donkey Kong Country-games are well-known for their "collectathon" nature and replay value, and it looks like Retro Studios have managed to capture that very well.
Make up your own minds when the game releases on November 21st in the US and December 3rd in Europe. I certainly know what I'll be getting my family for christmas.
Donkey Kong Country Returns Video Game, Exclusive Eruption Trailer HD | GameTrailers.com (It's like The Incredibles meets Donkey Kong Country)
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