After 14 years since Donkey Kong Country 3 and a slew of games which took the series in various other directions, fans have been waiting for a game which took the spirit of the original games, but brought the series into the next generation. During Nintendo's E3 2010 press conference, the company revealed that the mystery title Retro Studios, most well known for the Metroid Prime trilogy of games, was developing was in fact a new Donkey Kong Country. But is this just a nostalgia trip with improved graphics, or does Retro take the series in a old, but new direction?
During Gaming Union's time at the demo on the show floor, we first noticed that the game featured a dual Nunchuk and Wii Remote control scheme, with it being unclear if a simpler NES-style control scheme with solely the Wii Remote would be available in the final build. This was used right in the opening, where players had to shake their arms to break down the door, just as if they were Donkey Kong. This followed into a level which was very reminiscent of the first level of the original Donkey Kong Country, with 1-up balloons, bananas to collect, and King barrels to break to gain access to Diddy Kong, which could follow being Donkey Kong or get on top of his back, which gives players access to Diddy's jet pack and his peanut gun. There didn't seem to be an ability to switch control between the Kongs in the demo, however.
This impression faded mid-way through the level, as the Kongs went into a barrel which had them fly into the background for a while until another barrel had them go back into the foreground. It's nothing new but it's a nice touch which breaks up the usual straight-forward level design of the previous Country titles.
The demo ended with a boss battle, which required good timing unless you wanted to end up eaten by the boss and thrown to the other side of the arena, losing a life. It took a little while to get the hang of it, but the game does put you back to the screen right before the boss battle if you die, so players don't need to worry about having to repeat the level all over again.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is set for a Fall 2010 release in North America, with an European and Japanese release currently unknown.