'Donkey Kong Country Returns'

Donkey Kong Country Returns

When I got Super Nintendo at the tender age of 11, I had to play Donkey Kong Country because it was the only game I had. It turned out to be a lot of fun, but so frustratingly hard that I grew to be a bit of a potty mouth. More than 14 years later, Donkey Kong Country Returns (released in November on Wii) brings back old memories of exciting platforming gameplay - and some stress-induced vulgarities.

Evil Tikis have hypnotized the other animals on Donkey Kong Island and forced them to steal DK's banana horde, leading Donkey and Diddy Kong to go on a big adventure to get them back. Extremely similar to the Mario games, you don't need much background: You're there to experience impulsive, top-tier platform gaming, not figure out who stole the Hope Diamond.

Many of the same comments I made on New Super Mario Bros. Wii (RCReader.com/y/mario) can be applied to the new Donkey Kong when it comes to the evolved presentation. The vile temptress known as nostalgia rears her head to make it feel like the classic Super Nintendo versions, with the graphical polish (great on standard display, pixelated in high-definition) and unbelievably catchy music (so cheerful and full of energy) lulling you into loving Nintendo all over again. The company has figured out the formula to make sure you love its games: spiff up the classics and give your audience a game they know with new levels, challenges, and secrets to make it feel both different and familiar.

Gameplay has a couple new twists with motion controls. Shaking the remote has different effects depending on the situation: DK will roll if you shake while he's walking, pound the ground if he's standing still, and blow a gust of wind if he's ducked down. When paired with Diddy Kong, a coconut jet pack helps the duo stay afloat for a short time - a blessing in some of those precision-jumping spots.

Still, frustration is packaged with the disc. As with last year's Mario, the early levels will ease you into the game's mechanics and platforming, but once you reach the midpoint, you'll be praying for a lucky break. Mine-cart jumps require dead-on precision; riding barrel rockets shifts from delicate touches to button mashing; and grabbing a vine for swinging gets downright brutal. If Kirby's Epic Yarn (RCReader.com/y/kirby) was an easy walk in the park, Donkey Kong Country Returns is the shady section of that park with muggings and possibly murders, just like old times ... .

When all is said and done, though, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a great game, bringing new challenge to the classic style. If you've been a fan of Mario's recent outings, you'll fall in love with Donkey Kong.

Super Mario All Stars

'Super Mario All Stars'Why on Earth did I feel so compelled to buy Super Mario All Stars - a collection of four original Nintendo Mario games - on the Wii? I already own all the Mario games on the original Nintendo and have the Super Nintendo version of All Stars, and I've downloaded a couple of them on my Wii. There's no graphical update; it's the exact same game from Super Nintendo, imported onto a Wii disc. So why did I do it?

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros., All Stars got a limited-edition re-release with a fancy box, history booklet of the games, and a soundtrack disc. Once I saw the package, my will broke. I know they're the same games, but I also know it's not likely I'll see another Mario anniversary set for at least five or 10 years. Despite my frustration over the series retreading the same ground, growing up with the clunky gray Nintendo gives Mario a special place in my memory, regardless of reruns.

For $30, it's actually a pretty good deal to get the classics in one package if you didn't have them previously. Buying each title separately in the Wii store is $10 cheaper, but the collector materials make the small increase worth it to me. It's also a lot easier than dusting off your 20-year-old NES, digging around to find one of the games, and then hoping that everything still works. They play just as great on new technology as they did on last century's systems. My preference in playing falls to the Super Nintendo version, but only because I like the feel of the old controllers better.

If you haven't invested in classic Mario before, now is one of the best chances you'll have. If those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, is forgetting really so bad in this case?

Donkey Kong Country Returns is now available on Wii for $49.99. For this review, the author completed the main story.

Super Mario All Stars is now available on Wii. For this review, the author played patches of the games on Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Wii for comparison.

Luke Hamilton is a buyer, creative designer, and online coordinator for Video Games Etc. He can be reached at ssj_4luke@hotmail.com.

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