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Donkey Kong Country Returns Road Journal - Part 5

by: David Sanchez ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

Writer David Sanchez reaches the finale of Donkey Kong Country Returns.

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    Finishing Donkey Kong Country Returns

    Nothing is more important to DK than his prized banana hoard.  

    The closer I draw to a game’s finale, the more bittersweet I feel. Though I have minor expectations that I’ll be surprised with some unlockable mode, an extra level or two, or maybe a boss twists that puts me against the final antagonist in a true battle of skill and patience, I try not to let these expectations get the best of me. When I play a good game, I don’t want it to end, yet I want to see the ending, if that makes much sense. As I got to the Factory world in Donkey Kong Country Returns, I knew it would only be a matter of time until I got to the Volcano world and then subsequently to the final boss, thus ending my romp through Donkey and Diddy Kong’s latest adventure.

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    Escaping Danger in the Factory

    Factory World Map  

    Admittedly, the concept of a factory level in a Donkey Kong game where King K. Rool isn’t present is a bit confusing. After all, K. Rool is the one who primarily uses factories to create mechanical enemies and traps to halt the Kongs’ progress. The Frantic Factory stage from Donkey Kong 64 came to mind as I began my playthrough of this game’s mechanical-themed world, and it made sense in the context of that game due to the fact that K. Rool was DK’s primary foe. In any case, the Factory was one of my toughest challenges yet, and I gave the game’s bump in difficulty a nice, warm welcome.

    That warm welcome quickly turned into slight frustration as I found myself constantly going down pitfalls, getting crushed by giant hammers, and meeting a fiery death in the depths of the Factory. With that said, my frustration was a nostalgic frustration, and one that harked back to my experiences with Donkey Kong Country all the way down to Donkey Kong 64. I was glad to face a high level challenge, especially when I took into account the overall lack of difficulty in today’s games.

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    The Scorching Heat of the Volcano

    Volcano World Map  

    I reached the final world in Donkey Kong Country Returns, the Volcano. The area’s dramatic music gave off a “this game isn’t playing around" vibe. Retro Studios, the moment I first encountered difficulty in the first stage of the game, I knew it was serious business. The Volcano was the hardest stage in the game, and I saw my death count skyrocket. I had collected about 45 lives up until this point, only to see them count down all the way to about 20. Maybe I was being a little too careless, or maybe I was rushing, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was really starting to suck at this game. (It didn’t help that that little tutorial pig constantly popped up to offer assistance, which I disdainfully rejected.)

    The deeper I got into the Volcano, evading globs of lava and massive flaming rocks in the process, the more I realized that Donkey Kong Country Returns, despite its colorful charm and huggable protagonist, was not a game that too many children would probably enjoy. Maybe kids from the NES generation such as myself, but today’s young gamers would likely have a brush with frustration all too often to the point where they’d probably put down the Wii Remote and play something a little more accessible such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The nostalgic difficulty was off the charts, and I was grateful to the developers for creating a game that was so retro in its design.

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    The Adventure Isn't Over Yet

    I defeated the final boss in the game (and shouted countless expletives at my TV due to the sheer difficulty of it), but I knew I wasn’t done with the game. After watching the silly yet charming cutscene and the end credits, I knew I would return to the land of Donkey Kong Country Returns to collect the rest of those puzzle pieces and K-O-N-G letters I had left behind. There were also some hidden stages I had yet to play through, so even though I’ve gotten to the end of the game, I can assure you that I’ll be returning for more. Thanks for keeping up with my journey and this travelogue of Donkey Kong’s latest platforming quest!

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