I'd like to think that, somewhere in Nintendo's headquarters, there's a chalk board. On this chalk board there is an equation, scribbled by Shigeru Miyamoto himself. When applied to Super Mario Bros. 3, the result was New Super Mario Bros., which went on to sell millions of copies for Nintendo. It took the great, classic gameplay of the original games and turned it into something much more relevant and modern.
The reason I believe that this equation exists is because, after playing Donkey Kong Country Returns at E3 2010, I'm convinced that the same one has been used by Retro to take the gameplay of Donkey Kong Country 3 and update it. It feels linked to New Super Mario Bros. Wii in a big way, and that's not even remotely a bad thing. It's obvious that Nintendo has been affected by the success of Mario's latest 2D adventure, and allowed Retro to create a nostalgic love letter to Rare's classic Donkey Kong Country series.
Visually, it follows a very similar style to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, with 3D character models and environments. The character models aren't as strong as they were in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which is a bit strange, but it all still looks pretty good. The gameplay, too, proved to be extremely strong, feeling as much like an updated version of Donkey Kong Country as it could. Both Donkey and Diddy were playable at the show, each having slightly different move sets. While jumping and smashing down on enemies was shared between them, and they can also both use ground pound abilities, executed with a simple shake of the remote, the duo each have an ability of their own. Diddy can hover over gaps with his jetpack, and Donkey's new found talent at blowing gusts of wind to reveal new areas should make cooperative play more interesting. On that same note, Retro is borrowing New Super Mario Bros. method of bringing back fallen teammates by floating them onto the screen, making the punishment for death slightly less detrimental.
There's little to complain about with Donkey Kong Country Returns. Retro has proven themselves in the past with Metroid Prime, and, now, they're well on their way to reestablishing one of Nintendo's greatest franchises on the current generation. As the trailer (check out our analysis here) showed, there's plenty yet to uncover from the return of Donkey Kong Country, and if the demo shown off at E3 is any indication, the great ape is in for one hell of a reception.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is due out later this year for the Nintendo Wii.