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Game Review: New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
An article by Jomingo
25 June '09
DK's latest Wii release happens to be a port of one of the most controversial and fandom splitting games in the entire series, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. But before I review it, here's a brief history of the game:
New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is the next installment in the New Play Control! line; a series of GameCube games that Nintendo has decided to remake with Wii controls at a discount price of $29.99 (USD). The difference between this one and the other installments is that usually when porting a game to the Wii you do so to give it a gimmicky control scheme rather than a normal one, and this game has it backwards. The original Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was notorious for it's use of the DK Bongos gimmick. Lucky for us (or unfortunately for us, depending on which side of the spectrum you stand), the Bongos have not followed DK to the Wii and have been replaced by perfectly normal platformer controls (more on that later). The original Jungle Beat had the DK fan community split down the middle between those who hated it and those who could tolerate it. This was due in part to Nintendo Tokyo (the developer of the game)'s comments that the DK characters of the past weren't "fresh enough" for today's audience; and that DK didn't need a "superfluous" storyline. These comments were made in remark to the fact that Donkey Kong Jungle Beat had no returning DK characters other than DK and the banana, and that it had no storyline whatsoever. Thankfully, if that game was made to spite everything Rare had worked to achieve with the character, this game is their apology.
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If the only problems you had with DKJB were it's lack of story, lack of DK characters, and gimmicky controls than you're in luck because Nintendo has added a story, DK coins and Barrel Cannons, and they've redone a lot of the gameplay and controls making this feel more like a traditional platformer.
The storyline involves the evil Ghastly King wreaking havoc on the jungle kingdoms and stealing their bananas. This is where DK comes in. DK is helped on his adventure by white "Party Monkeys", who carry out various tasks throughout the game. When you start the game you are prompted by a new Party Monkey wearing glasses that sits in a brown bush (which I've coined as "Smarty Monkey"), who will appear from time to time to tell you hints or progress the storyline. Another new monkey helper, one that sits in a blue bush (I have no clever name for this one) acts as a checkpoint in the middle of long levels, which is one of the many things they've added to give this a classic platformer feel.
The core gameplay itself is quite the same as the last game. The game is divided into 5 barrels, each containing 4 kingdoms. Each Kingdom has 2 levels, and then a boss fight. The unique thing about this (and it's predecessor) is that your objective is not just to complete the level, it's to collect as many bananas you can doing it (something that was always voluntary in the past). You need as many bananas as possible because they act as health when you fight the Kingdom boss. In order to collect a lot of bananas you have to string together many tricky combos by doing a number of acrobatics and stunts. If you touch the ground, you lose your combo. This is a very challenging but rewarding system that takes a lot of practice and patience. Your ultimate goal throughout the game is to have enough bananas after the big boss fight to win crests. There are a total of 3 crests to be earned in each kingdom, and you must get more bananas to get more crests. The trickiest part of all is not getting the bananas, but maintaining them through the boss fight. Luckily they've added an option that let's you have a rematch with the boss if you die, this way you don't have to go all the way through both levels again.
Animal Buddies do return in this game, but like it's predecessor they are completely original to the series and not returning veterans like Rambi the Rhino. Even though there are no returning enemies and friends, this does feel very much like a successor to the Donkey Kong Country trilogy; a DKC Lite as it's been described.
One of this game's positives and negatives deal with it's boss fights. The positive is that they are pretty unique and fun, the negative is that the same boss "type" is repeated 4 times only made more difficult. The Hog bosses throw melons at you which you must launch back at them, just like a hog enemy in the game. The Roc bosses are giant mythical birds that carry an egg you must destroy. You are flying through the huge landscape, using some of the platforming obstacles of the game to dodge it's attacks and smash it's egg. The Tusks are robotic elephants. You must lodge Pineapple bombs into their trunks in order to hurt them. The final boss type is the most interesting: The Kongs. There are four renegade Kongs in this game that you must fight Punchout style! They are easily the most traditional-to-the-series looking characters in the game. A new mode has been included called Kong of the Mountain that allows you to fight all the Kong bosses in a row, and it is one of the more challenging levels of the game.
Although the basics are the same, Nintendo has included a number of changes to make this feel more like a traditional platformer. The first of which is the control scheme, which is a big departure from the Bongo controls of the previous title. This time around, you use the Nunchuck's control stick to move left and right, and the A button to jump. You shake the controller to make a clap wave and to grap onto enemies, as well as do other things. They've done a few things to incorporate the motion technology of the Wii, but when they do it's actually quite fun. As well as the "checkpoint monkey" they've added, they've also added health hearts instead of just losing bananas, and DK coins that act as lives. Besides that they've also added a handslap ability that allows you to retrieve bananas from the ground, and a backflip ability to get a high jump. Although it does lose a little bit of personality without the Bongo controller, it's worth it as they never would've been able to pull off some of the more advanced moves that you can do with a "normal" controller.
I only have a few complaints, one being that it's still not very long, but I would sacrifice quantity for quality any day. It also doesn't include any sort of multiplayer boxing or anything to that effect, but I guess there's only so much you can change. This is just a port after all.
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All in all, this is a fantastic follow up to an already good game. Most if not all of the complaints of the original have at least been attempted to be fixed. The graphics are as good as anything else on the Wii, period; which is strange for a GameCube remake. If you liked the original then the added controls and items warrant an instant purchase, and if you didn't buy the original in protest than perhaps the changes and discount price will make you come around. Any Wii owning Donkey Kong fan should be ashamed not to own this. I was going to review the original before this came out, but it would be a waste now, as this has changed my entire outlook on the game. If I were to have reviewed the first one I would've given it a 3 out of 5, but I'm giving this NPC! re-release a very well earned 4.
- by Jomingo -
This article was written by a DKC Atlas Forum staff member. All opinions expressed within this article are those of the writer, and are not necessarily shared by DKC Atlas, or the DKC gaming community.