In reality, when these games started coming out after the Donkey Kong 64 game, I completely lost interest in Donkey Kong as a franchise. Sure, I still played as him in Smash Bros. games, but as far as his own games? Call me disinterested.
Now, there was also Diddy Kong Racing, but as much as I would like to consider it part of this franchise, I'm having a hard time qualifying it. So with that, let's talk about the game that brought me, and most likely everyone else who knew how great Donkey Kong Country was, back to the franchise with excitement and appreciation. I played Donkey Kong Country Returns, and I loved it.
It came out on the Wii a few years ago, and when it did, it caught everyone by surprise. I remember when it was first announced at the big E3 press conference; the lights went dark, the video started playing and then the familiar Donkey Kong music kicked on. The crowd went crazy, and the footage started showing the beautiful worlds that they were developing, showing off just how far the series had come but how nostalgic it could feel at the same time. Real love and appreciation went into every detail of this game, and it is one of a handful of games for the Wii that truly show off how powerful, captivating and beautiful games on the system can be.
Playing this game all over again made me realize how amazing some of the level designs really are. The backgrounds and detail in the environments are breathtaking at times (more often than not, to be honest), but my personal favorite without question is the silhouette level, where the sun is setting and the only details you can see of your primate characters are their silhouettes. Well, the silhouettes and the bright red tie and baseball cap.
Another thing I have to talk about is something that I didn't forget, but was still caught off guard by it tonight, and that's how amazingly hard this game is at times. And by "at times," I mean "most of the time," especially when you are trying to get everything in each level. The developers didn't hold back at all when making this game challenging, and that's one of the most endearing aspects of it. Without it's ridiculous difficulty, it would be just another beautiful platformer. Sure, a lot of people complained that it was too hard, but to me, it was never unbeatable, despite how many attempts some levels took. But that just added gameplay and replay value to me, which I didn't mind because of how gorgeous and fun it was, and still is.
If there is one Donkey Kong game to show off as the crown jewel of the series, this game might be it. Although, it's not entirely perfect. It is missing something, I just can't put my finger on it...