Release Date: May 4, 2009
When Nintendo announced its New Play Control! series of games early this year, there were two camps of thought. One group believed that this move was nothing more than a quick cash grab, since the games under this banner were GameCube titles that were being released on a system that is 100% compatible with the entire GameCube library. The other group of people thought that this was a great opportunity for new gamers to discover some classic GameCube games that players might have missed the first time around. The first two releases under this program, Pikmin and Mario Power Tennis, supported the former group's theory since they were very popular titles that sold well enough to become Player's Choice titles. Nintendo's latest release, New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, is a game that supports the latter group's theory rather well. Released late in the GameCube's life cycle, the game received both critical acclaim and poor sales thanks in part to the exclusive use of its bongo controllers. The hope is that by re-releasing the title with a more Wii-centric control scheme, gamers will be more apt to give the title a shot. Is Donkey Kong Jungle Beat worth revisiting, or is it best left forgotten in the annals of GameCube history?
The premise of the game is a very simple one in comparison to other games of its ilk. You play as Donkey Kong, revered leader of your jungle. Word gets to you that all of the bananas in your kingdom have been stolen by leaders of other fruit-named kingdoms. Your job is to get back all of the bananas that belong to your kingdom and beat up the other leaders in the process.
The layout presented with each world is practically the same each time. You traverse through 17 kingdoms that consist of two acts apiece before culminating in a boss fight. Each act has you stomping out enemies, avoiding pits and obstacles, and collecting as many bananas as you can. Unlike other games where items like bananas give you extra lives or just become a collectible statistic, the bananas represent the amount of energy you have going into the boss fight. Once the boss is reached, you have to find the opponent's weak spot and try to pound on it as much as possible until its energy depletes.
The game is quite fun, thanks to the length and challenges present. Counting boss fights, the game has around 51 different levels to play through. Each of the levels are short and pretty simple, while the boss fights aren't too tough once you figure out the best pattern for going after their weak points. Though it seems that the game can be finished in the matter of a few hours, the scoring system employed at the end of each kingdom lengthens the game a bit more. At the end of each kingdom, you are rated by how many bananas you have, so not only does this mean that you have to collect as many as you can by the end of each level, but you also have to retain as many as possible during each boss fight. Ending each level with a certain banana total earns you crests, which are needed to unlock the later levels in the game. The end of each level also gives you hints on better scoring paths and techniques used to gain more bananas. With all of this constantly teasing you as you go through the game, you can't help but feel compelled to get as many high scores as possible in order to unlock every secret the game has to offer.
The control scheme has lost the uniqueness it had with the GameCube version. That system forced you to use the DK bongos in order to control every aspect of this platforming game. It made the game unique, and the critics loved it. The gaming public, however, did not, and the game's sales suffered. This time around, the controls follow a more traditional setup that other platforming games follow. The analog stick controls Donkey Kong's movements while the A button causes him to jump. Every other action, whether it's punches or assisted jumps, is done with swings of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. It's surprisingly responsive, and the satisfaction that comes from swinging the remote to pound a common enemy or rapidly punch a boss is undeniable. In a way, the scheme mimics the bongos well while making it easy for people to get into it.
The graphics presented are more than four years old, but they still stand out as some of the best the system has seen. With everything upgraded to 480p widescreen, the bright colors on backgrounds and character models really pop out. The fur shading on Donkey Kong and some of the other enemies still looks great, especially on a system where the technique is still rarely used. Backgrounds also stand out due to the immense amount of detail present. Seeing the individual blades of grass in the opening level, for example, makes you realize that the system is capable of so much more. The particle effects are also colorful and look fine without affecting the overall performance of the game. Watching all of this move at 60 frames per second is a nice little bonus that makes the graphical package shine bright.
The sound sticks with the same philosophy Nintendo has had from the beginning: quality over quantity. There are hardly any voices here except for animal noises, especially monkey cheers and gorilla grunts. As a result, the music and sound effects take center stage, and it's a good thing both are good. The effects are the same as those heard in previous Donkey Kong Country games. Most of them retain a cartoon-like quality, but the slams and punches have some deep bass whenever it plays. The music retains a jungle vibe in every level, but it comes out nicely. It's well done, and platforming fans can't find much to complain about in this department.
New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is one of the best platforming games the system has seen this year. Despite being made for a previous generation system, the graphics are excellent and easily outshine most third-party efforts on the console. The sound is great as well, and the story, while simple, offers high replay value for novice and veteran players alike. Most importantly, the Wii-centric control scheme is more intuitive and more inviting than the bongo-only controls of the game's first release. This title is a great addition to anyone's Wii library, especially those who missed out on it the first time around.