At around April of 2008, several members of Retro Studios, the developers of the critically acclaimed Metroid Prime trilogy, left the company. At the same time, Miyamoto expressed interest in bringing back Donkey Kong in a platforming game, notably in the style of Donkey Kong Country. Michael Kelbaugh, the CEO of Retro Studios, who worked on the original Donkey Kong Country games while he was with Nintendo of America, became interested in Miyamoto's idea, and asked to be the developer behind the game.
Things began to move quickly, and the idea became a reality when they began development on this game. The codename for the game during development became F8 (read as Fate) after Iwata asked them to treat the game as if they were fated to make the game. Very early on, Retro Studios decided to base the game as a successor to the SNES games, to introduce fresh and new gameplay mechanics, while still being a relative of the original games.
The development team debated what new elements they could add to the original gameplay, or if they should introduce anything new at all. When Jungle Beat was released, the team thought long and hard about in what ways they could make Donkey Kong Country Returns stand out. Retro Studios examined how in the original games, there were two characters, but the player never had control of both of them at once - and decided to change that.
They intended to have real-time co-op play ( New Super Mario Bros. Wii was not created yet), but they found it difficult to create an experience that would be equal in single player as it was in co-op, so various additions to the Donkey Kong series over the years were also incorporated into the game. Examples include Diddy Kong's rocketbarrel boost, which would help a less experienced player traverse obstacles.
Retro Studios played so much of the original games that they consider themselves masters at them. During development, a lot of the game levels were made like speed runs, which Mr. Tanabe had to intervene to give the game a more platformer-like feel to the pacing.
During the game's development a lot of emphasis was placed on sound design. Retro decided to keep the sound familiar to retain the nostalgic aspect of the game, while using the graphics to convey radical new ideas and themes; to keep a proper balance of style without alienating the fanbase. Thanks to the graphical capabilities of the Wii, everything in the game, including the backgrounds, is rendered in real time compared to the completely pre-rendered graphics of the SNES games.
The other big changes are the absence of the Kremlings, which played a huge role in previous Donkey Kong Country titles as the main antagonists. Neither King K. Rool nor his minions make an appearance in the game but instead, are replaced by the evil Tikis known as the Tiki Tak Tribe.
It is a peaceful day on the DK Island, that is until the volcano in the middle of DK island suddenly erupts and a huge tower know as the Tiki tower rise from the magma.
That's when the players is introduced to the Tiki Tak tribe who instantly takes over DK island. 7 leaders from the Tiki Tak tribe spread around the island and hypnotize the animal life to do their dirty work (and act as basic enemies for DK and Diddy)
The tribe's first action is to steal DK's golden bananas for some unknown reason, Diddy gives chase, meanwhile Donkey Kong himself is unaware of what is going on and becomes a victim for the tribe.
As it turns out, DK and Diddy are immune to the tribes hypnosis magic, which gives the two monkeys a chance to make it to the top of the volcano and recover their stolen bananas.
It is later revealed that DK's golden bananas have the ability to give life to new members of the Tiki tribe, as well as giving them more power.
Donkey Kong: The king of the jungle is back. When his banana hoard of golden bananas is taken away, this huge gorilla gives chase.
Diddy Kong: Donkey's pal and the second player in this game. If you play solo however he rides your back and can give you extra jumping boost and act as a shield of sort.
Cranky Kong: Runs the shop in each world and will gladly make the quest a easier one for DK, if he got coins that is.
Rambi: Is trapped in a crate in some stages, once freed DK can ride him to destroy some objects, he's pretty much invincible, the only things who can hurt him is thouching something hot or falling down a pit.
Tutorial Pig: A little pig hiding in the scenes, he pops up now and then with important info, runs the check point and offering the Super Guide if the player has eaten the dust enough times on a stage.
Tiki tak Tribe: The opposing force, out to take over DK island and the ones who stole the bananas. There is 7 leaders of them that acts as the games main bosses and a mysterious master mind who rule over them.
This game is a 2D platformer made in 3D, so-called 2.5D. LIke the previous Donkey Kong Country games it is all about guiding the big ape from point A to B while avoiding dangers and uncover secrets,
then face the boss at the end of the world.
The old games was infamous for having alot of secrets and collectables and it is no different this time, if you're going for 100% you will have to look around in each level carefully.
Cannon barrels, Mine Cart and Rocket Barrels also makes a return.
This game also have co-op 2 player mode New Super Mario Bros. Wii style. The second player takes the role as Diddy Kong. While this makes the game easier somewhat, your amount of extra lifes is shared, so it's important both players stays alive to make it through the stage. Diddy Kong will also appear in single-player where he will ride Donkey's back instead, giving him extra hearts, jump boosting Jetpack and infinite roll distance.
Some differences from the previous games:
Diddy Kong is always player 2, or he is riding on Donkey's back in single-player. He can do everything Donkey can, but also have some extra moves Donkey can't do.
Bananas are all over the stages, grab 100 to get an extra life.
They often mark where to go, lead you to hidden places and even makes a Puzzle Piece appear if you collect all the bananas within a area at some points in the game.
Sometimes you will spot red balloons floating in the stage, grab it to get a extra try (extra life).
In single player, you will use one balloon to respawn from the check point.
If one of the players die in 2-player, that player can press A or 1 button to use one balloon to respawn as a floating DK barrel from top of the screen, the other player must then break it open to allow the fallen player to join the game again. If both players is dead at the same time, it will cost two balloons to respawn from the previous check point. (Only DK aka player 1 will respawn if you only have 1 balloon left)
If you die with no balloons left it's Game Over and you're kicked out of the stage and back to the map screen.
The K-O-N-G letters also returns, collect all four before you reach the end of the stage and you get a star mark, do this on each level in a world to unlock a hidden level in that world. Hidden levels are usually much more harder then the regular ones, beating all the extra levels is neccesary to unlock all the secrets the game has to offer.
Each level have orange colored puzzle pieces to collect, and the number varies from level to level, some of these is easy, some are hidden in bonus stages and some of them demands players to pay close attention to the everoniments. Collecting them all in one stage adds to the Image Gallery where the players can watch artwork from the development of the game. On the hidden extra levels, collecting the puzzle pieces give you a 3D model to look at which you can rotate and zoom.
You don't have to collect them all at once like the K-O-N-G letters, but you need to beat the stage to add them in your collection.
Already retrieved puzzle pieces will be transparent.
Banana coins is the currency in this game and is pretty much everywhere, you can also get one for each enemy you stomp after three without thouching the ground.
Banana coins can be used in Cranky's shop located in each world, there you can buy items to make it easier for yourself. The item you want to use is equipped right before entering a stage and can only be used once.
There is a varity of barrels in this game which helps DK on his quest:
Sometimes you come across hidden caves, entrances or cannon barrels. These will most likely send you to a Bonus stage. Within a time limit of 30 seconds, you are asked to collect every banana, coin and balloons in the bonus room, if you do so you're given one of the Puzzle Pieces on that stage. While in a bonus stage a treasure chest icon appears in the top left corner of the screen, if that icon shows a open treasure chest that means the player already have retrived the puzzle piece from that bonus stage. Even if you fail the bonus stage you're still given the collectables you managed to collect from it.
Some levels in this game is called Minecart levels, in these DK jumps into a minecart which once set in motion you can't stop before the end of the level, you can however jump and duck down into it to avoid obstacles.
There are two types of minecarts, there are the empty ones which DK can duck into and take with him when he jumps and there is ones filled with rocks which means he have to ride on top of it, thus he can't bring it along when he jumps, usually this means he need to hit a new minecart when jumping over a pit.
This game features something called Super Guide. When the player dies enough times on the same stage, he can choose to activate the super guide, and the game will then play the level for you. The Super Guide is played by a grey Donkey Kong called Super Kong. Keep in mind, nothing of what he collects will be added when he beats the level. You can cancel him anytime and regain control if you only wanted him to pass a specific part for you.
To complete a stage, DK must smash open this barrel, it works as a roulette and give the player a little bonus depending on whats on it's face when smacking it open.
You can return to already beaten levels to enter time trial mode, if you're fast enough you can earn a medal. There is bronze, silver and the very difficult gold medal. Boss stages also have time trial.
For those who work hard, mirror mode will become available. It act as a hard mode of some sort as it mirror the stage, removes the ability to use items or Diddy Kong, deactivates Super Guide and on top it all: it only allow DK to take one hit before losing a life. As the game itself puts it: Good luck.
Kenji Yamamoto, the composer of the Metroid series, will be heading up Donkey Kong Country Returns in the music department. Shigeru Miyamoto stated in an interview that the music is an important component of the Donkey Kong Country series, and thus wants many old themes to return but in a more contemporary fashion.
For everyone that pre-orders Donkey Kong Country Returns at any EB Games or GameStop will receive a bonus Wii Remote holder shaped like a banana with the logo on the side.