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Wei Man takes a look at what Nintendo's first- & second-parties have to offer

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// DS Lite
// King Kong
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Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat
While the full version nears its release in Japan, here are some impressions of the demo!

When I first heard about Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, I was quite shocked to say the least. It seemed like an odd move on Nintendo's part to create a platformer which forwent the use of the traditional controller and replaced it with bongos. That's right, bongos. Even after countless reports poured in from E3 stating that this game was highly addictive, intuitive, and inventive, I still remained skeptical. My doubts in fact remained even after playing said E3 demo. It wasn't until I got my hands on this latest kiosk demo that I realized the beauty of this game the game that Nintendo has in store for its fans.

The idea behind the game is quite simple: Move DK through a myriad of levels, each with its own theme, and surmount various tasks along the way. These can take the form of timed jumping, killing enemies, and riding mounts. The kink to all of this is that the game is controlled entirely with the bongos. While this may seem like a fairly stupid and counterintuitive way to play the game, this couldn't be further from the truth. Everything flows together seamlessly. Donkey Kong moves by tapping the left and right bongos, jumps by hitting both, and claps by, well a clap. The clap actually acts as a sort of context sensitive button, which achieves various tasks depending on the situation (stunning enemies, grabbing onto monkeys, deflecting projectiles). This all comes together beautifully. It may take someone a few minutes to adjust to this new way of playing, but once you have, everything works perfectly. Donkey Kong jumps, punches, stomps, and claps his way through any obstacle that may impede his progress, all with even greater ease than if a controller were used. Hats off to Nintendo for taking an idea as strange as this and making it not only playable, but truly compelling.

DKJB Bongo Controls
Left: tapping the right bongo moves Donkey Kong to the right
Right: tapping both bongos simultaneously makes DK jump

The demo was broken up into three different levels, each of which is further broken down into smaller stages. Seeing how as it was just an in-store demo, I can't really comment on how the flow of the game will work in the final build. In the demo, the stage progression seems fairly random, but in the final build I am guessing this won't be the case. The levels quite effectively showed off many of the varied challenges which will stand in DK's way. Some of the stages featured a standard platformer progression, with DK battling his way from left to right until he reaches his goal of a giant fruit. Other stages showed off the timed clapping objectives which would be featured in the game. Clapping not only confounds enemies, but also grabs a hold of monkey allies allowing them to toss you in the air. It can also be used to collect bananas in the area surrounding DK. These stages are quite fun, as you must time your claps perfectly in order to navigate from the start to finish without getting hit by the various obstacles, all while collecting bananas whizzing by your head. It all plays out quite wonderfully.Mountain Goat (click to enlarge)
By far my favorite stages in the demo, however, feature some sort of mountain goat on which DK can ride. The goat is moved in much the same manner as DK, however, he cannot stop his forward momentum. This keeps the player constantly on his toes, watching for any bananas that might pop up along the way. Numerous dramatic events happen during the course of this level, such as avalanches and giant worms chasing after DK and his trusty ride. These things must be outpaced while still paying attention to the things in front of the player. It works out to be quite hectic, but also quite a lot of fun.

Strange Creature
A strange bird-like creature sleeps in our ape's way (click to enlarge)

At the end of each level a boss battle is featured. The first level features the boss battle originally shown off for this game in which DK faces off in a boxing match against another Monkey. This fight is okay, but I had some qualms with the difficulty level and the repetitive nature of the fight. Your opponent easily telegraphs each of his moves, giving you about a 3-4 second opening in which to dodge his punch. The opponent is always stunned once you dodge, and therefore you always get counterblows in before he can do anything. I hope that later bosses of this type feature more involved fights than this one did, as I was left feeling unimpressed. Luckily, the other boss battles more than made up for the lackluster nature of this one. The other bosses again had you squaring off against different woodland creatures, one of which was some sort of elephant-tank hybrid, and the other which looked like a boar-demon. No reasoning was given as to why these bosses were being fought, but I could have cared less. Each boss featured a different way of using your small assortment of moves in order to figure out and exploit the bosses' weak points. These battles were quite fun, although somewhat on the easy side.

Bubbled DK
Donkey Kong within a bubble (click to enlarge)

Graphically, this game is squeaky clean. It won't win any awards, but the effects are quite well done. Fur shading abounds, and constant action fills the screen all at a crisp framerate. Some of the weather effects such as snow, rain, and lightning are quite beautiful to behold.

All in all, this game has rocketed up my wishlist, and proudly sits next to such honored games as Zelda and RE4. What at first seemed like an uninteresting gimmick, has quickly proved itself to be a solid foundation for an incredibly fun game. Anyone who has any love for classic platforming games would be doing themselves a disservice in ignoring this game come March 14. Mark your calendars.

Written by: Micah Seff

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