Donkey Kong Country Returns released for Wii back in 2010 and marked the return of the Donkey Kong Country series after over 10 years since its then previous entry on the SNES. Developed by Retro Studios, former developer at the company Bryan Walker recently sat down with KIWI TALKZ for an interview in which he discussed a multitude of related topics, including the origin of the beloved 2D side-scrolling platformer successor.
Bryan Walker was Senior Producer for both Metroid Prime 2 and 3, joining the company after the success of Metroid Prime 1. Feeling a bit of “franchise fatigue” sometime following the launch of Metroid Prime 2 in 2004, Retro Studios approached Nintendo with interest in developing a game using the Donkey Kong Country IP. Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo at the time, pushed the idea aside in favor of requesting a third entry in the Metroid Prime series as a hardware showcase for the then upcoming Wii and Wiimote motion controller. Around 3 three years later, after the threequel hit the market, Retro’s DK project was greenlit, and development began for what would eventually become the Donkey Kong Country Returns we know and love.
Going from developing three gritty first-person shooters to the more colorful and family-friendly world of Donkey Kong was a bit jarring. Walker (Senior Director of Development), reminisced on how some of the palm trees in original art mock-ups for DKCR had a much greater resemblance to something “sullen, dark, edgy, and menacing” that you would find in Metroid Prime. But after “turning up the saturation, adding some deformation, some chibi, some whimsy to it,” Retro was able to quickly and smoothly transition into the necessary new style.
Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of both the Donkey Kong and Super Mario series, was a “valuable resource” to the development team according to Walker, providing “feedback, guidance, and mentorship” on the project. After their pitch meeting with him in Kyoto Japan, Miyamoto reportedly said in English, “Please take care of DK. He is my friend.”
Check out the full interview here for more interesting stories from Bryan Walker (who is currently the Lead Producer at Deck Nine Games), including how he once raced with the late Satoru Iwata in an online testing session for Mario Kart 7 (timestamps can be found in the description of the video).