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Sidescrollers: Everything old is new again (again)

Among new video games are two new episodes in old franchises, namely "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze" and "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2."

The latest installment in "Castlevania" is pretty but overly complicated. Credit: Konami

Do you hear that? That’s the endless march of time, preparing to rip everything we hold near and dear asunder. Instead of dealing with this inscrutable fact, let’s dive into new entries in our favorite childhood gaming franchises. Ah, to be young again.

'Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze'
Wii U
Nintendo
4 globes

The first "Donkey Kong Country," released for the SNES in 1994, was something of a revelation. It was a graphical showcase, looking like it belonged on hardware far more advanced than the (at that time) decrepit Super Nintendo. It was, more or less, the last great gasp of the sidescrolling platformer. Until now, that is. Retro platformers are all the rage these days and the King of Kong is back to reclaim his throne.

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First of all, the level design here is top notch. They make great use of the Wii U’s hardware to give stages an action-packed multi-tier feel. For an “old school” title, the game looks and plays great. Anyone with Mario, Donkey Kong or even Sonic experience will fit right in here. The only downside? This game is brutally difficult. Seriously. You’ll be throwing the controller by the end of the first world.

'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2'
PS3/Xbox 360
Konami
3 globes

The original "Castlevania" dates back to the early days of the NES, meaning it was a contemporary to "Max Headroom," "Rambo" and that one Falco song about Amadeus. The franchise’s classic formula of sidescrolling castle exploration, along with plenty of back-tracking, practically invented its own genre. However, in 2010 the series was given a modern "God of War"-esque makeover. It lost some of its unique charm but got a big enough budget to pay for beautiful 3-D graphics and Patrick Stewart on the cast list.

And the sequel? It manages to be a competent enough generic action platformer, but at the expense of any leftover charm the franchise still wielded. The graphics are still great, but the gameplay is convoluted, mixing in needless and frustrating stealth sections. Oh, and now you fight dudes with machine guns and rocket launchers.

Follow Lawrence Bonk on Twitter @sidescrollers

 
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