Appease The Volcano God: The Tikis sacrificing themselves to become Tiki Tong's hands immediately before the final battle has shades of this.
Art Evolution: The original Donkey Kong Country trilogy featured a realistic art style and cartoony characters with realistic fur and textures. This game goes for more of a "painted cartoon" look and adds cartoony effects and animations to top it off. The fact that the series changed hands (formerly Rare, currently Retro) has something to do with it.
The evolution began already with the Gamecube games: First with the new characters from Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, then with the original characters in the Paon games (mostly noticeable in Donkey Kong Barrel Blast).
Art Shift: Levels like "Sunset Shore" and "Foggy Fumes" feature black silhouettes against the colored backdrops; The golden-red hues of Sunset Shore in particular are spectacular.
Artifact Title: "Life in the Mines Returns," which is not used in any mine level in this game.
Ascended Meme: "It's On Like Donkey Kong" was trademarked and used by Nintendo to promote the game.
Beat the Curse Out of Him: All bosses, except for Tiki Tong and possibly Colonel Pluck. They're ordinary animals possessed by the Tiki leaders. Once Donkey and Diddy defeat the bosses, the animals are freed and the Tikis float out of them in a stupor (and get a pounding of their own).
Better than a Bare Bulb: Cranky's new style of humour is repeatedly headbutting the fourth wall, rather than out-and-out demolishing it.
Blow You Away: The Kongs can use their breath to blow certain things such as plants, windmills, lanterns, etc. to find collectibles and such. It's even needed against certain enemies in order to defeat them.
Butt Monkey: The first tiki boss you fight is beaten twice by Donkey Kong. Also, you can beat it endlessly just entering again and again in the first level.
The tikis in general can be considered this. They tend to be the weaker enemies in the game, have to be bounced off to get KONG letters and puzzle pieces, one gets a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown at the end of every world, and even when one of then is the final boss, He's notably more predictable and easier than the other bosses.
Cranky Kong: "See you later, alligator! Heh, heh..."
Cranky Kong: "You need to get to the top of the island by yourself? Too bad we don't know anyone with a plane!"
Cranky Kong: "Back in my day, I could get through the whole island without getting hit once!"
Another one is hidden in the background in Foggy Fumes; there is an area that looks like the same building under construction in the first Donkey Kong.
"Peaceful Pier" has an area during the rocket barrel sequence where a crosshair follows you, then stops so the crabs on the ship can fire an anchor at you; this is likely a reference to the "Krack-Shot Kroc" level in DKC3.
Some of the carvings on the walls in the hidden Temple levels feature sprites from the original Donkey Kong game.
You beat the first phase of Colonel Pluck's robot by punching the bottom of the cockpit, which is appropriately egg-shaped. Defeating a boss by smashing the bottom of the egg? Where have I seen that before?
One of the first levels is called "King of Cling", a reference to Donkey Kong: King of Swing.
In the ruins, there are Kremling-like statues in the background.
Colony Drop: DK punches the MOON into Tiki Tong's Tower! Subverted because DK isn't trying to destroy the entire world, and the resulting explosion pops the moon back into place.
Continuing Is Painful: Just like in the original games, it can suck a lot to go through any segment without already having the second Kong, especially if there happens to be no DK Barrels between your current checkpoint and the end of the level. This very much applies to the Final Boss, because when (not if, WHEN) you die, the only way to get Diddy back is to restart the whole level and go through the Rocket Barrel gauntlet again. Only to probably die again anyway. Your best option is to accept it and fight the final boss using only DK. Thankfully, this doesn't become an issue in multiplayer.
This is how the temple levels are. No check point and no DK Barrels. Unless you wanna go to another level and get Diddy there, if you die you'll be forced to navigate with just Donkey and his two hearts.
Convection Schmonvection: World 8. Walking around and jumping over lava flows? Volcanic ash blowing in the wind, like snow? Big deal. As long as you don't fall in the lava or touch the flaming enemies (one of which you can duck under and be completely unharmed, even though it was just inches above you!), you're fine.
Say nothing to the fact that in at least one level, there are moving platforms that dip into the lava and rise back out. You can burn yourself if you jump on them too soon, but this danger period passes quickly and DK often ends up standing on a rock that is still glowing red. Cranky said it best: "We apes have no need for the laws of physics!"
Cool Airship: DK runs after a galleon / zeppelin mix, seen hauling his stash of bananas in a big net that hangs from the bottom. A masked tiki enemy is seen dancing on the deck.
In the original trilogy, rolling/cartwheeling/ponytail spinning into an enemy would give you a burst of momentum, allowing you to easily take out whole rows of enemies with just one attack. In Donkey Kong Country Returns, the roll goes farther, faster, but does not have this property unless you got Diddy in single-player mode. In the very first level, almost right away, you'll encounter three basic enemies in a row. If you try to roll through them all like in the old days, your roll will end just in time for you to slam into the third enemy and get hurt.
Which was probably completely intentional on the part of the developers, to break veterans of that habit early before they got too dependent on the roll and suffered even more down the line.
Dance Battler: The Scurvy Crew; they put their claws up in a dance that protects them from being Goomba Stomped. Fortunately, it leaves them vulnerable to a rolling attack.
Dark Reprise: The background music for "Muncher Marathon" is a fiendish remix of the forest's normal music.
Dem Bones: The cliff is full of alive and hostile reptilian-like skeletons, some of them also spit fire (perhaps Kremling skeletons??)
Demoted to Extra: Whereas in the original DKC a single player could freely switch between DK and Diddy to play as either one, here Diddy is effectively just a powerup that grants DK two extra hits and a jetpack for mid-air jumps (and you'll need it). Diddy is only truly playable in two-player co-op, and only by Player 2.
As a second player, Diddy is now a lot more useful than he once was. In the first DKC, the two Kongs had advantages over the other. They held barrels differently, their rolls messed with gravity in different ways, but Donkey had the advantage for being able to Goomba Stomp enemies Diddy just couldn't. As a second player in this game, Diddy still has those guns and that jetpack, so he's more capable for platforming than Donkey.
A strange, non-character example: the second and third Donkey Kong Country games featured plenty of hidden areas where you earned a Kremcoin or Bonus Coin by beating all the enemies. In here, there's exactly one such area, in Poppin' Planks. One.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Inter-level continuity in this game is very good; every large area begins its first level with scenery containing the last vestiges of the previous area: 3-1 begins on the coast before moving inland into the ruins, 4-1 begins in the ruins before entering the caves, 5-1 begins in the caves before being launched up and into the forest canopy. There are also smaller examples: 3-2 begins with the Kongs entering the inside of the ruins, where they mostly remain for the remainder of world 3. Mid-way through World 2 and progressing through a few levels, clouds begin to build, finally culminating in raging storms during the last part of the second-to-last level, and the titular feature of the last one.
There are actually three versions of the final cutscene FMV: One for each Kong by themselves, and one if you manage to beat the Final Boss with both Kongs in your posession.
Rambi stays in place when you dismount, but if an enemy wanders close he'll knock the enemy out on his own.
A second spike comes in World 4, which is practically nothing but Mine Cart and Rocket Barrel levels. Including the boss.
All Mine Cart and Rocket Barrel stages are varying degrees of this, mostly due to shifting the game's controls horribly suddenly, making it hard for one to go through the stage without the use of the moves one's become accustomed to. Also, some people argue that, due to the fast scrolling speed and absurd closeness of obstacles, the only way to clear these levels without losing a live is by knowing their layout beforehand.
Also, unlocking the gallery images for Tiki Tong Tower and Tiki Tong requires you to collect the puzzle pieces (as per usual) in the levels "Moving Melters" and "Red Red Rising" respectively. However, you also need to defeat Tiki Tong in order to actually view them.
The Dragon: All of the Tiki bosses may count, but Colonel Pluck takes the cake since he is the one running the manufacturing process for the Tikis.
Drill Tank: you encounter a Drill Train in a few levels in World 4, operated by moles.
Colonel Pluck is a rather obvious expy of Dr Eggman, right down to the attack pattern in the second phase.
The Faceless: Tiki Tong is never seen until the very end. Hiding him is so extreme that, unlike the previous Tikis whose silhouettes appear when you lost a life in their respective worlds, if you die before facing him in World 8, all you see is a question mark.
Feathered Fiend: Savory Stu and Colonel Pluck, although both of them were hypnotized. Fittingly enough, the latter's level is even called "Feather Fiend".
Foreshadowing: The name and theme of "Crumble Canyon." The path leading straight from it to the boss level likewise crumbles.
Funny Background Event: The zebra, elephant, giraffe (and squirrel) from the opening cutscene pop up a few times in the backdrops of various stages, most notably in "Blowhole Bound" where they are floating in a dinghy in the background.
Goomba Springboard: Rather than just holding the jump button, you have to press it the moment you hit the enemy from above. This is a survival requirement in some of the harder levels where said enemies are the only thing between you and a Bottomless Pit.
It's at its worst in Platform Panic, where you HAVE to get the extra height quite a lot. Then sometimes they throw in a puzzle where if you get the extra height, you hit a spiked ceiling and lose a heart. After a long stream of high jumps, this flies straight into Damn You, Muscle Memory territory.
Gotta Catch Them All: The puzzle pieces, K-O-N-G letters, and orbs needed to unlock the Golden Temple.
Ground Pound: Subverted; instead of jumping and making a hard landing, DK slams his hands onto the ground.
Guide Dang It: The puzzle pieces. Squawks will start chattering when you approach where one is hidden, but this won't necessarily tell you where the piece is hidden or how to reveal it — that's up to you.
There are two particularly egregious examples. One is in the ruins; there is a puzzle piece hidden off the bottom of the stage in a place you would never know to even look, as there is no hint it is down there. The other is near the end of the game, where he squawks around a small platform just above the lava. It seems like a puzzle piece would spawn there, but in actuality it is simply a platform to allow you to access the real puzzle piece - namely, behind a breakable wall in a bonus room, in an area where the last (and only) barrel is a great distance behind. If it were not for squawks, these would be nearly impossible to find.
High Speed Battle: The Mole Train boss battle in World 4 takes place atop its own mine carts as it speeds down the track.
Idle Animation: In a move more epic than anything from Donkey Kong 64, Donkey Kong looks around, sits on the ground, pulls out a Nintendo DS, and plays while Diddy watches over his shoulder. After a while he gets bored and tosses it casually over his shoulder. This may or may not have been inspired by a famous incident (Retro Studios took note of it on their website) wherein a kid dropped his DS in the gorilla pen at the zoo and the gorillas played it.
Interface Spoiler: While the game is good at hiding the temple levels, the Golden Temple, and the Mirror Mode emblems, it slips up at World 6: You could only see six level spots on the World Map in addition to the boss level spot, but upon viewing the Level Summary, you see two more instances of "?????" than there should be. Sure enough, upon clearing what appears to be the last level before the boss, the road that appears to lead to the boss crumbles, and the two missing level spots finally appear in an otherwise conspicuous area of the map.
Invincible Minor Minion: The flaming Tiki Buzzes, Tiki Zings (only beatable with Rambi), and flaming Tiki Zings (unbeatable, even with Rambi).
It is possible to actually blow out the flaming Tiki Buzzes and make them vulnerable, but only in a select few spots in the game where they fly close to the ground.
Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted in the final cutscene with DK, where he punches the moon into Tiki Tong's lair.
It Runs on Nonsensoleum: In the factory, inanimate Tiki masks are brought to life by the squashed bananas from DK's Hoard.
Justified Extra Lives: Previously, the balloons were just there for you to collect and gain extra lives. Now, they carry you back into the stage upon the event of dying. In co-op, if one Kong dies and the other summons him back, one of the balloons will carry in a DK Barrel for you to break and bring the first Kong back into action. If both Kongs are dead, two extra lives are given up in order to bring them back.
Loads and Loads of Loading: Every time you start or finish a level you have to wait for DK to strut across the screen twice to a bass sequence that quickly borders on Most Annoying Sound territory for that reason. There are animations at the beginning of each bonus level that you can't skip, and animations at the beginning of levels that thankfully you can.
Meaningless Lives: While the game is pretty difficult, this is a classic example of a game with meaningless lives. Most of the difficult stages have bonus rounds near the start of them, allowing you to gain infinite extra lives - and indeed, dying in them often will gain you stocks as the bonus round has 1-2 extra life balloons in it AND bananas, and coins (which can be used to buy extra lives, as well as other items) are plentiful, and all the more so when you start dying repeatedly on the harder stages later in the game, thus collecting the same banana coins over and over again.
This game provides a similar thing in Meaningless DK Barrels. Some levels provide you with DK Barrels right before long stretches of Blast Barrels, Rocket Barrels, and Mine Kart that go on until the end of the level. These areas are One-Hit Kill, and the other benefits from having Diddy (his rockets for example) are a non-factor, rendering him completely useless.
Medium Awareness: After a bonus game, DK and Diddy will take a look at the item totals as they line up along the bottom of the screen.
Megaton Punch: To defeat the final boss, DK punches the moon into it.
Mercy Mode: Similar to New Super Mario Bros Wii, after dying enough times trying to complete a single level, Tutorial Pig will appear and offer the "Super Guide", which calls in a Palette Swapped white DK to play the level for you. The game clearly warns you that Super Kong will only complete the level — you don't get to keep any of the items he collects in the process.
Which means that in order to unlock the Golden Temple level, you must beat the hidden Kong Temple stages by yourself, because that's the only way to collect the orbs at the end of each temple level.
Mobile Shrubbery: A type of mook that only appears in the silhouette levels is almost entirely shrouded in shrubbery. Only its eyes and spindly legs are visible.
Mole Miner: Mole Guards in minecart sections and World 4. Mole Miner Max is the boss of World 4.
Multi-Stage Battle: Each time Thugly Turns Red, he smashes the floor of the arena, sending the battle down to a lower level, though the change in terrain has no tactical effect on the battle in progress.
Musical Gameplay: The factory level "Music Madness". The obstacles in this level are synced with the music.
Musical Spoiler: The early Minecart Madness and Rocket Ride levels have a lead-in to the actual mine cart or rocket music before you jump into the vehicle for the first time (if you recognize it, that is). Later levels seems to abandon this altogether.
The unlockable Temple levels border on Platform Hell, even the World 1 temple (which is aptly named "Platform Panic"). However, the very worst levels in the game tend to be the rocket levels, which (like the minecart levels) will kill you if you touch anything, but unlike the minecart stages have few to no breaks from the carts and as the rocket is not running on rails gives you many more chances to die.... especially with how touchy the rocket controls are.
One Hit Point Wonder: Both DK and Diddy actually have two hitpoints apiece, but when you're riding a mine cart or Rocket Barrel, colliding with anything is invariably lethal as it destroys the cart/rocket.
Also played straight in Mirror Mode, which challenges you to complete levels with only DK and only one Heart.
100% Completion: Completing every level and getting all the Kong letters nets you 100%, while clearing every level again on Mirror Mode will award you with the maximum 200%! Fortunately, Puzzle Pieces and Time Trial medals don't contribute to this.
Pass the Popcorn: During boss fights, a horde of Tikis watches you, chants in time to the boss music, boos when you hit the boss— and cheers when the boss hits you.
Artistic License - Physics: The giant fan platforms with one broken blade in Foggy Fumes somehow stay perfectly balanced no matter their position or even when switched on.
Recursive Ammo / Spread Shot: Thugly, the boss of world 6, launches a fire ball that splits into three, one of which will split into three again (and may do so yet again). Good luck trying to dodge this one.
A stage set in the ruins features an enormous stone statue of the original Donkey Kong holding a Wii remote, as opposed to a barrel, over his head. In fact, the sprite is a modified sprite from Donkey Kong Jr. Math, with the tie added and a sign replaced with the Wiimote.
One of the stages is named King of Cling.
In "Foggy Fumes", one of the Smokey Factory levels, you can see the first level from the original Donkey Kong.
In the first factory level, you can see Crocomire's skull in the foreground.
You can also see fossilized Infant Leviathans from Metroid Prime 3 in one of the cliff levels.
The Volcano Vibe theme also sounds very similar to the Magmoor Caverns theme.
The entire game is one to the original trilogy, although it predominantly references the first game. In fact, two of the stages reuse names from the original game: "Jungle Hijinx" and "Vine Valley".
The interior of Tiki Tong's lair has more than a passing resemblance to Final Destination, right down to the colorful background and the the fact that is has one platform. And the fact you initially attack its hands.
In "Button Bash", there's a giant monkey statue wearing a tie patterned with the American flag. This is undoubtedly a reference to video game champion Billy Mitchell (from the movie The King of Kong), who was known for wearing the same.
Just to the right of the Jumpman scaffolding in the same level is the silhouette of Crocomire's skull.
Sound Test: Defeating bosses unlocks that world's soundtrack for you to listen to at your leisure.
Sphere Factor: Diddy Kong can run atop of Donkey Kong as the latter is rolling in order to do so continuously.
Two of the minecart levels also feature this, one level having the cart rolling around the inside of rails bent into a circular shape (like a hamster ball), and another with the cart rolling on top of a gigantic dinosaur(?) egg.
Stalactite Spite: The crystals in 4-3 (Bombs Away), although most of them simply shift position instead of outright falling. The next level, 4-4 (Mole Patrol), plays this straight, again with crystals.
Stealth Pun: The main enemies of the Factory levels, Buckbot and Buckbomb, are mechanical poultry fashioned after the boss of the area, Colonel Pluck, who commands a giant mech of his own. In short, Robot Chickens.
Stop Helping Me!: Once it appears, the only way to get rid of Tutorial Pig's offer to use the Super Guide is to beat the level.
Temporary Platform: Mostly of the "crumbling" varieties, and some levels (like World 1's secret level, "Platform Panic") are built entirely around them. One level in World 3 has a grid of platforms that appear and disappear at regular intervals (not unlike the infamous platforms of Mega Man fame), but thankfully you have safe ground to land on underneath.
Took a Level in Badass: Rambi the Rhino was already a heavy, steamrolling character in the original games. Here, he can break through blocks much larger than himself, and is not ony immune to Spikes of Doom; he actually destroys them on impact. The only thing that can harm him this go around is fire.
Trash the Set: After a boss is defeated, his lair is shown as destroyed with a DK flag among the rubble on the map screen from that point forward.
Turns Red: Happens to the bosses as they either get faster or new attacks when low on health. Literally played straight with Mugly and Thugly, who actually turn red.
Gangplank Galleon: An interesting variation. Our heroes run through a ship as it's being attacked by a giant octopus, forcing them to dodge its tentacles and floating pieces of debris.
There are also a level that takes place on several ships that are attacking you/each other with cannon balls. Additionally, there are a few smaller areas within levels where you get rocketed onto a ship on the background.
Level Ate: World 9's single level. It's bizarre, to say the least. In-game artwork shows that they planned to include more levels in the Golden Temple, many of them having a food theme.
Minecart Madness: One of the many series trademarks; World 4 consists almost entirely of them. The antics that actually occur during said levels make the original series's Minecart Madness look boring by comparison.
Use Your Head: Diddy's ending involves Diddy falling towards the moon and tries to escape the pull, but his jetpack goes out of control, causing Diddy to slam headfirst into the moon, which results the end to the Tiki-Tak tribe.
Whack A Monster: The Mole Train boss, obviously being based off Whack-A-Mole.
What Could Have Been: Many of the unlockable pictures in the galleries, as well as a couple of the dioramas, show scenes and enemies not actually included in the game.
There were going to be dinosaurs in the game. Live ones, not walking fossils like in the cliffs. Some unused concept art from Danny Richardson shows an enormous brachiosaur character, and art of the temple stage shows pterosaurs soaring in the background. A second jungle stage, creatively named "Jungle 2", was also planned but ultimately dropped.
2½D: A sidescrolling game rendered entirely in 3-dimensional graphics. Some levels feature additional layers in the background (or foreground) that the player traverses between using barrel cannons.
Variable Mix: The map music (returning from the first DKC) has different instruments depending on what world you are in.
The boss music tends to get more intense the further in the battle you get.
Furthermore, each mine cart level and rocket barrel level has instrument changes for their respective themes dependent on the level.
You Have Failed Me: Averted with the boss Tikis; Once they power up Tiki Tong with bananas, he turns them into giant hands(!) to fight Donkey and Diddy Kong with.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: After clearing the penultimate level in World 6, the pathway to the boss stage crumbles, causing you to detour through two stages which didn't exist on the map previously.