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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Review

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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Review

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Image © Nintendo
Donkey Kong is a king amongst primates. In 1981, he hoisted Nintendo to worldwide relevance on his broad, hairy shoulders. He’s been a hero, and an anti-hero. But for all the remarkable things this gorilla has accomplished, he sure as heck can’t guard a banana hoard.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a Nintendo 3DS adaptation of 2010’s Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii. New content has been added as well as a welcome “easy mode” option. However, the game’s traditional control scheme offers reason enough to pick it up if you found yourself frustrated with the Wii title’s waggle-based controls.

Developer: Retro Studios/Monster Games

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Action/Platforming

ESRB Rating: E

Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS


GOOD: Adds new content, traditional controls, and a difficulty selection to the original Donkey Kong Country Returns. Creative levels. Great graphics and sound.

BAD: Can be frustratingly hard at times. Can’t change difficulty level on the fly. Controls still require some getting used to if you’re familiar with the SNES Donkey Kong Country games.

NECESSARY READING COMPREHENSION: Low. There’s very little text, and the game’s controls are simple to grasp thanks to visual cues.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is available at retail, and downloadable from the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

THE BASICS: It’s Bananas

Whereas the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy for the SNES pit Donkey Kong against the reptilian Kremling Krew, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D introduces a new foe: The Tiki Tak Tribe. These odd wooden villains are shaped like masks and drums, and have the ability to hypnotize jungle animals—the Kong Clan excluded (Donkey Kong is either too smart or too stupid to be hypnotized. It’s never made clear which). The Tikis are quiet about their motivations and aspirations, but they’re pretty keen on lifting Donkey Kong’s banana hoard.

With his beloved golden stash gone, with the Tikis running rampant, and with the jungle’s wildlife hypnotized, Donkey Kong and his pal Diddy Kong explode out of their jungle-hut home and begin a quest to bring peace back to the wilderness.

The story for Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is pretty lightweight, but that’s no surprise; the game puts action and atmosphere above storytelling. The sparse narrative is told through amusing and well-animated cut scenes, which grants the Kong cast plenty of personality without the aid of words. Donkey Kong Country veterans may pine for the Kremlings, however, as the Tikis’ antics and character designs just don’t match up to the doofy alligators we grew to love through the ‘90s. Maybe a sequel will add a little charm to these little wooden guys.

GAMEPLAY: Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a 2D side-scrolling action game. It plays extremely similarly to Retro Studios’ Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii, which, in turn, takes its inspiration from Rare’s Donkey Kong Country series for the SNES.

As is the case with its predecessors, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong work together in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. In the single-player game, Diddy rides on Donkey’s shoulders and helps his friend make more accurate jumps with his jetpack. He also serves as a meat-shield of sorts, since his presence allows Donkey to take an extra hit or two. However, if Diddy takes too much damage he flees, and Donkey is on his own until he can recover Diddy by shattering a “DK” barrel.

If you have a pal who also owns a Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D cartridge or download, he or she can team up with you via Wi-Fi. This lets Donkey and Diddy act independently, and Diddy can make use of his peanut popgun as well as his jetpack. There is some lag in the two-player game, unfortunately, which adds unwanted frustration to an already-challenging game.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D works best as a single-player experience anyway; you won’t want to be distracted as you climb, swing, bounce, and bash your way through the game’s varied worlds. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D exhibits some admirably creative spins on old gameplay mechanics (including a trip on a mine cart wherein the track rolls along with you, and a horrifying but memorable encounter with some spiders), making it that much more satisfying to be allowed to default to traditional controls.

Be warned, however: Donkey’s war against the Tikis is a rough one. Whereas the Donkey Kong Country games were quite laid back, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D demands precision and perseverance. Levels are long, and there’s almost always something waiting to trip you up at the finish line and send you back to the midway point.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D offers a single olive branch: An easy mode. With easy mode enabled, enemies need to hit you three times before you die (six times if you have Diddy), Cranky Kong sells power-ups at lower prices, and “Super Kong” can automatically finish the level for you if you really get stuck. These additions definitely take the edge off the game’s more severe pitfalls, but it’s still no stroll through the jungle. There are, for instance, plenty of traps that will off you in one smack regardless of how many hits you can actually take. Also, once you choose a difficulty level, you’re stuck with it until you start a new game. There’s no switching on the fly.

Finally, a last note of caution to longtime Donkey Kong Country fans: Even the traditional control scheme in Returns 3D isn’t an exact translation of what you may be used to. For example, Donkey Kong does not gain the same level of momentum when he rolls into an enemy. It might be best to un-learn what you already know.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Monkey Business

The Wii is considerably more powerful than the Nintendo 3DS, so the graphics in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D had to be scaled back a bit as a consequence. The 3DS game has a lower frame rate and its sprites aren’t as sharp, but it still looks lovely. You’ll travel through jungles, across beaches, over cliffs, and through oily factories. At times, Donkey and Diddy are silhouetted against smoke or sunsets, adding challenge to the gameplay as well as a striking graphical touch. The Nintendo 3DS’s 3D effect works well with the multi-layered levels.

The game’s soundtrack is energetic and pays occasional tribute to David Wise’s classic Donkey Kong Country tracks. The sound effects likewise shine, and include plenty of monkey screeches.

CONCLUSION: Welcome Back to the Jungle

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a top-notch platformer that belongs on your 3DS. If you found the original too difficult to control, Returns 3D might be what you need to get you back into the experience. If you haven’t played the game at all, this is the one to pick up. Despite its controller-shattering difficulty, you’ll have a (barrel) blast.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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