Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Review for Nintendo 3DS

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Review for Nintendo 3DS

All Good Things… Return

By 2010, the Wii’s relevance had all but dwindled into oblivion. On this dwindling console, Donkey Kong Country Returns delivered an infusion of high-quality platforming, with a challenge and superior design that rivaled even Mario’s adventures. The 3DS, on the other hand, is doing nothing but gaining momentum, but we’ll still happily embrace the appearance of DK in this cleverly updated classic. With an extra world to explore and a less intimidating play mode designed for playing on the go, Nintendo has successfully added just enough to morph Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D into the perfect portable platformer for your library.

After a volcanic explosion on Donkey Kong’s island paradise, the evil Tikis are awakened and filled with diabolical plans to steal DK’s hoard of bananas. By emitting a mesmerizing melody they are able to control all the creatures of the island. However, their attempts to spellbind Donkey Kong prove unsuccessful, as he launches one of the Tikis with his powerful punch. The journey then begins for DK and his faithful sidekick Diddy Kong to recover his treasured fruit and reclaim the island from the Tikis.

Winding his way around the isle, Donkey Kong will travel through themed worlds such as the jungle, beach, ruins, cliff, and even a factory. You’ll find it hard to finger a favorite backdrop, as each series of boards are expertly crafted and full of new obstacles. You’ll be ducking for cover from incoming tidal waves on the beach, racing through the caves in a mine cart, and staying ahead of an encroaching wall of spiders in the forest. Every board contains a fresh element to challenge you, dismissing any thoughts of redundancy in the level design. Each world finishes with a boss battle. The mammoth beasts all have patterned attacks to exploit, and aren’t as satisfying as the side-scrolling levels. However, pummeling the dazed Tiki with a flurry of punches to finish off the level is immensely satisfying.

The rest of the enemy roster does a great job adding to the obstacles of each board. They aren’t memorable characters themselves, but their duty at halting the progress of our primate powerhouse is perfectly executed. DK can roll through them, bounce on top of them, disorient them by slapping the ground, and even extinguish flaming foes with a good blow. Smashing a specially marked DK barrel releases your companion Diddy, who comes equipped with a jetpack that allows Donkey Kong to hover for a couple extra seconds. Diddy is a playable character in the two-player local co-op, though for the single-player campaign, it would have been nice to have seen Diddy promoted to more than just a backpack. But his aid is undeniable, and you’ll breathe a sigh of relief whenever you spot a DK barrel.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Screenshot

To help alleviate the potential frustration of taxing levels, Nintendo has included a new game mode aptly called “New Mode.” This gives DK and Diddy an extra heart each, and unlocks some helpful new items at Cranky’s Shop. Building your coin purse lets you fill your inventory with potions to make you temporarily invincible or increase the endurance of mine carts and rocket barrels, green balloons to save you from falling down a chasm, and DK barrels to use at your convenience. After several failed attempts at a level, you have the option to call upon Super Kong to complete the level for you. This computer-controlled character will reach the finish, but at the expense of you not gaining any bananas or collectibles, and not being credited with its completion. New Mode is still challenging despite the handicaps, but for those purists and hardcore gamers, the original mode from the Wii is also available.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Screenshot

Barreling through the campaign will take about eight to ten hours depending on how many balloons (lives) you burst, but Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D has no shortage of extras for many more hours of fun. Puzzle pieces are hidden throughout each board, and K-O-N-G tiles are scattered about, which unlock image, music, diorama, and movie galleries in the main menu. Completing a board also unlocks a time trial, with medals to collect depending on your clear time (note: gold medals require a near flawless run — good luck). The 3DS version also comes packed with a brand new world that becomes available once you’ve cleared the campaign. No spoilers from me, though it is by far the toughest series of boards, especially for the few players who may have found the rest of game timid (tip: save up your coins).

The visuals translate perfectly onto the 3DS, as if they were meant to be there in the first place. Everything fits tightly into the smaller screen, yet despite all the action and quick timing, you never feel as if there are too many distractions. The biggest wildcard is actually the system’s 3D effect. As in the Wii version, Donkey Kong will periodically get blasted to the background, and with the 3D effect on, this gives the areas much more visual depth. However, the sweet spot to keep the screen from distorting is very narrow, and the slightest tilt could be the cause of many unforced deaths. My suggestion is to keep the 3D off while trying to progress through the campaign or tackling the Time Trials, but enjoy the effect while slowing searching for those puzzle pieces and collecting every banana possible.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Screenshot

The music score remains untouched from the Wii title, which itself is comprised of perfect remixes from the original Donkey Kong Country. Every tone fits perfectly with its respective venue, and many of the catchier tracks like King of Cling you’ll find yourself helplessly humming. DK packs a lot of power in those gorilla arms, and the sound effects do a terrific job showcasing his strength, as well as all the mayhem happening around him.

With many Wiis collecting dust by 2010, countless people likely missed the opportunity to appreciate Donkey Kong’s platforming masterpiece. Now that the 3DS is as sought after as DK’s banana hoard, there’s no better time to pick up this gem for a modest portable price. Even if you did lose hours on the Wii version, the game is just so good that it’s worth a second playthrough.

It’s not as pretty as the Wii version, but the pixels tighten up nicely on the smaller screen. 5.0 Control
Perfectly synched controls, and much better than having to shake a Wii Remote just to get DK to do a somersault. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The timeless tracks sound as great as ever. I just wish I could crank the volume up even more. Headphones are a must. 5.0 Play Value
The 8-10 hour completion time is just for speeding through the campaign. There’s plenty more hours to burn for those completionists out there. 4.9 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Over 70 levels of banana-hoarding fun featuring Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong.
  • Run, jump, climb and defeat enemies through diverse environments until you retrieve Donkey Kong’s stolen banana hoard!
  • Lush, layered, side-scrolling levels come to life in stunning 3D.
  • Rebuilt and optimized for portable play on the Nintendo 3DS system.

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