In November of 2010, Nintendo released Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii. This title, developed by the beloved Retro Studios, harkened back to the classic Donkey Kong Country series that a lot of Nintendo fans grew up playing on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
The Wii release was met with a mix of love and hate. Most gamers loved that Retro was able to recapture a lot of the fun and spirit of the original Donkey Kong Country titles in this new entry. They harnessed the awesome music, the varied environments, the boss fights and the silly Donkey and Diddy tandem that made the originals so great.
The hate came from the fact that, for some gamers, the title was too hard. I don’t fall into this camp. I love tough games, and I applauded Donkey Kong Country Returns for being tough in the face of one of the most casual audiences any console has ever seen.
Now, Monster Games has been charged with bringing Retro Studios’ Wii effort down to the Nintendo 3DS. Donkey Kong Country Returns is now Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. Is there enough here to warrant picking up this port?
Same Old Donkey Kong With a Little Extra Cushion
Let’s start with what’s new to Donkey Kong Country Returns in DKCR3D. Nintendo decided that the original game for the Wii was far too tough (it was). Rather than tweak levels and gameplay, they elected to add a new mode to the title that offers players a few in-game safety nets.
This new mode gives you a whole extra heart to start. It also let’s you buy things like more hearts to start a level, a parrot to help find puzzle pieces and a green balloon to save you from falling in pits. But, really, these band-aids serve as little more than slight cushion to break the constant fall of play.
For those who enjoy the extreme challenge and don’t even want an in-game option to purchase help, the original mode that shipped with the Wii version of the game is here and completely intact. Though, I promise, the new mode doesn’t help so much that the game becomes easy.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is still extremely tough. This is not a negative quality, as far as I’m concerned. Like most older gamers, I fondly remember a time when games kicked my teeth in on a regular basis. I remember being convinced that “the game was cheating” all the time.
I loved those intense difficulties. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D doesn’t necessarily match the frustration levels of, say, Battletoads or the TMNT games on the NES. It is, however, hard to complete. You’ll burn through lives on mistakes big and small. You’ll need to learn how to conquer small areas of levels. You’ll get frustrated, and you’ll swear that the game is cheating.
The fact that all of that happens here is a really, really good thing. Nintendo will hold your hand if you want them too. You can have the computer take over and play parts of each level if you die enough. But, hey, if you want to ignore that and put yourself through a challenging game without any help, you can.
That makes this older gamer extremely happy.
Good Looks, But Disorienting 3D and Size
The vibrancy from the original Donkey Kong Country Returns that hit the Wii a few years back returns. This is a gorgeous game, in terms of colors and environments. The download for this sucker is huge, and that translates to better textures, varied locales and striking looks.
It has been toned down a little, though. The characters on screen are a little more jaggy than they were on the Wii. It still runs well, it looks great in motion, but the Wii’s appearance was, unsurprisingly, more precise.
One would think that, given the layers of 2D stacked on top of one another throughout this game, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D would look best in, well, 3D. In some cases, that’s totally true. When you’re stalking through the jungle and the camera is at a perfect distance from the action, the 3D effect here is both striking and playable. However, add in a few more layers, more distance and more speed, and the 3D effect quickly turns towards disorienting.
As is the case with most games on the Nintendo 3DS these days, my slider found it’s way to the off position more times than not. Because of that, I actually enjoyed how this game looked.
However, this port work didn’t really consider the size of the Nintendo 3DS and how it relates to the size of the action in-game. One boss encounter pits DK and Diddy against a train packed with bananas and moles. The camera zooms out so far that I had to strain in order to time jumps and dodges during the fight.
The worst part? I have a Nintendo 3DS XL. My screen size is practically double what regular 3DS owners enjoy. That boss fight might have been nigh impossible on a smaller screen.
Jaggies I can accept. A 3D effect that’s disorienting on certain levels is, well, whatever. But a port that’s almost too small to play in specific areas? That’s tough to swallow.
A Great Game for Newcomers and Diehards
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a perfect title for two slices of the Nintendo 3DS install base: you should buy this game if you never played the Wii version. You should also buy this game if you absolutely adored the Wii version.
Those who played the original and don’t swear by its qualities won’t find enough new stuff to love in this version. The 3D is just okay, and the extra content at the end of the game doesn’t necessarily warrant the price tag for gamers on the fence.
For big fans and brand new owners? Yes, pick Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D up and enjoy it. This title is a welcome addition to the Nintendo 3DS library, and it’s one that I’m really glad to own.
We received a digital review copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the Nintendo 3DS from Nintendo. We beat the original game in 2010 on the Wii and played this game through to completion before starting our review.