Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (for Nintendo 3DS) review

The excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns in a slightly improved 3DS port that's even more appealing than the original.

Donkey Kong Country was a classic game series for the Super Nintendo, and it returned four years ago in, well, Donkey Kong Country Returns. It was bright, colorful, and very, very difficult. And now it’s on the Nintendo 3DS as Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, a $39.99 (direct) title available as a game card or straight from the Nintendo 3DS eStore as a digital download. It’s aged very well since the Wii version came out, and the latest version adds a few welcome features to the mix, making it an Editors’ Choice for 3Ds games.

3DS Changes
Donkey Kong Country Returns plays much better when you take all of the Wii controller gimmicks out and replace them with optional 3DS display gimmicks. Unlike the Wii version of the game, the 3DS version doesn’t require you to shake the remote to pound the ground or roll—this alone makes the game play much more smoothly. Just press Y, as in the Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country games. That change improves the game greatly, and makes it much more pleasant to casual players.

Another change to help casual playing is slightly less savory for dedicated gamers, but still useful. A “New” mode lets you play an easier version of the game, with three hearts per character instead of two and more items. The game remains challenging, because Donkey Kong Country Returns was unforgivingly difficult to begin with, so it’s a welcome addition for people who pulled their hair out at the Wii version of the game. A limited local multiplayer mode lets players cooperate through levels. However, it doesn’t support 3DS Download Play, so you both have to own the game.

The Game World
The world of Donkey Kong Country Returns is satisfyingly large, with the original collection of over 60 stages, plus an unlockable world with eight new stages made for the 3DS version. Each level takes several minutes and, New Mode or not, multiple lives to beat unless you play perfectly. Each level also has tons of items to find, like K, O, N, and G letters, puzzle pieces, banana coins, and 1-up balloons. In fact, any given screen’s width of the game probably has something hidden that you can find by interacting with the environment in some way. Besides in-game bonuses, like 1-ups and items you can buy in Cranky Kong’s shop with banana coins, the secrets can also unlock art and dioramas in the Extra section of the game.

If you’ve already played Donkey Kong Country Returns, you know exactly what to expect from the gameplay, and if you’ve played any Donkey Kong Country game in the past you probably have a good general idea. Run, climb, ride (on mine cards), and fly (on rocket barrels) to the end of each stage to get Donkey Kong’s banana hoard back from bad guys. This time, instead of the charismatic King/Captain K. Rool and his alligator army, you fight animals possessed by tiki masks, or instruments, or something like that. They’re not interesting or engaging villains, but fortunately you don’t deal with them much. The levels themselves and the regular enemies are the biggest challenge in the game, and the boss fights, while slightly more involved than the Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country games’ boss fights, still feel like an afterthought compared to the massive set-piece obstacle courses of the levels leading up to them.

Graphics
The game looks as good as it did on the Wii, with the added benefit of the 3DS’ glasses-free 3D screen to really make the game pop out. The game wasn’t designed to be 3D, but its layered, detailed levels really look good with the added depth. The animations are smooth and the framerate stays consistent—both are important for difficult platform games like this.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D packs a lot of content and some of the best Nintendo side-scrolling action this side of New Super Mario Bros. 2 into a portable package that will keep you playing (and growing increasingly frustrated) for hours. Even with the easier New Mode, it’s a lot less forgiving and more full of tiny secrets to find than New Super Mario Bros. 2, making it an excellent addition to your 3DS library. It will keep you playing, if you don’t end up throwing your 3DS on the ground first. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D earns our Editors’ Choice for fiendishly difficult 3DS games.

Specifications
Genre Action Games
Platform Nintendo 3DS
ESRB Rating E for Everybody

Verdict
The excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns in a slightly improved 3DS port that's even more appealing than the original.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc