Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for Nintendo 3DS
Although I enjoyed the original on Wii, it didn’t feel like the natural place for it, with clunky motion controls and an experience better enjoyed in small chunks. An already fun experience completely comes to life on the 3DS, as proof that there is still room for innovation and charm in the sidescrolling platformer genre.
Yet again, Donkey Kong’s bananas have been stolen, although his classic foe King K. Rool is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it is the Tiki tribe that are the foes, weird mask creatures who hypnotise animals and horde bananas for some reason. Look, it’s a Donkey Kong game right. What did you expect?
The environments of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D are gorgeous and dynamic to an extent that makes Nintendo’s own Mario sidescrollers pale in comparison. They’re not just statically beautiful, but frequently changing and moving, but without being distracting. Although there are some generic locations such as the forest, cave and fire worlds, they never feel generic, and instead rather fresh. DK Island has never looked this good.
The gameplay is basically the same as Rare’s classic Donkey Kong Country series, with running, jumping, and being launched around in barrels. I love mine cart levels in platformers, and there’s no series that’s ever done them as well as Donkey Kong Country, and they’re as fiendish as ever here. Diddy Kong returns, but in a different fashion to the classic games. When gained from a barrel, he provides his signature jet pack to give DK a little extra boost in his jumps. When he’s lost DK needs to wait till the next barrel to get back his invaluable ally. There’s are also some highly challenging levels in which DK flies around in a rocket barrel, with these parts providing the greatest frustration. This is overall a very challenging game, although an easier mode is now made available rather than the classic Wii mode. I do recommend going for the harder difficulty, it’s a big part of the experience, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had on the easier difficulty. The boss fights are generally fun and inventive.
There are a few elements of the earlier games missing in Donkey Kong Country Returns, such as underwater levels. The Donkey Kong Country games were some of the very few to get water levels right, so they were missed here. Although Rambi, DK’s rideable rhino friend does make a couple of appearances, there weren’t nearly enough. The lack of swimming levels means that Enguarde the swordfish is missing too. Hopefully the upcoming Wii U sequel brings these elements back.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a decent length game, and with plenty of reward for taking your time to collect all of the bonus items. A secret world can be unlocked for those with more time and patience than me. It’s a worthwhile package, with plenty of replay value. This game is an example of game design of utter solidity, clearly made by people who have mastered their craft.
Although there’s naturally some lost visual fidelity from the transfer from Wii to 3DS, it holds up much better than you might imagine. The environments lose little of their muster, and the frame rate remains solid throughout. This being a Donkey Kong Country game you want the music to be stellar, and it really is. The return of Rare’s classic tunes are the obvious highlight, but the new ones are nice too. This is an exquisitely presented little package, and one which is impressively crammed into the 3DS. Although I only looked at it a couple of times, the 3D effect is surprisingly good, much better than it usually is for ports.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is the perfect version of an already great game, a must for anyone who loved the originals, or even enjoys platformers. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is comfortably in the running for this year’s best platformer, although Rayman Legends may give it a run for its money in a few months!