Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

We return yet again to one of DK’s greatest adventures, but is it worth buying twice?

By Katharine Byrne. Posted 05/31/2013 14:00 2 Comments     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
A brilliant port of the Wii original, new game mode makes it much more accessible.
Poison Mushroom for...
3D is too distracting at times, not enough new content to entice Wii players back into the jungle.

If one console had to be crowned the king of remakes, it would be 3DS without a doubt. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing– I’ll be the first to admit that I jumped at the chance to replay Grezzo’s beloved port of Ocarina of Time 3D— but the slightly ambivalent legacy left behind by other slightly lesser ports such as Star Fox 64 3D and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D shows that remaking a classic game isn’t always a free pass to success.

There needs to be a substantial reason for us to sit up and take notice of a game we’ve already played countless times before, especially when purse-strings are so tight, so it seems rather odd that 2010’s rather excellent Donkey Kong Country Returns should be the next game to receive the ported treatment. It doesn’t seem two minutes since we laid down our Wii Remotes and peeled our eyes away from our TVs that it’s been packed up and presented to us again, only this time in mouth-watering 3D, but is it worth another round trip to Kong Island?

We all know that the original game was a hard-as-nails 2D platformer that shook the genre out of its doldrums with its beautifully crafted worlds and charming homage to the original Donkey Kong Country series. It was miles ahead of contemporary platformers like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and we’d go as far as saying it’s the most accomplished and innovative platformer on Wii.

The 3DS game certainly looks the part of its home console counterpart, but playing them side by side shows the cracks in the 3DS’s graphical paint. Admittedly, Retro Studio’s cartoonish world was never really about looking particularly life-like, but there’s no denying that DK’s homeland has suffered slightly in the porting process. Colours look a little less vibrant than before, environments seem a little rougher round the edges, and the scale and grandeur of some of the game’s main set pieces is often lost when you’re peering through such a small window. It doesn’t help that DKCR 3D also runs at half the frame rate, which makes swinging through the vines feel a little more choppy than it should. That said, this is still one of the best looking games on 3DS by far and Monster Games have done a fantastic job with bringing the island and its inhabitants down to size.

It may not shine quite as brightly as its source material, then, but it’s the attention to detail in the controls that really makes DKCR 3D much more than just an aped imitation (if you’ll pardon the pun). If we had one complaint against the Wii version, it would be the Wiimote waggle actions that governed moves like the roll and ground pound. These have dedicated buttons now and the game feels much better for it. Rolling was always a particularly risky move in the Wii version, as it always felt like we were about to accidentally hurl ourselves off a cliff if we dared waggle the controller a bit too much, but now the controls feel that much tighter and more responsive.

Another source of frustration stemmed from the fact that the Wii version only gave you two hearts to play with. Thankfully, the 3DS version has an easier difficulty setting that gives DK and Diddy an extra heart, bringing the combined total to six instead of four, as well as a host of new items to use. Masochists needn’t worry, though, as the original “two-heart” Wii mode is still available alongside the new 3DS mode, but we certainly appreciated being able to take an extra hit before we had to hop on yet another red balloon back to the nearest checkpoint.

DKCR 3D hasn’t forgotten its roots as a co-op experience either. Two players can take on the challenges of Kong Island together, but you’ll need to find a friend with their own copy of the game first.

There are a few rotten bananas to watch out for in all this, though. While the Wii’s multi-layered environments might seem like a perfect fit for a revamped 3D makeover, we often had to turn it off completely. As players of the Wii game will know, DKCR‘s backgrounds were part of what made it so charming and original. There was always something to keep your eye on, whether it was a rolling tidal wave coming toward you or a multitude of stacked towers falling perilously close to your barrel cannon. If the game was a more sedate affair, we wouldn’t have a problem with it, but it’s just a little too distracting when there’s so much to take in. Even the smallest shake of your head can easily introduce a hint of ghosting, and in a game like this, such small distractions can often be the difference between life and death.

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to whether you were there when Donkey Kong Country Returns was first released on Wii. If you’ve lived through the Wii Remote waggle and already defeated the tyrannical Tiki tribe, there’s very little reason to make a return journey on 3DS. Unlike other 3DS remakes, the graphics aren’t significantly improved and its slightly revised control scheme isn’t enough to warrant a second purchase. All Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D really has to offer in terms of new content is another eight new levels to play once the main game’s over, but it doesn’t quite seem like a big enough reward for those who have conquered the island already.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D doesn’t have enough to entice Wii owners back into the jungle, but if you haven’t yet made the trip to Kong Island, you’d be absolutely bananas to miss out.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

2 Responses to “Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

  • 276 points
    Nicolas Vestre says...

    Even after spending countless hours with Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii, I still felt the need to make the purchase on 3DS. And waggle was never really an issue; I played the whole thing with a horizontal Wii remote and never felt uncomfortable. But even a paltry eight levels is enough to bring me back. :)

    DKCR3D still has the Mirror Mode from the Wii version, right? I’ve looked elsewhere online and this seems to be the case. That’s actually one reason I bought the game again– I wanted to tear through Mirror Mode this time.

  • 285 points
    Kyle England says...

    I have the original Wii version, but I have to say the 3DS game is still worth playing, if not just for the novelty of being able to play the amazing levels crafted by Retro Studios while on the go.

    Seriously, in the almost 3 years that have passed since I played DKCR, I forgot how clever the levels were. No wonder it’s one of my favorite platformers of the last generation. I’m glad Nintendo is trying to breathe life into the game for those who may have missed it the first time around.

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