Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D – A Look Back.
Every so often, we look back at some of the classics games of yesteryear. We’ve recently covered games, such as SoulCalibur II, Metroid II: Samus Returns, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Kingdom Hearts, and Dark Souls III. This month, we’re taking a look at Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. Despite being a port of the successful Wii title, Donkey Kong Country Returns, we’re tackling some of the differences in the game. In addition to reviewing the title, we want to look at the new features, pros, and cons Nintendo added to the 3DS port.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D was released in March 2013, three years after the release of its Wii counterpart. Originally developed by Retro Studios (Metroid Prime), the 3DS port was handled by Monster Games. Featuring stereoscopic 3D and classic controls, the game also featured a new mode made easier for newcomers. Note the use of “classic controls” as well. The Wii version allowed Donkey Kong to roll by shaking the Wiimote.
For those not interested in forced motion controls, the 3DS port allows players to simply hit the Y button to roll now. Also, the 3DS version includes eight new stages never featured in the Wii version. Check out our review and see if this title is a worthy addition for your 3DS. Whether you’ve played the Wii version before or not, we’ll help you decide on which version of the game is right for you.
What is Donkey Kong Country Returns?
Donkey Kong Country Returns is a 2D platformer. Originally developed by Retro Studios, it’s the first title in the “Donkey Kong Country” series in roughly 14 years. Prior to its release, Rare developed Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie’s Double Trouble for the SNES. Rare’s last title for the series was Donkey Kong 64 (1999). Nintendo kept Donkey Kong aloft with titles, like Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat. However, none of their post-Rare titles ever captured the same charm of the legendary 2D franchise.
Enter Retro Studios. Creators of the Metroid Prime series, their resume showcased impeccable game design. Staying true to the DK series’ roots, Donkey Kong Country Returns brings back the classic 2D platforming action of the original games. New to the series includes real-time co-op action. Donkey Kong Country Returns released in an era where 2D co-op platformers were becoming popular. New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Rayman Origins, and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land all featured co-op platforming on the Nintendo Wii. In this case, one player could also control Diddy Kong to fire his Peanut Popguns and control him separately.
The title was also known for its challenging difficulty. Donkey Kong Country Returns ended up being even more challenging than the original SNES titles. Some of the challenges include a Time Attack Mode, finding jigsaw puzzles for unlockable image galleries, and even secret worlds to unlock. Rambi became the only animal buddy in the game. Furthermore, water stages were omitted from the title as well. But one important design choice stood out. The game features no Kremlings. Rather, DKC Returns featured its own original brand of enemies known as The Tiki Tak Tribe.
Changes from the Wii version.
As mentioned before, Monster Games ported the title over from the Wii to the 3DS. While being more than just a direct port, they crafted the title with notable changes. First and foremost, the game now runs at 30 FPS. While this is a considerable downgrade, it’s not one that affects the gameplay. Fortunately, along with no more scrolling backgrounds, it’s one of the few visual downgrades. Changes include a new mode for beginners that allows 3 hearts. This easier mode is more balanced for players who just want to jump into the game and have fun. Most importantly, however, is the change to the control scheme. No longer do you need to shake the controller to roll. A simple press of the Y button will get you rolling.
One of the single most-noteworthy changes for Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D includes the addition of World 9. In the Wii version, you unlocked the Golden Temple stage by getting all the KONG letters in every stage. In the 3DS version, however, you now unlock the Cloud world, or World 9. This includes eight original stages not featured in the Wii version. Despite their postgame placement, however, they’re no more difficult than the rest of the game. They’re not meant to be as grueling or as brutal as the hidden Temple stages. Finally, to make note of one more change, your puzzle count, KONG letters, lives, bananas, and banana coins fit snugly on the bottom screen. You can learn more about the changes here.
The Good and the Bad.
Donkey Kong Country Returns’ soundtrack is composed by Kenji Yamamoto. Known for his scores in the Metroid series, he took over the music for Donkey Kong Country Returns. You can hear some of his Metroid influences as well. For instance, Furious Fire includes hard drum beats and chants. This is similar to Yamamoto’s signature in Super Metroid’s Lower Norfair stage, also known as Magmoor Caverns in Metroid Prime. Overall, the soundtrack includes remixes from Donkey Kong Country and some great, new original tracks as well.
While the 30 FPS downgrade was mentioned earlier, DKC still boasts some pretty visuals. The game boasts some pretty visuals and animations. The level design is also great. Between barrel blasting, riding mine-carts, riding barrel rockets, and fighting bosses, it’s a healthy variety of challenge. The challenge is rarely unfair and each stage is completely different than the last. Also, the game features many things to unlock, such as an Image Gallery, Time Attack, Sound Test, and even a Mirror Mode, which tests the most dedicated players.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D isn’t a perfect game, though. As I mentioned earlier, most of the players’ deaths are a fault of the player. But in some instances, there are some design choices that end up being downright crazy. One mine cart stage, for instance, hides an “O” underneath a low ceiling. Jump too early, you crash into it and die. Jump too late, you miss it. It’s a 1-frame timing that ends up being quite aggravating. Thankfully, it’s only one of very few instances where the game ends up being a bit harder than necessary However, I’m sure all players will appreciate the challenge. It’s difficult, yet rewarding and fun. And as mentioned earlier, there’s a new mode that’s a bit easier to play on, too.
If you’re reading this review and debating on which version to get, here is the simple method.
- If you prefer the superior framerate, the Wii version features 60 FPS. You can also play co-op with a friend on the same screen.
- If you want the new stages and standard controls, 3DS version is for you. Co-op is playable with two 3DS’ and two copies of the game.
Having beaten both, I think they’re both great games. But in the end, I have to give it to the 3DS version. If this was a native 3DS release, the 30 FPS wouldn’t be considered a drawback, but the standard of the game. The Wii’s hardware drew out some extra power for the game. But the experience was better on the 3DS thanks to the controls and extra content. I feel Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a standard platformer that’s worth owning for anyone with a Wii or 3DS. But if you’re planning on getting one, get the one you can take with you and play on the go!
Thank you for reading our review on Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D! Have you played either version of the game? Do you plan on getting the 3DS release now? Let us know in the comments below.