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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D review

Katharine Byrne
11 Aug 2014
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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D box art
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
30
inc VAT

Not a particularly substantial remake, but it’s still one of the finest platforming games on 3DS.

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Specifications

Nintendo’s strategy of re-releasing old games on new platforms has always been met with mixed feelings from fans and critics, but it’s proved a particularly fruitful tactic for the 3DS. It struck gold with Grezzo’s port of Ocarina of Time 3D, and Star Fox and Solid Snake were quick to follow suit. But while most 3DS remakes have all been drawn from a bygone era of gaming, few suspected that 2010’s Donkey Kong Country Returns would be the next in line to receive the same treatment.

Originally developed by Retro Studios for the Wii, the original Donkey Kong Country Returns was a ferociously difficult romp through Kong Island that simultaneously shook the pedestrian socks off games like New Super Mario Bros Wii and Kirby’s Epic Yarn and still managed to be a fitting homage to the Donkey Kong Country series. As DK and his pal Diddy leapt, rolled and head-stomped their way back to their precious hoard of stolen bananas, players were transported through a master class of 2D platforming that tested the limits of even the most seasoned platforming pros while still offering a helping hand to bewildered newcomers.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D screenshot05

The 3DS version has been handled by Monster Games, the team responsible for Pilotwings Resort. It looks stunning, but there’s no doubt which version is visually superior. DK’s fur doesn’t bristle with quite the same level of detail as his home console counterpart, and the once rich and vivid environments look a little simpler round the edges. That said, you don’t really need a great deal of real-world polish when you’re swinging through largely cartoonish environments, and you wouldn’t really notice the difference unless you had both games side by side.

It’s easily one of the best looking games currently available on the 3DS, but even though it doesn’t shine and shimmer like its source material, it’s the attention to detail in the controls that really makes DKCR 3D much more than just an aped replica. If we had to level any complaint against the Wii version, it would be at the tacked-on Wiimote waggle-waving that governed moves like the roll and ground pound. It wasn’t that it didn’t work on the Wii, but having these actions mapped to dedicated buttons is a far more welcome solution than thrashing a controller round in the air. It not only helps maintains the natural rhythm of the game, but it also saved us on numerous occasions from accidentally careering over cliffs or throwing ourselves straight into the banana-filled jaws of our enemies.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D screenshot04

Having to contend with the Wii Remote was also particularly frustrating as the original game 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 each, giving you six in total instead of four, as well as a host of new items to use. The original “two-heart” Wii mode is still there for purists, but we certainly appreciated being able to take an extra hit before we had to make a hasty retreat back to the last checkpoint.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D has also retained its roots as a co-op experience. As long as a friend has their own copy of the game, you can team up wirelessly and take on the challenges of Kong Island together. It’s a shame that you can’t join in via Download Play and share the game from just one cartridge, but at least second players aren’t barred completely.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D screenshot03

Not all changes are positive, though. While the original’s multi-layered environments might seem like a perfect fit for the 3DS’s 3D capabilities, more often than not we found ourselves reaching for the slider to turn it off. Unlike other platformers of its day, part of the original game’s charm was its interactive environments. There was always something going on in the background, whether it was a giant squid taunting you from afar or a mineshaft full of angry moles chucking bombs at you, and the added 3D just a little too distracting when there’s so much to take in. A slight shift of your head can easily throw you out of the 3DS’s sweet spot, and in a game like DKCR 3D, that can often mean the difference between life and death.

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to whether you’ve played Donkey Kong Country Returns before. If you played this on the Wii, there’s very little reason to buy it again. Whereas other 3DS remakes have all benefitted from a long overdue graphical makeover and tightened up menu systems, all Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D really has to offer are another eight new levels to play once the main game’s over. These replace the Wii’s alternate Mirror Mode, but it’s a lot of old ground to re-tread before you get there. They’re not available straight away either, as you have to go through a rigorous orb collecting process to unlock them. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D doesn’t offer enough to entice Wii owners back into the jungle, but if you missed this the first time round, it’s an absolute must-buy on 3DS.

Details

Price£30
Detailswww.nintendo.co.uk
Rating****

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