Game Reviews Nintendo 3DS Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Greg Schardein Featured

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Written by Greg Schardein     May 17, 2013    
 
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Donkey Kong barrels his way onto the 3DS for a remake of the Wii classic. Does it hold up to the same level of greatness as its predecessor?

With the constant drive to push the envelope in terms of presentation, many gaming developers are focused on the next “blockbuster” hit and as a result, gameplay takes a tumble. With the more recent Indie movement of gaming, however, a revival of classic gaming elements has been focused upon in a large portion of titles over the past several years. One of the more trendy styles of gameplay created is that of the HD, 2.5D platformer, a style that simplifies and perfects the gameplay, while providing some of the most beautiful presentation imaginable.

Games such as Braid, or Shadow Complex were a few of the early adopters of this style of gameplay in the current generation of consoles and it’s great to see some of the larger game developers jumping on the bandwagon. Just recently, Nintendo alone has created 4+ such titles (Warioland: Shake It!, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, and Donkey Kong Country Returns) whereas Ubisoft has created their own platforming revival in Rayman Origins and the upcoming Rayman Legends. (that’s not to mention the countless other games that could be included in the category).

With 2010’s Wii hit Donkey Kong Country Returns, Nintendo not only revived a series that hadn’t seen a sequel in 14 years, but it also showed off the development skills of Retro Studios beyond that of the Metroid Prime series. By improving upon the classic series, Retro reminded us just how magical Nintendo’s 2nd party studios can be. For our full review of the game and more coverage, check out Steve’s review.

 

Easier Difficulty for the Faint of Heart

For those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to play through the original title, Nintendo has provided the perfect opportunity in the form of a 3DS remake+. Not only has the entire original game been remade on the 3DS (difficulty and all), but there are also further levels and options to sweeten the pot. For one, those gamers that lack the skill or patience to complete the game’s more difficult Wii-mode are given the option of playing an easier mode with all sorts of additions to lighten the difficulty.

The first noticeable change in the easier mode is that Donkey and Diddy both have an additional hit-point, making the total amount of possible hits 6-7 (with the use of the extra hit-point item). Secondly, the new mode features several new items in the shop to help troubled gamers such as Portable DK Barrels (to revive Diddy Kong at any time during the level), Green Balloons for pit protection, and Crash Guards for protection on the game’s mine cart and Rocket Barrel levels. All-in-all, for those who are a little shy towards difficulty, this version of the game gives you no excuse for passing it up as you can play either difficulty from the start.

In case you’re a more hardcore gamer, the original difficulty plays nearly identically to the Wii version in every way. For those who have already experienced the title on the Wii and are looking for bonus content, there are eight extra levels that are extremely difficult, so they do reward the bold who stepped out and purchased the game twice (though I must admit, if you already own the Wii version, there’s little incentive to pick this one up aside from having the ability to bring it anywhere on your 3DS).

 

Changes (Good & Bad)

Gameplay aside, the game does have some differences for better or for worse in terms of its presentation and controls. First of all, though the game is very pretty to look at, the Wii version’s graphics are a little less jagged around the edges and the frame rate of the 3DS version is not the silky smooth 60 fps of its console counterpart. This isn’t a major issue for the non-snobs out there but side-by-side, the Wii version is much smoother. The 3D effects of the 3DS tip the presentation back towards the 3DS somewhat but the effects were surprisingly a little underwhelming (despite the level design being a perfect demonstration of the 3D effect, it just wasn’t as powerful as other games on the system such as Super Mario 3D Land or Ocarina of Time: 3D).

As for controls, the 3DS version wins the prize with its simple, intuitive button layout. Gone are the unnecessary waggle controls on the Wii and seeing as the 3DS actually has more buttons than a Wii Remote, there are many options for replacement. Thus, A and B are used to jump, X and Y are used to pound the ground or blow air (while holding down), and the L and R buttons are used to grab onto vines and barrels. There is also the option to use either the circle pad or the directional pad for movement, depending upon which you prefer (I actually found the circle pad to be more comfortable despite my initial instincts). Thus, this game is actually an improvement upon the Wii’s controls; by omitting the wonky waggle controls that felt unnecessarily tacked onto many Wii games, DKCR: 3D feels even more like a classic gaming masterpiece.

Finally, to complete the remake, Monster Games threw in a 2-player co-op mode for those who want to experience this type of gameplay. The catch, however, is that both players must own a copy of the game and it’s only available for local Wi-Fi multiplayer. And, on a final side-note, I found one minor gameplay improvement that I wish they would have added to make the game more accessible without reducing the difficulty: allow us to spend a few banana coins to revive Diddy Kong outside of a level so we don’t have to go to an easier level just to get him back! (I digress ;-)

Editor reviews

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a near perfect remake of the Wii classic. Featuring more precise controls than the original game, additional levels, and an easier mode for those not up to the challenge of the original, DKCR 3D succeeds in every way that the original did. A lower frame rate and more jagged visuals does make it a little less visually pleasing than on the console but the portability of a handheld makes up for these minor presentational setbacks. If you haven't had the opportunity to play this gem, this is the version I would recommend solely for its gameplay improvements. For those of you that have already experienced the game, I don't believe there's enough incentive to pick this version up at full price (wait until it's dropped in price unless you're just looking for something else to play on your 3DS or long for portability of the title). Here's hoping they're working on a sequel.
Overall rating 
 
9.2
Gameplay 
 
10.0
Presentation 
 
8.0
Value  
 
9.0
Fun Factor 
 
10.0
Tilt 
 
9.0
Greg Schardein Reviewed by Greg Schardein May 17, 2013
Last updated: May 17, 2013
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (103)

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a near perfect remake of the Wii classic. Featuring more precise controls than the original game, additional levels, and an easier mode for those not up to the challenge of the original, DKCR 3D succeeds in every way that the original did. A lower frame rate and more jagged visuals does make it a little less visually pleasing than on the console but the portability of a handheld makes up for these minor presentational setbacks. If you haven't had the opportunity to play this gem, this is the version I would recommend solely for its gameplay improvements. For those of you that have already experienced the game, I don't believe there's enough incentive to pick this version up at full price (wait until it's dropped in price unless you're just looking for something else to play on your 3DS or long for portability of the title). Here's hoping they're working on a sequel.

Videogames

Gameplay
One of the best parts of the 3D remake is that it simplifies the controls from the Wii version. Thus, you won't have to be subjected to using waggle throughout the levels and can use a more intuitive button setup. For those of you who are afraid of difficulty, this game includes an easier mode as well as the original Wii version. My only wish is the ability to summon Diddy Kong outside of levels but it's too minor to fault. Finally, the extra levels are a great addition to the game for those looking for new content.
Presentation
The translation of the game to the 3DS was nearly seamless but the frame rate drop is noticeable. Still, the game looks beautiful on the 3DS despite the fact that the 3D effect is a little underwhelming compared to other titles on the system. The music is classic and nostalgic but doesn't match the level of polish of the graphics due to the use of midi instrumentation.
Value
This game is a great buy at $34.99, though it is $5 more than the current price of the Wii version. Still, the extra levels, easier mode, and better button layout make it as good of a value as its Wii counterpart. And besides, I've always preferred handheld gameplay to console gameplay because it's more personal as well as portable.
Fun Factor
Though some may not have the same feelings, I've always loved games with difficult gameplay. Games that knock you down but reward you for your persistence have always been some of my favorites (dating back to the NES and arcades). If you're itching for another difficult, but beautiful homage to classic 2D gameplay, look no further than Donkey Kong returns.
Tilt
This game is just as good as its Wii counterpart...though I wish it were Donkey Kong Country Returns 2 rather than a remake ;-)
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