Kong-Ratulations to Retro Studios!!
OK, let’s get this out of the way first: Donkey Kong Returns 3D is one of the best platformers on the 3DS, second only to the Mario series. It’s an almost direct port of the 2010 Wii game with some minor, and one major, improvement. It’s a new-school remake of an old-school classic, and looks and plays almost exactly the same as the SNES version did. Unlike the old version which just had 3D renders of complex polygon models, here the whole thing is rendered in 3D. You pound the ground, and the background shakes in time with your thumps. The 3D is used really well too, with waves crashing into the screen, Mario’s early nemesis shoots into the background, and there’s a sense of depth to the 2.5D platformer that shows off the 3D capabilities of the 3DS In fact, it works so well that it’s surprising to learn that it wasn’t designed for the 3DS in the first place, and the closeness of the port actually makes the game more enjoyable than the Wii version, for the most part.
The 3DS has a few differences, a new set of levels after you finish the main game, which aren’t that amazing, and also a 3DS mode, which gives DK and Diddy three hearts each instead of two, and adds a couple more helpful items to Cranky Kong’s shop. The “Super Guide” feature also returns, which means that you won’t give up on the game as soon as you hit a level that you just can’t get past. Because you will hit a level that you just can’t get past. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is as frustrating and entertaining as the original Donkey Kong Country was. You may have a rose-tinted memory of the first RARE developed game, but plug it back into your SNES and it won’t be too long before you remember how bastard hard it was. Fan-fucking-tastic for a game that had to last you six months before you could afford another one back in the day.
You pound the ground, and the background shakes in time with your thumps.
There are a couple of niggles, one minor, one major. The minor niggle is that it doesn’t run at 60fps, it runs at 30fps on the much lower resolution 3DS screen. Usually that isn’t a huge problem, but it does occasionally have some slowdown issues that were absent on the Wii version. For the mine cart levels when your jumps have to be precise, having to compensate for slowdown can be a nightmare. Still, it was a nightmare the original SNES version had as well, so you could argue it makes the game more authentic to its roots.
The other problem I had was bigger, and that’s to do with jumping. Like in the original game, the angle you started the jump at triggers an animation, so you don’t always jump at the angle you think you’re going to. Also, some of the objects you have to collect can only be reached when you jump off an enemy. Simple right, just hold down the jump button when you jump on an enemy like in Mario, right. Well, if you have Diddy on your back (which you’ll want to as he doubles your health bar) holding down the A button triggers your hover, which means that you can’t get the height you need. The roll also sometimes carries on when you hit the button, and other times it just stops – usually right when an enemy is about to hit you. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, but there were instances when I could blame the game rather than my own mistakes, and I found that frustrating. Actual proof that cock-ups can be the game’s fault!
as frustrating and entertaining as the original Donkey Kong Country was.
For me, it just doesn’t have that “one more go” factor that, for example, New Super Mario Brothers 2 did. Then again, if the only game I can find to beat Donkey Kong Country Returns on the 3DS is a Mario title, then it means that Retro Studio’s update of the game has to be pretty bloody good. Once you get through the main game, you will be buying parrots at Cranky Kong’s shop a lot to help find the hidden K-O-N-G letters and puzzle pieces, then you’ll spend even longer trying to work out how to get to the bastard things. Usually, for a sequel to be compared favourably to the original, it has to be better in almost every way while staying true to the things that made the original great in the first place (Ace Ventura, When Nature Calls is a case in point, for me anyway). This sequel compares very well to the original. After the Metroid Prime series and this game, it looks like Retro Studios could be the new RARE.