Well, it seems like it’s happened again: Donkey Kong’s bananas have been stolen. This time the nefarious scheme has been carried out by anthropomorphic musical instruments that were released with the eruption of the volcano on DK’s island. They go around hypnotizing animals across the island in order to bring more bananas to their leader in the volcano. Now Donkey Kong, with the help of Diddy Kong, has to jump, climb, and pound his way to fight the kingpin of the discordant gang.
Depending on how you enjoy playing, you can either use the Circle Pad or D-Pad to navigate the course, with different buttons doing different things depending on which scheme you use. If you’ve played the Wii original, you’ll quickly notice that one of them fits your playing style; if you used just the Wii Remote without the Nunchuck, you’ll be more comfortable using the D-Pad controls, while proponents of the double-handed method will enjoy the Circle Pad layout. If you haven’t played the original, just pick whichever one feels right to you. No matter what you choose, you will find that the controls are responsive and easy to use.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a port of the Wii version, but with new levels and a brand-new difficulty level added to entice the gamer to re-visit this adventure. The new difficulty level (called “New Mode” but come on, we all know it should be called “easy”) features three hearts per monkey, three slots to customize your add-ons, and new items in Cranky Kong’s shop to help you on your quest. These extras can make your quest insanely easy. Having trouble with a boss? Banana juice (five extra hits), an extra heart, and a portable DK barrel can turn that troublesome foe into a mushy pulp on the ground without restarting the level once. (On a completely related note, Thugsly’s Highrise has never been so enjoyable for me to play.)
The new levels feature a level from each area and are an enjoyable add-on to the game. To access them, you need to beat the entire game AND get all the KONG letters in every single level to unlock the temples in each area, which you then have to beat to obtain the jewels that will open the portal to the extra levels… or you can drop a sackload of banana coins off at Cranky’s and just buy all the jewels without even attempting every level. This is a real time-saver if you want to play the new levels but don’t feel like going to the trouble of collecting every KONG letter. If you’ve already done it on the Wii version, you may feel less inclined to repeat the rigorous task than if you’re playing the game for the first time.
Once you’ve beaten all the new levels you can do each one in mirror mode, which means you have only one heart, can’t have Diddy or any add-ons, and have to do the entire thing in the opposite direction. The game also features multiplayer, where you and a buddy can team up as the dynamic duo to defeat the devilish delinquents.
Visually, the game is outstanding. Ok, so the graphics are a little rougher than on the Wii. The developers needed to cut something when making the port over from a console to a handheld, and graphics are usually one of the first things to go. Monster Games managed to put extra levels, a new mode, and 3D effects in the game, with only a minor downgrade to graphics. This isn’t a case of a bad trade-off. The real strength of the visuals comes from the great 3D backgrounds. They put a lot of work into those backgrounds, with each one being different from the last.
Playing the game on the Wii first caused my ingrained urge to shake to do special moves, resulting in a lot of missed jumps and deaths. The 3D caused the screen to flicker in and out of the sweet spot as I spasmed my hands in futile attempts to jump farther or roll quickly; if you’re like me, you may want to keep the 3D off. Even if you can’t play with the 3D on, I recommend turning it on and just looking at the great backgrounds at some points during the levels. One minor issue I have with the graphics is that at the start of certain cut scenes the quality would suddenly plummet, leaving you with a grainy and rather jarring experience compared to the polished look of the rest of the game.
The music is the same as the original, and I’m glad they didn’t try to change it. Each area features its own unique sound, and the levels generally have unique songs. The music blends well into the background without becoming white noise; you notice it, but it’s a nice addition rather than a distraction. The soundtrack fits well, and helps to set the mood for your adventure. Sound effects are unobtrusive and fit your actions – don’t expect any delay or lag.
The game clocks in at $39.99 CAD, which means it’s a full-price 3DS game. If all you’re after is blasting through the levels to destroy the top Tiki, you can expect to spend around five hours on the game. If you’re a complete-freak, you can expect to spend a lot more time with the game – up to around 50 hours. Collecting the KONG letters and puzzle pieces, unlocking artwork, unlocking new levels, and beating everything in mirror mode can significantly lengthen your journey. The entire game plays well though, so you’ll be spending your time and money on a quality game.
Overall, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a great game. Younger kids and new gamers may find that the new mode allows them to become immersed in a story that would otherwise prove too difficult at times. Old pros will enjoy the solid platforming, responsive controls, great graphics, and fun storyline. I recommend picking this one up if you enjoy DK games, platformers in general, or loved Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii, as this is a solid port with great added content – all in a portable package.
This review is based on a retail copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.