Second Opinion: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Some games are so good they deserve 2 reviews to make sure everything is covered. This review does not override our first one, but merely complements it.

Concept

After successfully entrusting Retro with Metroid, Nintendo decided to do the same with Donkey Kong Country. However, unlike the approach with Metroid to make it 3D, Retro decided to go old-school and make a fine tribute to the classic Rare games.

Story

The Tikis have gone bananas for, well, bananas! They have hypnotized the animals fro the purpose of taking all the bananas, including our beloved Donkey Kong’s. Retro kept the game close to its roots and not gave it a complicated plot. You’re introduced to the villains and there is no real voice acting. However, I appreciated that because the game has a great pace and no interruption to the gameplay. This allows for fine replayability as it is very easy to pick up again even after long breaks.

Graphics

When I saw pictures for this port of the Wii masterpiece, I was initially dismayed. I could see the pixilation on my computer and decided it probably was going to look horrible. However, when you turn on the game, I found it easy to feel like the game was designed for the 3DS. I did not see any pixilation that I feared. The 3D graphics are amazing. I occasionally turn it off mostly to save battery power. I will note that I played this on the original 3DS, so I cannot say how it looks on the XL, but my hazy memory says that I was impressed there too. For a few levels like the Mole Train boss, I probably would have appreciated the larger screen, otherwise it was perfect.

Even Nintendo's own site can convince you there's pixalation

Even Nintendo’s own site can convince you there’s pixalation

Sound

I love the sound! My experience with the Donkey Kong Country music stems mostly from Super Smash Bros. and I was very satisfied as soon as the game turned on. I love the jazz feel the jungle levels have. The other stages’ music isn’t anything to scoff at either. Donkey Kong and Diddy don’t have voices, but they do make sounds and grunts which work well for the game. If you love the sound like I do, then you can listen to the music after unlocking for beating each world.

 

Controls

The controls of the game are very solid. The Circle pad or D-pad is used for movement. “A” or “B” is used for jumping, “L” or “R” are used for grabbing, and “X” and “Y” are the special buttons. The “X” and “Y” controls are the most tricky and versatile buttons. Depending on your movement or lack of movement, they do a roll out attack, pound the ground, and blow. I thought the blow was a weird feature to have, but I found myself doing it quite a bit as it is how you find come puzzle pieces or an extra heart.

I was afraid to use the circle pad for platforming, but I found it worked fairly well. I must say one thing that struck me odd about the controls was the lack of being able to use both the circle pad and the D-pad for controls. You can switch it any time, but you have to chose only one. There are some sections where I would have been more comfortable with the D-pad, but I learned to get around with the circle pad. To add to the interest, Monster Games made it so when you use the D-pad, the grab and action buttons swap.

Why can't I use both

Why can’t I use both

Gameplay

With my lack of hardcore experience with the Donkey Kong Country games, I was a little afraid of the legendary difficulty I have heard about. If I played the Original Mode to start off with, those fears probably would have been realized, but with New Mode, those extra hearts gave me the piece of mind to go through the game. I certainly did die a lot, but I didn’t get frustrated. The controls are solid and my deaths were caused by my lack of skills rather than the unfairness of the game and bad controls. This game is perfect for showing that a difficult game doesn’t have to be frustrating when it is done right.

Perhaps even better is that I left the game alone for a few weeks and when I picked it back up, it was easy to do so. Sure I died a few times, but those came from greed and bad timing. In that time I learned that if you hold the grab buttons, DK will automatically grab when he can. If you just can’t make it through a level, you can always let the Super Guide do it for you. It’s weird that you can be towards the end, but the guide will replay the whole level for you, just avoiding all the puzzle pieces and KONG letters. It’s interesting to see especially for a few levels that you can’t go through without know what’s coming, a.k.a dying. You can also stop the Super Guide at anytime and take over. Just note that if you die, you go back to the level select screen. So even though the game is tough, and gets harder towards the end, you can still play through it and enjoy the game.

Rocket Barrels!

Rocket Barrels!

Some people might recall that in the Donkey Kong Country games, you can collect K-O-N-G letters. I don’t know if they did much back then because I always just saw them as a challenge. For most of this game, I still didn’t know what they were for, but I still went after them. If I’m right, collecting all of them helps you unlock the bonus levels in the Golden Temple after you beat the game. However, you can always buy the Orbs needed from Cranky Kong. For something that you can see immediately, there are also puzzle pieces hidden in each level. Collecting these will unlock image galleries. If you beat a boss, you unlock music you can listen to in the main menu. Note that if you use the Super Guide to beat a boss, you don’t get the music.

Speaking of bosses, I will praise Retro on their designs. Each time I entered the boss fight, it would feel like a puzzle to determine how to defeat them. Some were more simple than others. At least one showed me how to take down some normal enemies. If you do have trouble surviving through battle, you can stop by Cranky Kong’s shop and stock up on an extra Barrel, Heart, and Banana Juice to help you through a level using banana coins you collected.

In addition to the items I mentioned above, you can buy extra lives in times you need them. To be honest, I generally just found other ways to earn bonus lives. There are a few checkpoints where you can die but easily earn 2 more lives plus some bananas and banana coins. Banana coins are slightly rare but also easy to accumulate. Later in the game, it actually becomes even easier to collect the coins due to more chains of enemies you can jump on. Once you jump on enemies three times without touching the ground, you earn a banana coin for each enemy in your chain.

I actually found it amazing how many different kinds of enemies you could find in the game, most requiring a different technique. Also surprising were the many different elements they put in there for you to blow or ground pound. When Retro says they put a lot of detail into their games, they are not messing around with anyone. The only thing I felt missing was the lack of more animal levels. I can only recall 2-3 levels off the top of my head that had the rhino friend, and none with the ostrich.

Ride the Rhino!

Ride the Rhino!

There is a 2P co-op mode, but since none of my 3DS friends are around, I haven’t been able to try it out. However, it appeared to me that some K-O-N-G letters were only accessible with the aid of a second player. It wasn’t many but there were a couple that I couldn’t figure out how to obtain.

Replayability

Thanks to the game’s simple story, well designed levels, and solid controls, this game is easy to pick up and play again and again even after long breaks. And if you want to hone your skills or find the puzzle pieces or K-O-N-G, the game makes it easy by telling you which levels haven’t had those completed, helping you unlock the Golden Temple levels. And since there are only a few levels in each world, it’s easier to remember your favorite levels. Also, with Super Kong, most levels you have trouble with can be skipped and replayed later at your own convenience. If you want to tread through it on your own, then you can buy some helpful items from Cranky Kong. There are plenty of ways the game makes it easy for you to return.

Easy to control, good to replay

Easy to control, good to replay

Overall

I never owned a Super Nintendo and I only knew of one friend who had at least one of the games, so I didn’t get to play Donkey Kong Country very often years ago. However, I did get my hands on the one of the Donkey Kong Land games for the GameBoy through my brother. However, the memories I do have of those experiences are satisfied with this game. It is challenge, but I never really got frustrated. That by itself is a great feat. The sound and graphics are fantastic and the level design perfect for on-the-go gaming. Even though this game was initially designed for the Wii, Monster games did a fantastic job with the port. I recommend this to people who are looking for a solid platformer and fans of the Donkey Kong series.

Share this post:Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on StumbleUponDigg this

About The Author

Feature Writer/Game Reviewer

Blogger in the IGN community and no longer for Always Nintendo. You can find him still blogging in the IGN community as FalconRise