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Donkey Kong on 3DS is bananas

Jun 6, 2013

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Donkey Kong Country Returns 3DThe following people will get the most out of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D: handheld gaming aficionados, old-school platforming fans, people who grew up with the banana-loving ape, and more than anyone else, masochists.

Yes, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is at least as tough - arguably tougher - than the 2010 Wii game it was ported from. It revels not just in harkening back to the original Donkey Kong Country for the Super NES, but in punishing its players over and over again.

The 3DS version does admittedly have a "New Mode" available, which gives Donkey Kong three hit points (instead of two in "Original Mode"), as well as more bonus items to choose from, which make most levels a little easier, but for those people who want nothing but the toughest challenge, New Mode will be ignored completely.

For those who never played the Wii version, Donkey Kong Country Returns is the successor to the much-loved Donkey Kong Country series of side-scrolling platformers that were released for the Super NES and Nintendo 64 in the 1990's. Retro Studios, developer of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, created the Wii version, while Monster Studios, Inc. has taken care of the 3D port.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D All the tropes from the originals - rail carts, rocket ships, KONG letters, bonus stages, and more - are back, but the game was updated for the 21st century with wacky new controls thanks to the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote.

Interestingly, DKCR 3D feels like a step backward despite being released three years after the Wii version. It doesn't use the 3DS' touch screen at all, and although two control schemes are offered, neither feels particularly tight. I'm willing to admit I'm not an uber-player, but after completing the eight main worlds, I couldn't count the number of times I missed jumps simply because it wasn't always fluid activating the ever-important long jumps using the D-pad and shoulder buttons.

The 3D effects, meanwhile, provide a certain sense of dazzle for the first few worlds where the game is generally much more forgiving, but later on, when pinpoint accuracy and precise timing is absolutely crucial, it becomes nothing more than a distraction, and could be the difference between success and failure.

Of course none of these complaints are meant to take away from the (mostly) genius design of the levels. This is still some of the finest platforming you'll find in the second decade of the 21st century, and despite viewing everything through a much smaller screen, DKCR 3D still looks awesome, and provides a sense of wonder at several turns.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D For every jaw-dropping moment - entire mountains breaking apart to offer a new path, waves crashing down as Donkey Kong does his best to avoid them - there are just as many subtle, but just as cool, additions to the game. Trees shake whenever Donkey Kong slams the ground, and viewing levels with a particularly watchful eye will offer up cool surprises, such as Mr. Game & Watch appearing briefly later on.

And just like the Wii version, while there are some downright genius ways in which the player is given subtle hints as to how to proceed and survive in levels, things become downright unfair later on, with all sorts of hazards that are completely and utterly unavoidable unless you're some kind of psychic. Some will claim that's just how old-school games used to be; I say, we should move on from that kind of gameplay. I love a good challenge, but not an unfair one.

The 3DS version includes co-operative play, with the second player taking control of Diddy Kong, but even this is much less user-friendly than the Wii version, as two systems and two game cartridges are required.

Monster Games, Inc. also included eight brand new stages that weren't included in the Wii version. In keeping with Donkey Kong Country Return's focus on making the player work for everything, though, those levels are only available after accessing eight special levels - and even getting to those is a challenge in itself!

Still, this shows just how much content and replayability there is in a game that most people will likely never play with another person.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D While Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D may be inferior to its Wii predecessor, it's still quite the accomplishment considering how much could have gone wrong when being moved to a handheld system.

Even with the flaws that are present, there's a lot of good in this game. The title's inate challenge is only increased with the move to the 3Ds, but as already mentioned, that might be music to the ears of certain players. If your definition of "old school" involves trial-and-error, minimal hand-holding, and countless deaths, don't miss this title.

Don't say we didn't warn you, though.


Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Monster Games, Inc.
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone 10+
Official Site:

Rating: 7.5 / 10

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