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First Impressions: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Jungle boogie

Retro's fantastic Donkey Kong Country Returns is a known quantity by now, so when we had the chance to go hands-on with the 3DS port in San Francisco recently we weren't exactly overcome with sweeping revelation. It was a great game on Wii and, unsurprisingly, that same great game translates very well to a handheld.

Those who’ve already played DKCR, and there's been ample time in which to do so since it launched on Wii in late 2010, can attest to what a delight of a platformer it is — tight level design, gorgeous environments and at times nightmarish challenge makes it one of the last gen’s top games. It was a game that more than lived up to the legacy and whimsy of Rare's classic SNES trilogy, even if the signature Kremlings of yore were nowhere to be found. All that goodness is still here, along with just enough refinement and territorial upgrades to consider the upcoming Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D the definitive version. Whether you need to go out and buy a whole new copy depends on how badly you need it portable, but for those who skipped it before — or perhaps found the challenge too intimidating — would do well to check it out on 3DS.

You can read all about what makes DKCR great in our Wii review, as the core game and two-player options (in which one controls Donkey Kong and the other Diddy) are the same here. Much of what’s been added can be considered housekeeping. We don’t intend to sell anything short, but by virtue of adapting to its new hardware home there are certain features that come with the territory. Nothing revolutionary, but certainly welcome.

For starters, there’s the whole stereoscopic 3D business, which Donkey Kong Country Returns uses to great world-building effect. Its stages were already built around playing with different planes, so adding a touch of depth to the environment goes a long way for making the island come alive. Ironically, DKCR 3D looks to have been actually designed with the magic screen in mind compared to the rather flat New Super Mario Bros. 2. There's a loss in detail and grandeur when playing on the small screen, but we felt the delightful depth makes up for it.

It also wouldn't make sense to shake the handheld around simply to be faithful to the Wii version’s motion controls, so pounding the ground, rolling and blowing on pretty flowers is now all accomplished with buttons. As shaking the Wii Remote always felt a little unnecessary, waggling won’t be missed. The motion substitute is mapped to duplicate face buttons, with grabbing relegated to the shoulder buttons; this felt like an awkward setup at first, especially because it seems a little silly to not just have everything mapped to the face buttons, but by the end of our session we had grown used to the scheme. You can opt to use either the Circle Pad or D-Pad as well, so an all-digital scheme is well within reach if you didn't care for how the Wii version played. We played primarily with the Circle Pad and performed just as well as on Wii.

New Mode rounds some of the more unforgiving edges by adding a bit of extra health, reinforced mine carts and green balloons that bail out Donkey Kong after he falls into one of the game’s numerous pits, allowing players not so interested in starting over all the time to enjoy the game. It’s reminiscent of Casual mode in Fire Emblem: Awakening, and players can skip it entirely in favor of the rock-hard original difficulty by not selecting New Mode at the beginning of a new game — once you’ve made your choice, that save file is locked in. Playing in New Mode is hardly a cakewalk, though, as DKCR3D is still a good challenge: these concessions do an admirable job of alleviating stress, but you'll still need finesse and agility to make it through. Ye ol' Super Guide is available as well to help you through really challenging parts, but this can be avoided entirely if you'd rather rough it out.

Most significant for Wii veterans, though, is the addition of a new set of eight stages leading up to the Golden Temple, upping the cloud world tally to nine stages. These unlock after the game is completed and are fairly fiendish in design, pulling out all the stops to stop you in your tracks. While we would have liked to see a more substantial new stage count, from what we played these new ones are rather lengthy and of good quality — although not necessarily the best in the game, having more DKCR is better than not.

As fans of the original we're delighted to have another romp in the jungle when the game launches on 24th May, even if the amount of brand new content is a little slim. How about you?

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User Comments (53)




Sounds wonderful. No longer own the Wii and have no problem playing this all again. Extra stages anyway.



GameLord08 said:

Never played this game at all, so it's looking to be a brilliant buy for me in future.



Haywired said:

While I wouldn't normally complain about such things (as I think all games should be as accessible to everyone as possible) it seems a bit odd to add an easy mode. I mean the game was quite tricky/frustrating in parts, but the thing is, there are so many extra heart/extra life/invincibility type items available from Cranky Kong if you need them (as well as the Super Guide) that it sort of gives you an easy mode already.

Plus difficulty settings in a Nintendo game seems out of place as they usually just have one difficulty setting which is perfectly judged (though obviously this is 2nd-party).



rjejr said:

@Haywired Superguide isnt an easy mode, its a get out of jail skip the level free pass mode where you watch instead of play. I used it for most of the last 2 worlds - it was a weekend rental just to check it out. Im a big fan of platforming games but those mine cart and jet-barrel levels aren't fun the 35th time thru. Why I tend to like open world games based on fun more than 2D games which are all about timing. QTEs suck too, unless theyre an extra bonus like in Paper Mario.

All videogames should have difficulty settings as vireogame players now vary from 2 to 80 years old, hardcore basement dwellers to soccer moms and old age home residents.

So, if 3DS gets this can the WiiU have Kid Icarus please?



MakeMyBiscuit said:

Still on the fence with this one. I Still have my Wii and I also have a N64 so my first priority is to get Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii as well as Donkey Kong 64. If NOA decides to finally release the 3DS XL in all black I will consider getting this game. I got spoiled by the bigger screen on the XL it is hard going back the the regular 3DS so I don't play it as much as I used to

If I want to play Donkey Kong Country Returns in 3D I can just push the 3D button on my Samsung LED 3D tv and then I would have Donkey Kong in 3D on the large screen

It's curious Nintendo ported this game over to the 3DS and not the Metroid Prime games. I would have thought the Metroid Prime series would have been a perfect fit for the Circle Pad Pro. Oh well again an example of Nintendo being successful despite what they do.



GoroGoro said:

never played this on the wii so will probably pick this up, i'm in need of a challenge these days:D



Pachterkid said:

Last night I replayed both DKC AND DKC 2, two of my all-time favourite games. It reminded me of just how much I miss the games of childhood, when we just used buttons to control our games. Back then all Nintendo games did not need to have motion control, dual screens, touch pads, or a tablet controller. I wanted to love DKCR, but I found the pointless motion controls too off-putting. Now that I can simply push a button to start DK rolling I think I can finally enjoy this game.



Mok said:

I never played it on Wii so I'll definitely get this baby for the 3DS.



Dpishere said:

I managed to 100% the original on the Wii so there isn't too much incentive for me to purchase the game again. Maybe if they would add the ability to play as Diddy Kong primarily I would consider it, but as of now there is no reason to splurge again.



ledreppe said:

Skipped the Wii version because of difficulty, but I pre-ordered as soon as I learnt of the 'new mode'.



sr388survivor said:

@Dpishere Did you 100% it or 200% it?
I'm torn on whether to get this. I loved the Wii version and I want to get it because I imagine it would be much nicer to play with buttons instead of motion but I don't know if it's $40 nicer lol.



sr388survivor said:

Personally I welcome multiple difficulties. I wish more Nintendo games would do that. That way they can make games accessible to casuals and still make it challenging to people who have been gaming for a long time.
Imagine a Zelda game that had a classic mode where your companion actually didn't tell you what to do lol



TomJ said:

Meh, I'll stick with the Wii version once I buy it. Was this game that hard that there needed to be a new (easy) mode?



Funny_Moblin said:

If you choose between the easier and more challenging mode, will whatever mode you choose be permanent throughout the game (you can't change it to another mode)?



accc said:

I disagree with the writer's comment that motion controls won't be missed. To me, shaking the Wiimote and Nunchuk to perform the ground pound maneuver was immensely satisfying and a hell of a lot more fun than simply pressing a button. I didn't have any problems doing the roll move either, for me it worked equally as well as pressing a button. I'm probably going to give the 3DS version a pass because the framerate isn't as smooth as the Wii version's.



sinalefa said:

A great game but i am not getting it again

I never had problems with the waggle roll. You get used to it, as i managed to beat pretty hard levels with that



ThePirateCaptain said:

I might pick it up because it's one of my favorite 2D platformers of all time. The new stages look pretty neat, and I'm sure the 3D effect will be amazing.



Giygas_95 said:

I'm still going full difficulty no stupor guide.

@Funny_Moblin Yes. He said, "...and players can skip it entirely in favor of the rock-hard original difficulty by not selecting New Mode at the beginning of a new game — once you’ve made your choice, that save file is locked in."



MakeMyBiscuit said:


The cool thing about certain Samsung 3D TVs is that they have an on board processor to convert any image, be it TV, Blu ray or video game into 3D in real time. It's actually pretty incredible. Some Blu ray players have this feature but that limits you to what you can play only via the Blu ray player.

I did not realize the Wii version did not support the Classic Controller. It seams like a missed opportunity but at least many people say the motion controls were not that bad.



NintyMan said:

I was going to get this game regardless of the new content, but it does help and it's certainly better than nothing. From what I've seen of the game in action, it looks like it works well on the 3DS, so it should be fun to take for a spin out in the world.



Rod64 said:

The controls in the wii version killed the game, so this is great.



Dpishere said:

@skjia I did everything but get all gold medals for the time trials. Those do not count towards the percentage so I didn't feel a need to complete those. I believe it was 200% but it has been few years since I last played it.



WiiLovePeace said:

I had a blast doing everything possible in co-op with a friend, such an amazing game Although the extra world is tempting, I'm not double-dipping. I still have DKCR & my Wii consoles.



kereke12 said:

Never had a chance to play it on the wii, ill be looking forward into playing the game.



DerpSandwich said:

I never got the Wii one, but I always wanted to after reading the reviews and playing it a bit at Best Buy. This is a perfect opportunity for me, and I suspect it will be for a lot of other people too.

I'm really glad that Nintendo has a handheld that can support this kind of title. To be honest I don't really like it when platformers come to systems as full-price retail releases. It just doesn't seem right to me for some reason.



BossBattles said:

Played the Wii version and loved it. Had no issue with motion controls, but won't mind the change for 3DS. Will definitely do the game 100% this time around.



idork99 said:

I'm with the "never played it on Wii" crowd so I'm definitely picking this one up!

(let's see now, I skipped on FE:A, purchased MH3U, LM2, and plan on buying this game along with AC:NL, and ALttP by the end of the year. Plus a couple of Virtual Console and eShop wallet is not going to appreciate it)



Tony_342 said:

This may be the best side-scrolling platformer ever made, so those of you who never played the Wii original should definitely check this one out. I'll be skipping it personally, though, as the Wii version suits me just fine. The motion controls that everyone seems to complain about are actually very fun and work perfectly. Actually making a ground-pound motion with your hands is far superior to just simply pushing a button. Still, that won't change the fact that this is still a fantastic platformer with excellent (at times, genius) level design and exciting, dynamic action.



gblock said:

got it for my Wii, got it reserved for the 3DS, wasn't a fan of the wiggle controls, so playing in the same way as the original DKCs (with buttons) will be nice



HandheldGuru97 said:

I never played on the Wii version, but with Animal Crossing coming out right after this I have to stick with my priorities, but I will pick this up later on in the year.



dok5555555 said:

Will you have to push a button to dash when you play with the dpad like when playing without a numchuck on the wii?



SMW said:

I may have to get this eventually, just for the extra levels. Not for quite a while, though. I still need to pickup the Wii one even though I rented it and cleared it twice already.



Hunter-D said:

Ha, I pre-ordered this the moment it was available. I'll admit that I didn't finish the first game but that was because we only played it co-operatively as it was more fun, but this time I'm going to experience it to the fullest by finishing this game.




MJKOP said:

I loved DKC bag in the day on SNES (Yoshi's Island superior of course lol) so DKCR on Wii was amazing for me. Cannot decide if I want to purchase again for 3DS though! My 4year old has been playing DKCR on my Wii recently though & watching her has reminded me just how good it is sooooo.... you never know lol



JMDS said:

I am peeing-my-pants excited for this, since I missed out on the Wii version.



MeddlingIdiot said:

With the new NOE promotion I plan to pick this up as my free game, as I will be purchasing Animal Crossing, and already own Luigi's Mansion and FE:A.

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