While the exact date may be hard to pin down, the demise of the Wii was foreseen for years. With a decline in quality content, and minimal first party releases, the Wii went on life support long before the release of the Wii U. Some people (this reviewer included) might think that the 2010 release of “Donkey Kong Country Returns” signaled the beginning of the end for a variety of different reasons. It was the first time that Nintendo had really gone back to the Donkey Kong well since the original releases, and while Retro Studios were well equipped to create a quality title, it seems like the fad of the Wii had passed, and the game was released to significantly less fanfare than it deserved. Fortunately, Nintendo has made a business out of recycling ideas for new platforms, and “DKCR” is one of the rare software titles to get this special treatment. In an unprecedented first, Donkey Kong will be the first Nintendo character to have their game ported from the Wii console to the 3DS in the aptly named, “Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D.”
“Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D” is essentially the same game that was released a few years ago for the Wii, with some slight adjustments, and added content. The game follows the age-old story of Donkey Kong on the hunt for his stolen bananas with Diddy Kong in toe, and Cranky Kong set up to help him out along the way. As DK explores the island looking for the evil Tikis that pilfered his fruit, he’ll encounter an assortment of different platform-based levels that range in gameplay, but all take advantage of his unique simian skills. From the standard beach levels, to the series’ staple mine cart levels, fans of the classic Super Nintendo “Donkey Kong Country” games will feel right at home with this game.
The 3DS port takes the opportunity to upgrade an already near-perfect game, for this all-new platform. First and foremost, “DKCR3D” takes advantage of the 3DS’ 3D capabilities, really showcasing some impressive graphics, offering a true sense of depth throughout every level in the game. You may remember that the original release had multiple levels where DK would explore both the foreground and background courtesy of some barrel cannons, making this releases’ multi-layered setting ideal to take advantage of the 3DS’ parallax features.
In addition to the graphical tweaks, “Returns 3D” also comes complete with some additional content. Fans of the Wii game can play the game entirely as it was intended by selecting the “Original” option, but, if that was too difficult, there is now a “New Mode” that helps make this traditionally challenging franchise a bit more accessible. By adding another heart to Donkey and Diddy Kong’s lives, and offering up the option for additional special items throughout the levels, Monster Games have ratcheted down the difficulty, while retaining the essence of the gameplay. While some may consider this blasphemy, it will open up the game to less skilled players, and if you’re a purest, you can always just keep to yourself and play the original mode.
In addition to the different modes, “Returns 3D” also includes a handful of additional levels that are exclusive to the 3DS release. While there aren’t a ton, anyone that has milked all the bananas out of the original game, can at least have something new to look forward to here.
“Donkey Kong Country Returns” was already a great new entry into this long dormant franchise, and the 3DS just makes it better. Allowing players to take DK on the go highlights how easy the game is to pick-up-and-play, and what made the original such a solid game – well designed levels, and engaging gameplay. While the difficulty of Original Mode still might be a bit steep for some players, New Mode offers a nice incentive for newcomers to the series. Should you opt to make a visit to DK’s island paradise, just make sure you’re 3DS is ready – “Returns 3D” is one of the few games that is enhanced with 3D, so charge up those batteries. Also, if you plan on downloading the game make sure you have 17,000+ blocks available, since this monkey’s adventure is pretty big. Other than that, whether you missed out on the Wii release, or just want to spend some more special time with Donkey Kong, “Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D” is a solid release, and well worth your hard-earned bananas.