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EGM Review:
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

By
Posted on May 17, 2013 AT 09:00am

For the banana horde!

I grew up in the gaming era where, when you mentioned the name “Donkey Kong,” most folks didn’t think of rolling barrels down girders or Mario trying to save a damsel in a cage. No, we thought of Donkey Kong rocking out with his buddy Diddy, lounging around in the jungle, protecting his precious bananas from a bunch of fruit-deprived reptiles. While some around the office still swear by the arcade original, Donkey Kong Country is how many of us more fondly think of the big ape.

After Donkey Kong Country’s initial yearly success on the SNES (yes, the first three games came out in back-to-back-to-back years), the series had difficulty adjusting to the N64. And when DK finally made the jump in 1999, it was a mistake that still haunts many of us—particularly that awful “DK Rap.” (Which is, also, oddly beloved by certain individuals in the EGM offices.) Because of this shame, Nintendo relegated DK to the shadows for over a decade.

Thankfully, Nintendo franchise-saviors Retro stepped in to save the day. After their success with Metroid Prime, they were approached by Shigeru Miyamoto himself and asked to bring back DK. Retro obliged, dropping the hip-hop and returning the super-strong simian back to his platforming roots with Donkey Kong Country Returns, which released in 2010. Even Diddy came back—with a bit of a rocket-pack upgrade—along with the rest of the core gang: Cranky Kong, Rambi the Rhino, and Squawks the Parrot. Retro had done it again.

But now the bad news: Clearly, Nintendo feels that since Donkey Country Returns was such a huge success on the Wii, they can just cash in again by slapping some 3D on Retro’s gorgeous visuals and making the game portable.

It’s at this point of the review where, as EGM’s resident curmudgeon, I’ll try to channel my inner Cranky Kong. Just call me Cranky Carsillo. Sure, the core of the original remains intact, and, yes, this could possibly reach a new audience who didn’t play the original Wii version, but there’s absolutely no need for this game. Their big selling point this go-round? An Easy mode.

Back in my day, gamers didn’t need an Easy mode in our platformers—we simply learned the levels and got better. If you didn’t, you sucked and never got your 15-second ending and credit roll and lived with it, in shame. I’m sick and tired of Nintendo not only porting games over to their portable platform in a desperate attempt to produce titles, but then catering to people because the experiences are “too hard,” coddling a generation of soft gamers.

Sure, Donkey Kong Returns 3D features a handful of new stages, but the game doesn’t offer enough new content for those who played Retro’s offering in 2010 to come back to DK’s isle a second time—especially if you found the plethora of collectibles once already.

Essentially, developer Monster Games just slapped on a coat of 3D paint in order to hide the lack of new features. Donkey Kong Country Returns was a 2.5D platformer; this 3D look does very little for the overall visual experience because of the tricks of the eye Retro already tried the first time around. And don’t forget: We were lucky to get that extra half-dimension when I was a kid, and we were grateful for it! We would’ve walked barefoot in the snow for miles, uphill, for a full 3D experience back then.

OK, time to take off my cranky pants. At the end of the day, I’ll admit the great gameplay that made the first game such a hit returns here. It’s a throwback of a platformer if you play it the way it’s meant to be played—and if, for some reason, you missed Retro’s 2010 offering, this is a nice way to catch up. But if you played the original version a couple of years ago, there’s very little here to make it worth picking up again.

Developer: Monster Games • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 05.24.13
7.0

The meager number of additions here—including the useless 3D gimmick—aren’t enough to make this worth picking up if you played Donkey Kong Country Returns the first time around on the Wii in 2010. If it’s your first time, though, and you’re still curious about checking out Donkey Kong’s latest adventure, this is a solid port.

The Good The platforming excellence from the 2010 release remains intact.
The Bad The 3D does little to enhance the experience.
The Ugly Simpler game modes remind me how easy kids have it these days.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. 
Ray Carsillo, Reviews Editor
Ray Carsillo has extensive roots in geek culture, as he’s written about videogames, comics, and movies for such outlets as Newsday.com, ESPNNewYork.com, Classic Game Room on YouTube, Collider.com, and Comicvine.com before finally settling into his role as EGM’s reviews editor. His main goal in life? To become king of all geek media, of course! Follow Ray’s exploits on Twitter: @RayCarsillo. Meet the rest of the crew.

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