Any port in a storm of bananas.
When Donkey Kong Country Returns was originally released for the Wii back in 2010, I noted that while my gaming tastes had obviously changed since the original Donkey Kong Country, my love of collecting bananas and that addictive theme tune had not diminished. Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii was one of my favorite Wii games.
And now it is one of my favorite 3DS games, simply because no other game can be more suited to handheld gaming than the banana collecting antics of a large ape.
In case you missed the Wii version, you may be wondering exactly what our tie-wearing ape is up to nowadays. Well, it turns out that a bunch of Tiki masks have hypnotised the jungle animals and stolen all of the bananas – the worst sin of all in the Donkey Kong world. So, as is always the case, it is down to Donkey Kong to run, jump, pound and throw his way through multiple levels, past numerous enemies and against various bosses, to sort out this situation.
But he is not alone in his quest. The smaller Diddy Kong joins DK’s quest in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, hanging onto his back to provide both extra hearts to extend the players health, and a jetpack to extend their jumps and even offer some slight hovering ability.
So, the player will find themselves working from left to right through the various levels, and sometimes moving into the background or back to the foreground, as they collect bananas and finish levels. But the bananas are not the only thing to collect in this classically made platformer. There are hidden areas and all manner of different collectibles to find throughout the game, and interesting new mechanics may be needed to find these collectibles beyond the basic running and jumping. Rolling, pounding and even blowing little flowers are all actions that the player will have to employ in order to get everything they can from the game.
So it is good news that the controls work so well on the Nintendo handheld. Movement is assigned by default to the circle pad and works very well. Beyond this, the shoulder buttons replaces the shaking of the WiiMote in the original game, and the face buttons are intuitively set up. For those who find the circle pad a little too precise for the game, an alternative set up allows the d-pad to be used but reassigns the other buttons into a less favourable layout. Still, it all comes to taste and players will easily adapt or find something that works for them.
And tight controls also come in handy when considering the difficulty of the game. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D takes platforming back to a time when it was all about control and precision, and is a mighty tough game once the initial levels have been passed. The game has that “tough but fair” feel that ensures the player never feels cheated when they fail.
But Nintendo obviously decided that this difficulty level would be an issue to some player, a barrier to their enjoyment of the game, and have included a new mode to aid new players, aptly titled “New Mode”. In this mode, both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong gain extra hearts, can access more useful items from the store, and will be replaced by Super Donkey Kong if the player fails the level a certain number of times. This will get the player to the end of the level and unlock the next, but without any of the goodies that playing a level actually provides. It is a great addition that will open the game to new players.
Different themes will see DK working his way through jungle, beach and ruins to name just a few, and the player will find their gameplay experience varied as they are introduced to new features in each of the different worlds, such as the classic mine cart sequences or riding a rhino, as you do.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D looks like it was originally made for the 3DS rather than just being a port. That is to say it looks brilliant, fitting perfectly onto the screen without any loss of quality. The often overlooked 3D feature of Nintendo’s handheld is still a matter of taste, but if used enhances the game, especially in the areas where DK is launched into the back or foreground.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D may only be a port, but it now stands as one of the best platforming games on the 3DS. The difficulty, even with the “New Mode”, may still cause problems for some gamers, but for those gamers willing to step up to the challenge, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D offers a variety in gameplay that is rare amongst platform games. Go and grab some bananas!