Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a Nintendo 3DS port of 2010’s Wii hit Donkey Kong Country Returns. The game swings over to the 3DS with new content and visuals redone to take advantage of the console’s 3D functionality. If you’re a platforming fan looking for a fix while you await the next Mario game, then you might want to consider giving this game a look.

The long and short of it is that if you’re typically a fan of the Donkey Kong games, you will probably really enjoy this title.

The stage for the game is set when a collection of bizarre sentient relics crash lands in DK’s beloved jungle. These relics wield powerful hypnosis and they’re making the typically friendly animals of the jungle act like complete jerks. DK makes stopping the relics his personal responsibility and that’s about all there is to it. Nobody goes into a Donkey Kong game expecting a rich narrative, so taken wholesale the story is kind of funny and entertaining in a wacky way.


The game has colorful, crisp visuals and they pop from the screen thanks to the console’s 3D functionality. I love the look of the game. It looks easily as good as the Wii version of the game, if not better thanks to the great use of 3D. Just about everything you do – such as pouncing on enemies or collecting bananas – happens with a 3D flourish. In fact, of all the 3DS games I’ve played, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D might be the game to best implement the stereoscopic 3D feature.

The character and enemy models are sharp and detailed. The environments are very well done also. Many times in the game you’ll be transferred between the background and foreground ala Mutant Mudds. This effect looks really cool and I was surprised by how clean it looked in action. It definitely earns merit for the visuals. Those good looks are memory intensive though. The game is like 18K blocks or something. A 2GB card isn’t big enough to download the game.

The sounds of the jungle and big band are as present as ever in this installment. The game sounds really good and the classic tracks are a treat to listen to. DK himself sounds a bit weird when he gets KO’d, but that’s my only complaint here.


Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D just might be one of the best platformers available for the 3DS. The game is challenging and exciting throughout. There is a delightful mix of mechanics that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with and it presents everything in a package simple enough for any audience to enjoy. In the beginning you just need to worry about jumping from platform A to platform B and making it to the end of the stage, but things get more challenging very quickly. You’ll eventually need to climb, swing from vines, break down doors and much more to make it through a stage.

If you bust open one of the branded barrels, you’ll get Diddy Kong to join you. This is useful because Diddy Kong allows you to hover in the air for a few seconds when you jump. This seems like a very simple mechanic and it is but I can’t express just how helpful it is.

The game is comprised of numerous worlds, each of which contains about five or so stages. The stages are typically brief enough that you can enjoy a few of them in one sitting (a format that promotes a good “pick up and play” attitude), but sometimes I got stuck and had to come back to a particular stage a few times before I could clear it. This might happen to you as well because the game really is challenging, but in a fun way that taxes your reflexes and not in a cheap way.


You could probably clear the game in no more than eight hours, but this definitely won’t be enough time to collect everything, play all the bonus stages, etcetera. Each of the different worlds has a different concept and theme, which makes the game feel rich and versatile. At the beginning of the game you’ll need to choose between two game modes. One is classic mode, which is essentially more difficult than the other “new” mode. In classic mode, DK has two heart containers, which means if he takes damage twice you’ll get the game over screen. In the new mode he has three heart containers and there is also apparently greater variety in the item shop. I played through on classic mode.

As you progress through the game you’ll collect several banana coins. These are used to purchase various things from the game’s shop. One of the items is a balloon which gives you an additional retry option after reaching the game over screen. These retries are important because if you’re anything like me you will die quite a lot. The stages are paced well and you’ll clear a checkpoint often enough. If you have a retry remaining you can start from the checkpoint, but if you don’t have any you’ll have to start the game over from the very beginning.

This seems alarming at first, but every time you die with no checkpoints you’ll start over with four bonus checkpoints, just to make things not seem so terrible. One interesting thing I noticed is that at any checkpoint you can summon Super Kong to show you how to clear each stage. I never used this feature, but it seems like an excellent feature for younger players because as I’ve said many times now, the game is challenging in some spots.


Also in the store are keys that you can use to unlock a bonus stage in each world. This offers the biggest incentive to collect the coins, but if you die too much then you might be interested in buying more balloons. I’m not really sure what else is in the shop as I tried to play the game without using any additional items. As always you can collect the four letters that make up the word Kong in each stage. This doesn’t seem to do anything since I collected all the letters in at least two stages but it does offer the completion aspect for anyone interested.

You can also collect puzzle pieces in each stage, something I don’t recall from the earlier DK games. Like the letters, collecting these seems to only be for completion’s sake, but I never collected all of the puzzle pieces in a stage so I can’t be sure. At the end of each world you face a boss enemy and each of these was pretty fun. The game has good replay value thanks to the variety and challenge. I missed most of the bonus stages but I have hundreds of coins saved up so I’ll probably go back and check them out. Also, I should mention that this game has local multiplayer but it doesn’t feature download and play, so I wasn’t able to evaluate this feature.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D makes a good case for the very best platformer available for the Nintendo 3DS. If you enjoy the series or the genre, I can’t think of a single reason you would pass on this game. It has sharp visuals, makes excellent use of the console’s 3D and sports wonderfully challenging platforming game-play. It has replay value, a variety of locations, enjoyable music and is generally very clever and fun. It’s bright, whimsical and a worthy 3DS exclusive.