Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

The once feared Nintendo primal called ‘Donkey Kong’ is making his fabulous return to the Nintendo 3DS. No more kidnapping princesses or throwing crates at Italian plumbers. This time he’s up for something far bigger than that. Donkey Kong waited long enough for this moment but it’s finally time to go on an adventure. An adventure that couldn’t do without the help of his beloved partner Diddy Kong.

The original Donkey Kong Country Returns was created by Retro Studios and brought the old Nintendo star back to his roots on Nintendo’s Wii console. Country Returns is an old-fashioned 2D platform/action game like the ones you bought on your SNES or Game Boy. For those who played the original or the Wii version, not much explanation will be necessary. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D isn’t only a successful port of the console version, it’s by far one of the best Donkey Kong titles out there. For those who never played one before, let’s go on a little welcome tour in the wonderful world of the most famous Nintendo primal.

The story is all about the big volcano eruption that occurred on Donkey Kong’s sunny island. A volcano eruption is considered one of nature’s most brutal disasters but it’s not the eruption itself that caused all the trouble. Inside the volcano lived an ancient tribe that managed to break out of its prison after years. Once liberated they start to hypnotize the local wildlife with music. By creating a mysterious form of music, the tribe achieves in controlling all the animals on the island. All animals changed into wild-eyed banana stealing freaks. To make things even worse they were capable in stealing all bananas on the island and taking them to a place unknown.


(One of the harder levels in game.)

As you might have guessed, both Donkey and Diddy Kong aren’t pleased with this turn of events and decide to stop the mysterious tribe once and for all. They leave their beloved home to start an adventure so big, it will take days to complete this nearly impossible task. Although both primes start their adventure at the same time, you’ll just control Donkey Kong when the game starts.

The game plays as an old-school 2D side-scrolling game just like Mario but with its own twist. The Donkey Kong Country games never proved to be easy and this episode isn’t different at all. You’ll only have two hearts, so that means you can only take two hits before it’s game over. All levels are filled with enemies and dangerous environmental elements. Shifting rocks, spikes, dangerous plants… It’s all out there. Include a wide variety of enemies, all with their own technique to defeat and you’ll realize this game takes practice to master.

This game takes practice to master.

To assure players to continue this, sometimes frustrating, quest, Nintendo included the cheerful Diddy Kong. Once you liberate the tiny primal from its crate, he’ll jump right on your back to aid you in your quest. Diddy also has two hearts, so that brings the total of hits on a nice four. Aside from that, Diddy’s jetpack can be activated for longer and further jumps in the game. Diddy and Donkey really are quite the team and you’ll find yourself searching for Diddy’s crate as fast as possible. Having Diddy at your side (or rather on your back) really is a reassurance.

Jumping and estimating your distance is a big part of the game in order to survive the difficult platform segments of the game, but the game is more than just a platformer. Donkey Kong will also use his muscles in order to advance. You can punch enemies while running or you can even active a rather ‘overpowered’ roll attack. When Donkey Kong initiate this attack, he’ll become rather unstoppable. To compensate this power, the later levels will feature a lot more holes and jumps so you can’t use the roll attack as you please. During the normal levels, your battle skills will be tested a lot, the real test however is facing the bosses.

Each section of the game, beach, factory, volcano and many more feature an amount of levels and a boss battle at the end. The boss battles really are something else and are what make this game so different and unique. Each boss is created with a lot of care and humor. They all have a different pattern for you to study and learn in order to defeat them. Because the boss battles are one of the game’ most fun sections, we won’t go any further into this. It’s up to you to discover those wicked creates one by one and to defeat them in a unique way.


(The ship really looks great when you turn on the 3D-effect)

All of these features haven’t changed since the original release of the Wii version. So what has this 3DS version to offer? First of all, the game has been built up from zero on the Nintendo 3DS and you can really tell. The game looks incredible in 3D and is without a doubt one of the best looking on the platform. Adding an extra layer of depth really aids the game in creating a unique and thrilling design. Backgrounds will really look ‘far away’, while enemies can really come close to your face thanks to the 3D. Needless to say, the popular ‘cart segments’ of the game really are a joy for the eye on Nintendo’s handheld.

Not only the graphics are new in this version, Nintendo also included a mode called ‘new game’. What this mode does is granting you one extra heart (two if you have Diddy on your back) and more crates in which you can find valuable items. This new mode makes the game a little less challenging but far from easy. Donkey Kong Country Returns was a difficult game from the start and this still won’t change when playing it on new mode. Consider this mode a little less challenging but still far from a walk in the park.

Once you cleared all levels and were able to gain all bonuses (like the famous K O N G letters), you’ll be able to replay the level in mirror mode or as time attack. Mirror mode, mirrors the environment and place of enemies so you’ll have to play the levels in a different way. It doesn’t sound as a great challenge but it certainly is. In time attack you’ll have to clear a certain level before the timer reaches zero. Those two extra modes really open the path for a high replay value. When even those two extra modes aren’t enough, you can also invite over a friend who has the game as well to play it in local wireless co-op mode. As you can tell, you won’t get bored with this game.

It’s safe to say that Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a successful port of the original. The game looks amazing and has enough content to keep you going for days. If you haven’t played the game yet, this version is the perfect excuse to reconnect with Donkey Kong. It’s a challenging game but it deserves a place among your other games in the 3DS collection. Played the game on Wii? If so you won’t really be surprised by the levels or enemies but you can still enjoy one of the best Wii platform games in the palms of your hand. It’s time to pick up this game in stores or eShop and go bananas over the amount of playable levels and surprises.



Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.