When Shigeru Miyomoto (father of such Nintendo icons as Mario and Link) comes knocking on your door, asking you to make a game, you don’t say no. Thus is the story or Retro Studios and their latest and greatest revamp – Donkey Kong Country Returns. Released on the Wii in 2010, Donkey Kong Country Returns makes its way to the 3DS with new levels, an easier mode, and a fresh 3D coat of paint. While the new additions may not be enough to justify a purchase for those who barreled through the original, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D remains a great port of a great game and anyone late to the party deserves to treat themselves to what is one of Retro’s best games yet.
Tasked with reinventing the Metroid franchise during the Gamecube era, Texas-based developer, Retro Studios is no stranger to taking iconic franchises and modernizing them with amazing results. After their success with the Prime series, it’s easy to see why Miyomoto hand-picked Retro to bring back gaming’s favorite simian after a 10-year hiatus, and they did not disappoint.
DKCR sees DK and Diddy Kong defending their isle home against the invading, evil “Tikis.” Enemies that hypnotize other animals of the island, turning them against the Kongs and stealing their bananas in the process. Anyone who has played the Super Nintendo titles knows what to expect and will feel right at home when they step foot in DK’s world. Retro once again excels at building a game that infuses the look and feel of the classic 2D platformer with elements that make it feel like an evolution of the series. Through the course of the game you’ll take DK and Diddy on an exploration through various themed levels that include beaches, factories, and volcanoes. Every element of DKCR feels like an homage to its source material and it’s great getting caught up in a world that imbues so much obvious passion from the developers that created it.
Another familiar element is the difficulty. Throughout your adventure, DK will be able to stomp, ground pound, and roll into enemies. Tag-teaming with Diddy not only grants you extra life but a nifty jetpack boost as well, helping you navigate over the hundreds of bottomless pits throughout the island. DKCR’s earlier levels are accessible to anyone looking to just revisit a classic, but later levels come with a degree of difficulty that will test seasoned veterans and demand precision. While this could be a turn off to some, Retro does a great job of building the difficulty at a steady pace so, by the time you reach the end, you should be able to face most of the tougher levels the game throws at you. The original Donkey Kong titles were brutal games that tested your patience and ability to memorize multiple patterns one level at a time. It is this aspect that Retro nails with precision, and the feeling of accomplishment after completing some of the later levels is immense. However, for those who just can’t hang, the 3DS version comes packed with a new mode that grants extra life and new objects for sale in Cranky Kong’s shop that save you from pitfalls and mine cart explosions.
If the stellar gameplay doesn’t get you hooked, DKCR’s presentation will. Each world has its own identity and their conceptualizations are varied enough to keep things fresh. Later levels, such as the factory, really change things up and keep DCKR from getting stale by throwing jungle after jungle at you. This game is overflowing with charm and you’ll be treated to lush, beautiful environments at every turn.
Of course, as with any DK game, collectibles abound. Each level hides puzzle pieces and KONG letters that can be collected to unlock art, music, video, and content that never made it into the game. Add to that an extra world with some of the most difficult challenges yet and there’s little to complain about.
Retro Studios is on a roll. They are quickly becoming the go-to studio for adding new life into aging franchises, and are solidifying themselves as one of Nintendo’s biggest guns. With E3 upon us, it’ll be very exciting to see what’s up the developer’s sleeve. Shigeru Miyomoto isn’t just the father of all things Nintendo, he is responsible from some of the most iconic gaming experiences in the last 30 years. If he trusts Retro enough to make a great Donkey Kong game, why shouldn’t you?
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.