North America

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

by Neal Ronaghan - May 17, 2013, 9:00 am PDT
Total comments: 9


DK and Diddy get shrunken down in this adequate 3DS remake.

Usually when a game is ported to a new platform, the goal is to greatly enhance it and possibly create the definitive version. With Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, that isn’t really how it works. While the added 3D effect and eight additional levels are nice, it doesn’t truly improve on the original in any grand way outside of making it portable and optionally easier. Still, Donkey Kong Country Returns is an excellent game (we said as much when it debuted on Wii), and the 3DS remake is a perfectly adequate way to experience the fine 2D platformer.

The initial differences are apparent right away. At the forefront are the snazzy 3D visuals that highlight the depth and layers that were always present in the initial release. The entire original game is playable just as it was in 2010, just with a new console and stereoscopic 3D. Additionally, a new mode is available that, in Nintendo’s words, makes it more attuned for the portable experience. Really, all it does is make the game easier. Characters have three hearts instead of two, and you can carry three items into a level instead of one. In addition, more items are available, such as a green balloon that saves you from pits and a crash guard that allows you to take two additional hits in a mine cart or rocket barrel.

Having the extra hits is definitely helpful in frustrating spots, but the items aren’t that well implemented. They can be a great help, but you need be pre-cognitively aware that you’ll need the help to avoid ridiculous load times back and forth as you have to stock up on items before you even enter the level. While it is the way it was in the original, it still doesn’t excuse the poor, time-intensive implementation. The load times are comparable to the Wii game, which is disheartening on a portable. Don’t expect to simply pick up this game and play it in short, portable bursts.

The controls, which were woefully waggle-intensive on the Wii, are all buttons this time. However, some peculiarities lie right beneath the surface. You don’t have to shake to roll, as that action is mapped to a button. However, the button placement is weird and oddly not that customizable. The Circle Pad option moves grabbing to the shoulder buttons, while the four face buttons are split between two actions. It sounds weird, but in practice, it works. Holding down the R button to hold a barrel or a grassy wall is rather intuitive. The weird thing is that the D-pad isn’t usable in the Circle Pad option, and can only be used in the D-pad control method. In that scheme, grabbing and rolling are reversed, so rolling is mapped to the shoulder buttons, which to me was pretty much unusable. It blows my mind that you can’t freely switch between the D-pad and the Circle Pad, as both aren’t used in the opposite one’s scheme.

The only addition of honest-to-goodness new content is a set of eight levels that are only playable after you beat the entire game, collect all the K-O-N-G letters, and then beat the hidden level in each world. You can bypass this and buy an orb for each world that becomes available after you defeat the final boss if you want to avoid the challenge. Regardless of how you unlock them, you still need to beat the entire game to unlock the eight new levels. Fortunately, they are truly wonderful, introducing new concepts and twists to the mechanics and design of the original game. It’s a shame these levels are so well hidden, because developer Monster Games definitely proved that they can put together some inventive and awesome Donkey Kong Country levels.

Mostly because of how hidden the new content is, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a remake that feels redundant, even more so because the original game is less than three years old. If you missed out on the original, by all means check out the 3DS version for a fine version of a spectacular game. If you’ve already played, beaten, and enjoyed Donkey Kong Country Returns, then all you would be doing is replaying something you have already played to reach a small but appealing carrot of eight new levels. Retro Studios’ foray into 2D platformers is great, but this isn’t the definitive version and, honestly, you might be better off tracking down the Wii version.


  • Eight new levels are awesome
  • Excellent 2D platformer
  • Spiffy 3D visuals
  • Can only play new content after game completion
  • Poor item implementation


CaterkillerMatthew Osborne, Contributing WriterMay 17, 2013

Well good to know the controls work. Still thinking it over.

Does anyone have that promotional Red Tie they don't mind parting with?

GrabMyBoomstickMay 17, 2013

Great review. Even though I do own the Wii game, I'm picking this up for the extra levels and waggle-free control. I actually like that they've included an easier mode as well so maybe my younger nephews and nieces can actually enjoy the game now.

SonofMrPeanutMay 17, 2013

One point I could grant this version is that the player would be more likely to have other people around to do 2-player with than the home-locked Wii version.

PhilPhillip Stortzum, May 17, 2013

I will most likely be picking this up.

Nice review, Neal, but you probably didn't need me to tell you that!  :D

Mop it upMay 17, 2013

Sounds like the game is what I thought it'd be, just a portable version of the game. Which is probably a good thing in my case, I don't want to buy a game I already have. Though I may still end up doing so if I come across it cheap sometime, to play the new world.

This is the version of the game I always wanted, but I had to settle for the Wii one until now. Can't wait to pick this up.

PodingsMay 19, 2013

It's not a remake though, it's a beefed up port, and I don't think it's redundant.

It's Nintendo toughest and best looking 2D-platformer in years upon years, and having it available to the 3DS audience means it's available to many many people who don't and never did own a Wii.

That the extra content isn't available until you beat it is EXACTLY like the "extra" content of the original version not being available until you beat it. Having it available at the start I feel would compromise the structural integrity of the game. There's just more good stuff to unlock now.

In any case, if people "double dip" without intentions of completing the game again, I'd say they have too much disposable income.

Chad SexingtonMay 22, 2013

I never played the original on the Wii.

I'll be downloading this on the 24th.  :cool;

LucarioJuly 30, 2013

still like this one!

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Donkey Kong Returns 3D Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Monster Games

Worldwide Releases

na: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
Release May 24, 2013
jpn: Donkey Kong Returns 3D
Release Jun 13, 2013
eu: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
Release May 24, 2013
aus: Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
Release May 25, 2013
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