|Release: May 24, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Violence|
by Sean Engemann
By 2010, the Wii's relevance had all but dwindled into oblivion. On this dwindling console, Donkey Kong Country Returns delivered an infusion of high-quality platforming, with a challenge and superior design that rivaled even Mario's adventures. The 3DS, on the other hand, is doing nothing but gaining momentum, but we'll still happily embrace the appearance of DK in this cleverly updated classic. With an extra world to explore and a less intimidating play mode designed for playing on the go, Nintendo has successfully added just enough to morph Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D into the perfect portable platformer for your library.
After a volcanic explosion on Donkey Kong's island paradise, the evil Tikis are awakened and filled with diabolical plans to steal DK's hoard of bananas. By emitting a mesmerizing melody they are able to control all the creatures of the island. However, their attempts to spellbind Donkey Kong prove unsuccessful, as he launches one of the Tikis with his powerful punch. The journey then begins for DK and his faithful sidekick Diddy Kong to recover his treasured fruit and reclaim the island from the Tikis.
Winding his way around the isle, Donkey Kong will travel through themed worlds such as the jungle, beach, ruins, cliff, and even a factory. You'll find it hard to finger a favorite backdrop, as each series of boards are expertly crafted and full of new obstacles. You'll be ducking for cover from incoming tidal waves on the beach, racing through the caves in a mine cart, and staying ahead of an encroaching wall of spiders in the forest. Every board contains a fresh element to challenge you, dismissing any thoughts of redundancy in the level design. Each world finishes with a boss battle. The mammoth beasts all have patterned attacks to exploit, and aren't as satisfying as the side-scrolling levels. However, pummeling the dazed Tiki with a flurry of punches to finish off the level is immensely satisfying.
The rest of the enemy roster does a great job adding to the obstacles of each board. They aren't memorable characters themselves, but their duty at halting the progress of our primate powerhouse is perfectly executed. DK can roll through them, bounce on top of them, disorient them by slapping the ground, and even extinguish flaming foes with a good blow. Smashing a specially marked DK barrel releases your companion Diddy, who comes equipped with a jetpack that allows Donkey Kong to hover for a couple extra seconds. Diddy is a playable character in the two-player local co-op, though for the single-player campaign, it would have been nice to have seen Diddy promoted to more than just a backpack. But his aid is undeniable, and you'll breathe a sigh of relief whenever you spot a DK barrel.
To help alleviate the potential frustration of taxing levels, Nintendo has included a new game mode aptly called "New Mode.” This gives DK and Diddy an extra heart each, and unlocks some helpful new items at Cranky's Shop. Building your coin purse lets you fill your inventory with potions to make you temporarily invincible or increase the endurance of mine carts and rocket barrels, green balloons to save you from falling down a chasm, and DK barrels to use at your convenience. After several failed attempts at a level, you have the option to call upon Super Kong to complete the level for you. This computer-controlled character will reach the finish, but at the expense of you not gaining any bananas or collectibles, and not being credited with its completion. New Mode is still challenging despite the handicaps, but for those purists and hardcore gamers, the original mode from the Wii is also available.
Barreling through the campaign will take about eight to ten hours depending on how many balloons (lives) you burst, but Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D has no shortage of extras for many more hours of fun. Puzzle pieces are hidden throughout each board, and K-O-N-G tiles are scattered about, which unlock image, music, diorama, and movie galleries in the main menu. Completing a board also unlocks a time trial, with medals to collect depending on your clear time (note: gold medals require a near flawless run -- good luck). The 3DS version also comes packed with a brand new world that becomes available once you've cleared the campaign. No spoilers from me, though it is by far the toughest series of boards, especially for the few players who may have found the rest of game timid (tip: save up your coins).