Kids today have it easy. Over the past decade or so, video games have gotten easier as a whole. When I was young, games didn’t usually have things like generous checkpoints, infinite respawns, and regenerating health. These aren’t necessarily bad things, and the rise of the narrative-driven game has necessitated them to an extent. Still, there are some who harken back to the glory days of games like Ghosts’n Goblins that drove you to frustration with their difficulty. Well, now you get the chance to share this wonderful experience with your children with Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.
This game is a remake of the same game that came out for the Wii in 2010 (without the 3D in the title, of course), which itself was the most recent version of the series that started with the original Donkey Kong Country back in 1994, a game still considered by many to be one of the best games ever on the Super Nintendo. It was hard back then, and it’s nice to see that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. This latest iteration features the same tried and true old school “2D” platforming that the series is known for. For the 3DS, it’s received updated 3D visuals which frankly work really well with the lush backgrounds, and also eliminated the motion controls of the Wii version that many found difficult to work with.
The game itself is actually very easy to pick up for any age. It’s essentially a two button game with the odd shoulder button required. The controls are straightforward and explained as you go along. The story is simple and does just enough to set up why Donkey and Diddy are trying to get their bananas back from some evil Tikis while adventuring around Donkey Kong Island and its stunning locales.
There are two modes to choose from. Original Mode plays like the Wii version, whereas “New Mode” is designed for newer (or in my case, less skilled) gamers. You might as well call it Easy Mode because that’s its goal. DK (and Diddy if you have him) gets an extra hit point and you can buy all sorts of cheat items to help you get through some of the trickier levels if the up to six hit points aren’t enough. It certainly makes the game much more accessible, which is good because almost 20 years later, a Donkey Kong Country game is still fantastic to play and it’s great that a new generation of gamer can appreciate what made it such a favourite of many gaming parents back in the day.
Of course, New Mode is great and all, but don’t think that it’s going to make the game a walk in the park, because it doesn’t. This game can get soul-crushingly hard. Six hit points do you little good in some of the infamous mine cart levels, or other “on rails” type levels where one miscue means insta-death. And there are some really tricky levels to manoeuver your way through, so you’re going to want those cheats, which you can buy using banana coins collected in the game. Or, if you’re a sadist, you can just play the Original Mode, try to find all the collectibles, unlock the new 3DS-specific levels, and 100% the game. Basically, newb or hardcore, there’s going to be something for everyone.
While the game looks good, there are compromises that had to be made to get it onto the handheld. The small screen can make it difficult to see what’s going on, especially on those parts where DK moves into the background, or if you’re on a fast moving mine cart level and can’t react in time to something that pops on screen quickly. This game is not for those with slow reaction times, and there are points where your only chance to succeed is through trial and error. Fortunately, Nintendo has incorporated their trusty Super Guide into the game if you’ve had quite enough and are content to let Super Kong tear through the level and show you how it’s done. It ends up being a nice compromise. Especially if the alternative is a broken 3DS from tossing it against a wall.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a worthy addition to your 3DS library, especially if you haven’t played the Wii version. It’s a terrific old-school platforming game with lots to find, and can be as challenging as you want it to be, but makes some concessions to the more faint-of-heart among us. If you’re okay with introducing your kids to the borderline sadistic nature of games of yore, or you’re looking for the latest take on a classic, this game has a lot to offer.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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