We’re going to keep this one short as the jury made their decision on Donkey Kong Country Returns way back in 2010 when we gave it runner-up for Wii Game of the Year but there are a few changes in this 3DS re-release that are worth commenting on. Despite us giving it that award I personally hadn’t had the chance to play it until now, so I was actually pretty excited to check this out. It does seem a little odd to release a portable version this far after the fact but I’m not complaining. I guess the real question is whether this is worth picking up if you’ve already played the original, I can’t say for sure (as again I never got in on that original release) but my impression is probably not.
The two big additions in this new release are a new mode called “New Mode” and an extra set of levels. New mode seems to be DKC slang for easy mode as in it you get an extra heart by default and you can buy a bunch of new items that are essentially just get-out-of-death-free cards. The new items include things like a portable DK barrel so you can summon Diddy whenever you want (which if you’re playing single-player is basically just a way to double your health), an Item that will let you resist one fall per life, and an item that will let you resist one crash when riding through the game’s numerous mine cart and rocket levels. While the default extra health is certainly useful I never really used any of items, new or otherwise, more than once because realistically lives are so cheap in this game that it just made more sense to spend my coins on those instead. Also you do want to save those coins a little bit, both to unlock alternate paths in each world and because you’ll need a whole lot of them to unlock to the new extra levels.
Now this is why I feel this new version of DKCR isn’t really necessary for those who have played the original game before, all the actual new levels can’t be accessed until you’ve not only beaten the game but also ground out 400 additional banana coins. You see you have to buy a special orb that costs 50 coins from the shop and you need to buy one of those orbs in each world, once you have all eight of the orbs then a place called the golden temple unlocks its doors and apparently a new set of levels opens up. About halfway through grinding coins for my third orb I realized that spending this amount of time for a few extra levels that were probably super hard anyways was not a great use of my limited reviewing time and gave up. Fact of the matter is, beating the game is no small feat and grinding out 400 coins isn’t exactly the sort of thing you knock out in a quick ten minutes. Holding back the new content behind such a massive wall of effort just seems a little silly; sure it makes sense for those who haven’t played the game before but if you’re a returning player then that is quite the commitment you have to make just to see a few new levels.
The only other changes to the game are ones of necessity (i.e. the controls and the graphics) and for the most part those seem to be for the better. While you are able to use the D-pad for movement, the game defaults to the circle pad which works fantastically for platforming, definitely more comfortable both for quick fast turnaround jumps and long fluid sprints. The graphics get a bit of an upgrade just because of the 3D, the already dioramic 2D levels of DKCR lend themselves really well to the deepening effect that 3D on the 3DS provides. I will say that the graphics overall do look a little jaggy, especially with the 3D turned off (which is normally how I play because the 3D gives me a bit of a headache), but that’s understandable as that look is somewhat endemic to games on that system. Overall it feels like an improvement but again if you’ve played through the game already then it’s not enough of a step up to make rebuying it worth while.
All that said though this is still a great game by any standard and Retro Studios did fantastic job of capturing the insane difficulty and love of collectibles that the original SNES games had. In turn Monster Games has done an equally good job of porting that game to the 3DS and if you’re yet to check out DK and Diddy’s latest romp through the country then this is the way to play it. However if you have already beaten down the Tiki overlords of DK Island with a Wii Remote then you can safely skip this one unless you’re dying for a new platformer to play on your 3DS, there just isn’t enough worth while new content immediately accessible to justify the purchase. This being the case we’re giving Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D the same score we would have given it’s console counterpart, a 4 out of 5 stars, it’s worth picking up but only if you haven’t done so before.