Donkey Kong has to be getting on in years at this point, what with his first appearances being in the arcade and the precursor to the Gameboy, the Game and Watch. Later in his career he would grace the Super Nintendo with some of the best platformers ever created in the Donkey Kong Country series, and seemed to fade into a well earned retirement after a single N64 outing. Like any retiree, he would come out for little else than some go karting, or a few holes of golf with the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom. 2010 saw the simian segue onto the Wii with the well received “Donkey Kong Country Returns”, and the 3DS port hopes to get you to barrel through Kong Island once more. Has the trip to the handheld been kind to the well-dressed ape, or is it one banana short of a bunch?
In typical Nintendo fare, there isn’t a lot to the mostly incidental story. Some bad tikis have hypnotized the inhabitants of Kong island into stealing Donkey Kong’s Bananas for some purpose and Donkey Kong wants them back. The bare minimum setup required as an excuse to monkey around 8 varied worlds, smashing some tiki along the way. The worlds themselves are the highlight here, with the typical jungle, beach, ruins, factory, volcano…that old chestnut.
New gameplay mechanics are introduced in a controlled way before throwing DK into real danger, and each world brings a unique atmosphere to the game that means the game rarely gets visually boring, which is awesome if you intend to go back for missed collectables. Controls take a little getting used to with the dedicated grab button, but become second nature as you move further into the island and the analog slider helps position the Kong’s heavy platforming. Like the original game it plays with the background a little bit, however the poorly done 3D effects are highly prone to ghosting, pretty much ruining what should be the coolest visual update in this port depending on your tolerance for it. Turning the 3D off still leaves the vibrant colours of DK’s world pleasing to the eye, if a little more jagged than the Wii ever was.
The soundtrack is the same as the Wii version, reworking some classics from the Super Nintendo days and throwing in new ditties that capture the tone perfectly, whether that’s a relaxing whale ride or dodging flaming meteors. Ambient sounds and tiny jingles mesh perfectly and give that extra boost of satisfaction when you discover a secret room or nail that barrel cannon shot. The game can be a little quiet like most 3DS software, headphones are recommended.
Some visual ticks and a learning curve on the controls aside, the same game that was great on the Wii is great here. If you missed it the first time, than this is the version to play. If you’re interested in a second trip around the island than you might be better served just revisiting the Wii version.