It was the year 1994. Nintendo was about to lose the 16bit console war in the face of fierce competition from SEGA and its Mega Drive, while the market witnessed the landing of the first 32bit systems, such as Saturn and Sony's PlayStation. . Yet a single game was enough, which over the next two years received two sequels, to completely overturn the situation and crown Nintendo as the undisputed videogame queen of the first half of the 90s. That game, produced by a young English development house, Rareware, was Donkey Kong Country. It was a platform with simple premises, but made with mastery and great attention to detail, and which thanks to an amazing graphics at the time and massive doses of humor immediately conquered the imagination of millions of players. From then on, for almost a decade, the fates of Nintendo and Rare would remain closely linked, giving life to a success story that the players of the Nintendo 64 era will remember very well. The partnership between the two companies ended abruptly in 2002, when Microsoft bought the English studio with the intention of making it one of the pillars of the newborn Xbox. Nintendo, amid the cries of desperation of the fans, pocketed the beauty of $ 183 million from the transaction. Curiously, the same year, the Kyoto House bought a small Texan team for the much more modest sum of one million dollars. Retro Studios, which would later reach notoriety thanks to the sensational Metroid Prime trilogy. It will be Retro, in 2010, to resurrect the Donkey Kong Country franchise with a new platform for Nintendo Wii, finally collecting the ideal relay that Rare gave him eight years earlier. Three years after his home release, Donkey Kong Country Returns arrives today also on 3DS, with a port created by Monster Games, former authors of Excite Truck and Pilotwings Resort.
Sometimes they come back… again!
Announced a little quietly during Nintendo Direct on February 14th, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D looks like the faithful transposition of the title already released on Wii three years ago, albeit with some small innovations that we will analyze later. The title is a classic 2.5D platformer with polygonal graphics and two-dimensional scrolling, following the trend inaugurated in recent years by the New Super Mario Bros series. Right from the start, the gameplay of the game is very solid. The physics of Donkey Kong's jumps is extremely precise and the character responds promptly to various commands, which will allow not only to move and jump, but also to roll against opponents, cling to ropes or specific walls and perform various contextual actions useful for reveal secrets of various kinds. In this sense, it is useful to point out how the actions of the blow, roll or punch, which in the Wii version of the game were activated by the movement of the controller (which had aroused some criticism), were remapped to be activated. from the buttons of 3DS, making the entire control system more natural and more suited to the precision required by a platformer. One of the strengths of the game is undoubtedly the level design. While the classic DKCs were valid platformers, but not particularly excellent in this field, in DKCR3D the structure and realization of the game levels is sensational. There are no two levels in the whole game that resemble each other, in structure or in feeling. Every single level is built on a particular idea, gameplay mechanics or "gimmick", which is never repeated throughout the game. We have levels where the ground collapses as we go and levels that put us aboard the historic mine cart, levels where you need to seek shelter from the waves at regular intervals and levels where you avoid bullets fired from a pirate galleon, levels with horizontal development, vertical development levels and much more. The variety of DKCR3D is absolutely impressive and comes with excellent quality. Levels consistently offer an excellent degree of challenge to the player. They are difficult, but never unfair. In Returns you often die, very often, but it's always the player's fault, never the game. There are no inevitable traps or enemies, sudden endless pits. The title always warns the player of what is about to happen, even if with a reduced margin and without giving discounts. Reflexes and practice are the key to success in DKCR, in line with the platforming philosophy of the era that inspired the game. Once you enter with your head in the perspective of Returns you realize that the levels have their own innate rhythm, which allows the most skilled players to experience moments of total omnipotence when, abandoning themselves to the flow of the level, they are able to overcome seemingly impossible sections. Traces of this brilliant design can also be found in the arrangement of the various secrets that are scattered throughout the levels: some more evident, others less so, all never banal and always reasoned.
Bread for our teeth!
While Donkey Kong Country Returns' high level of difficulty is functional to the gameplay experience, some players complained about an excessive rate of frustration at the time of the release of the Wii version. To deal with this problem, Nintendo and Monster Games have included in the game, in addition to the classic mode (which offers the same difficulty as the original), a simplified mode. In this it is possible to face the game by starting the levels with three hearts instead of two, allowing you to take further damage before losing a life. In this mode, some new items have also been added to the shops to simplify some phases of the game. The operation was risky, given that excessively filing the difficulty of DKCR would have amounted to distorting the game, but fortunately it succeeded in full. These innovations actually manage to lend a hand to the player, but they are at most one-off interventions, after which the user is again left to himself in the challenge against a severe and impassive level design. Another novelty is the introduction of a whole new set of levels, unlockable after the completion of the game, both in the original mode and in the new one, a more than welcome addition and which constitutes the most substantial novelty of the entire package.
Let's dive into the jungle
Also with regard to the audiovisual aspect DKCR3D is presented in a convincing way. Already in its previous incarnation, Returns had shown how Retro Studios was one of the most skilled teams of Nintendo, not only on a technical level, but also and above all in design. Not so much that of the characters, now rooted in the collective imagination for years and impossible to change, but rather that of the various environments, which pass from lush jungles to caves, from beaches beaten by waves to ruins of pre-Columbian civilizations. The game is littered with a taste for exotic and mysterious architectures that the developer has clearly gained in his experience with the Metroid Prime trilogy and has managed to successfully translate into a very different genre and atmosphere. The 3DS version of the game is a faithful adaptation of all of this, with the obvious addition of being able to view the entire game in stereoscopic 3D. To allow this, the graphics of Returns have been entirely reworked, in such a way as to make visible on different depths the elements that are closer or further away from the player in the game plan. Despite some sporadic ghosting effects, the final effect is convincing and contributes to an even more pleasing graphic rendering to the user's eyes. On the other hand, a negative framerate is generally lower than that of the Wii version, however never such as to compromise the use of the title. Music is perhaps the only aspect in which Returns fails to get out of the shadow of its predecessors. Despite being of excellent quality, they remain in the groove traced by the soundtracks of the three Donkey Kong Country, from which they take up style and entire musical themes.
How many adventures on Donkey Kong Island!
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D offers a considerable amount of content for the player, both the occasional and the more experienced. In addition to the great background difficulty and the extra levels added in this version, the game improves its longevity by prompting the user to replay the levels several times to discover all the secrets, find all the hidden areas, collect the KONG letters or the pieces. puzzle. As if this were not enough it is also possible to face timed versions of the various levels of the game, after completing the standard ones. In these versions the level of challenge is really very high, and you get to have to spend hours of attempts for a single level. As in the Wii version the game comes with a two-player multiplayer mode, for which two 3DS and two copies of the game will be required. In this mode the second player will use Diddy Kong, with slightly different mobility and moves than Donkey Kong's. Although it should be noted that the level structure is better suited to singleplayer, the quality of the multiplayer is acceptable, and constitutes an additional incentive not to remove the game card from our 3DS.Verdict 9/10 One of the best platformers of the last 10 years Comment Donkey Kong Country Returns was in 2010 and is still today one of the best two-dimensional platformers of the last 10 years. In compliance with the glorious heritage of the series, the title shines with its own light thanks to a sublime level design and a level of difficulty that, despite being high, does not rage against the player but encourages him to try again. The picture is crowned by a great replayability and an excellent artistic direction. The 3DS version faithfully reproduces all this, with few additions (perhaps too few to justify the purchase of those who already own the game on Wii) and with the only flaw of a slightly lower framerate. Undoubtedly, much more could have been done with this re-release, but even without substantial news Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D is a title that deserves to be owned and played by any self-respecting gamer. Pros and cons ✓ Superb level design
✓ Challenging and satisfying
✓ Faithful and well made fit x For some it can be frustrating
x Framerate a little low
x Too few additions compared to the original version