Nintendo’s announcement of Donkey Kong Country Returns back at E3 2010 made some big waves; not only because it was a new entry in one of the video game giant’s seemingly shelved (but nevertheless beloved) franchises, but because of whom they trusted to develop it—Retro Studios, of Metroid Prime fame.
The result was something of a sentimental masterpiece, more a love letter to fans who loved the challenge of Rare’s SNES masterpieces than an open invitation for the casual crowd. Retro Studios had managed to marry the iconic subtleties of the old Donkey Kong Country games with a new, brighter world accompanied by clever level design, a stellar (and very Kenji Yamamoto-y) soundtrack, and a control scheme specially designed for the Wii (You can read more about that here, if you want).
Like Mutant Mudds on the Nintendo 3DS, Donkey Kong Country Returns utilizes both the foreground and the background, and Retro made sure that that effect never feels cheap. That’s one thing I’ve kept in mind while playing Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the 3DS, and the more I play it, the more I realize that the game has always had “3DNA”. It just stands out even more with stereoscopic 3D on the 3DS.
Tidal Terror has never been more terrifying, and Stormy Shore has never been more suspenseful. Threats no longer loom in the background as a passive part of the stage, but take on a new life in 3D and feel like a part of the stage. Returning players will be glad to hear that the new, non-motion based controls allow you to make more accurate maneuvers reminiscent of DKCR3D’s predecessors.
I hear that there’s a new secret world to unlock, and there’s still a lot to be said about the game’s new play mode. There are also some nasty whispers about the lowered framerate, too, but in my experience, I haven’t run into framerate issues thus far.
The key to the game’s inevitable success, though, will once again be its subtleties, and I’ll be able to elaborate on those soon in a hopefully pun-filled playtest.
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D will be released on May 24th.