Geometry (Donkey Kong Country Returns)

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The format for geometry in Donkey Kong Country Returns appears in the CMDL and MREA formats.

Morphball render.png This file format is almost completely documented
There is an unknown value in the surface header, and the possible vertex formats should be documented.


An important thing to note off the bat is that both CMDL and MREA files are split up into a number of 32-byte-aligned sections; their respective headers both declare a section count, and list the sizes of each section contained in the file. This is required to navigate to different parts of the file, and is required in order to read the geometry data correctly. Sections are generally split based on the type of data contained in them, so one section might contain vertex coordinates, while another contains a surface (submesh) definition. For the purposes of this article, each subheader will mark the start of a new section; use that as your cue to advance to the next one. Check the CMDL or MREA pages for more info on how the sections work.

All data sections appear in the order that they're listed on this page.

For vertex attributes, note that there's no count value present anywhere. If you want a rough count, you can divide the size of that attribute's section by the attribute's size; this approach doesn't account for padding, however.

Vertex Coordinates

In the CMDL format, vertex coords can be stored as either floats or signed shorts, depending whether flag 0x20 is set in the header. If they're shorts, then they need to be divided by 0x2000 to get the corresponding float value. Since they're signed numbers, that means that 0 to 0x7FFF correspond to the range 0.0-4.0, and 0x8000 to 0xFFFF correspond to the range -4.0-0.0. In the MREA format, these will always be stored as floats.


In the CMDL format, vertex normals are usually stored as shorts. To get the corresponding float value, read as a signed short and divide by 0x4000. In the MREA format, normals are never packed into shorts and are always stored as floats.

Vertex Color

Normally unused, so this section is typically empty and zeroed out.

Float UV Coordinates

These are stored as a sequence of two floats.

Short UV Coordinates

Like the short vertex coordinates, these are stored as signed shorts that should be divided by 0x2000 to get the corresponding float value. The short UVs section has received a fairly significant increase in usage in DKCR compared to the Prime series; in the Prime games, they were generally only used for lightmaps, whereas in DKCR they're often used by pretty much anything.

Surface Definitions

This section is very small and simple; it simply declares a surface count and then lists the offsets to the end of each surface. Following this section, there'll be one additional section per surface.

Type Count Name Notes
u32 1 Surface Count
u32 Surface Count Surface Offsets Relative to the start of the first surface.
Surface sections begin


There will be one of these sections per surface. Each surface starts with a small 32-byte header; after that, the primitive data begins.

Offset Type Count Name Notes
0x0 float 3 Center Point Unknown purpose
0xC u16 1 Mantissa Always 0x8000
0xE u16 1 Primitive Table Size This value is not reliable in the Metroid Prime series, so you probably shouldn't rely on it in DKCR either.
0x10 u32 1 Model Pointer Storage Always 0. This is filled in at runtime with a pointer to the owner model.
0x14 u32 1 Next Surface Pointer Storage Always 0. This is filled in at runtime with a pointer to the next sibling surface.
0x18 u16 1 Skin Matrix Bank Index
0x1A u16 1 Material Index
0x1C u8 1 Unknown Always 0xFF?
0x1D u8 1 Visibility Group Index This value will be 0xFF if this surface isn't in a visibility group. (Always 0xFF in MREA.)
0x1E u8 1 UV Array Index If 0, this surface uses the float UVs array; if 1, this surface uses the short UVs array
0x1F u8 1 Extra Data Size Amount of space taken up by extra data. Always 0 on CMDLs, 0x18 on MREAs.
0x20 u8 Extra Data Size Extra Data Empty on CMDL; contains a bounding box used for depth sorting on MREA.
End of surface header; pad to multiple of 32 before primitive data starts

The primitive data is a standard GX display list. Each primitive begins with a byte that contains the primitive type in the upper 5 bits, and the vertex format setting in the lower 3. After that is a 16-bit vertex count, followed by a series of 16-bit vertex attribute indices.

You'll need to check some settings on the material to read the primitive data properly; the material determines which vertex attributes are present.

There is no primitive count value; you'll need to continue reading data until you hit the end of the primitive table. There are a couple values you can use for reference; either the surface section size, or the surface's end offset. It's not recommended to use the primitive table size value because that value has been shown to be inaccurate in some cases in the Prime series and this may be the case in DKCR as well.

There are 7 primitive types supported by GX, indicated in the upper 5 bits of the flag value. Note that the game only ever actually uses triangles, triangle strips, and triangle fans; however, all of these primitives are supported by GX and are therefore supported by the game, and so they could be used in custom model files.

Value Primitive
0x80 Quads
0x90 Triangles
0x98 Triangle Strip
0xA0 Triangle Fan
0xA8 Lines
0xB0 Line Strip
0xB8 Points