Following a master class in not only modernising a classic franchise but in endearing game development with the Metroid Prime trilogy, Nintendo subsidiary Retro Studios proved they were no one trick pony with the release of Donkey Kong Country Returns in 2010. While the resurrection of any nostalgically popular and venerable franchise such as the Donkey Kong Country series was always going to have a rough ride, it seems to have done well enough critically and financially to justify a sequel. Even though it has been slightly hampered by Nintendo’s HD teething issues, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be hitting our shelves very shortly.
Much like New Super Mario Bros., the released of Donkey Kong Country Returns was as much a love letter to fans as it was a cynical attempt to cash in on nostalgia. One aspect of this nostalgia that gave gamers and critics are rude awakening was the difficult nature of the game (and the ‘easy’ mode in the 3DS version did little to help…). In a return to somewhat traditional platforming conventions, you had to earn your passage through to the next level with a combination of lightning reflexes, an agile mind and precise dexterity. In any case, for as much as controlling a giant ape has its perils, the title was a reminder of the potential thrill, creativity and eventual satisfaction that can be compacted into the 2D plane.
As a Rocketeer once said to me: “I respect the fact that I haven’t been able to beat this game yet”.
Will Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze be as difficult as its predecessor? Word on the street is that the title will be picking up where its predecessor left off, so don’t start expecting a let off anytime soon. Still, as long as the difficulty is not overly manufactured and doesn’t require too much trial and error, I’m sure you will all survive. That, and those who are craving their side-scrolling platformer fix will need not look any further than this adventure with Nintendo’s favourite ape.
Having defeated the evil tiki-thingys and reclaimed all the bananas, Donkey and Diddy Kong have now been beset by a new enemy – the Snomads – a group of anthropomorphic Vikings that include animals such as a walrus, penguin and owl. Along with Dixie and Cranky Kong (who is a playable character for the first time), the dynamic ape duo need to get their Kong on and save their island from being engulfed in a nomadic chill. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the environments that you’ll play through end up being too slippery…
Outside of the difficulty, one of the defining features of the 2010 reincarnation was the seemingly boundless creativity that the levels displayed. Throughout the eight ‘worlds’, you were being constantly surprised up until the very end. Even though it seems that there will only be six ‘islands’ this time around, early sightings are giving players the chance to see a whole new set of obstacle and challenges being laid out for their exploratory delights. Early sighting of a Rocket Barrel level seems to indicate that the hit detection will not be as brutal this time around either.
As mentioned, Dixie and Cranky will bring the playable cast to four, with the potential for Donkey Kong’s exploration to be enhanced, depending on who sticks to your side. As with the previous game, you will be able to double team it. Dixie will have her helicopter hair that will be malleable to the drifts of the wind, allowing Donkey to make it to previously unreachable places. Seemingly in an ode to Duck Tales, Cranky can bounce on his stick. Some of the new gameplay features that have been added to the experience include a ‘Kong-POW’ meter, which once filled with bananas will allow you to clear the screen of enemies and collect residual items. Furthermore, players will see the return of swimming sections and the ability to steal items off enemies and use them as weapons for yourself. It’s definitely a case of not wanting to stray too far from the formula, but no doubt the fans of the last game will appreciate that.
Visually and aurally, the game oozes that distinctive Donkey Kong charm. While a lot of the game features frozen over landscapes, they all exude a wonderful level of detail and charm, from the depth of the backgrounds to the intricacies in the animations. Here is hoping that they implement some of the cool visual tricks such as the shadows and smoke of the previous title. Just as a course of speculation, it’s quite valid to postulate that once you ‘beat’ an island that the ice and snow will melt off. It would then be interesting to see if any New Game Plus features are added to this, namely in the form of exploring levels in a new way…
Were you looking for an easier platforming experience than the last time you has a sojourn with Donkey Kong Country Returns? Then you’re probably better off waiting for Yoshi’s Yarn… For those still besot by the romance of nostalgia, the marriage of old and new, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is just the title to give you an excuse to dust off that Wii U. After all, a game where you play as Cranky Kong can’t be anything but good, right?