As you may very well be aware of, I have complained a good deal about the fairly recent Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii. It’s way too hard, I feel silly shaking the controller around (though, I do with all Wii games, so that’s nothing new), and it lacks the feel and the charm of the original Super Nintendo games. Due to all this unhappiness I felt towards the game, I had my doubts about getting the sequel on the Wii U, Tropical Freeze, but I had some money to spare and decided to give it a chance. And I am now forced to eat my words.
Now, I don’t really need to get into tons of detail about this game. It’s a simple concept, as it’s a platformer. We know what those are. And many of us have played Donkey Kong. It’s a platformer involving lots of apes and a monkey (Diddy is the only monkey I know of). And so I’d just like to focus this post on what this game does so right and why I finally believe Retro Studios has done a commendable job bringing back a series from 20 years ago that I used to adore. I will always have a special place in my heart for the original games on the SNES and will always feel they are far better, but any gamer that has been playing for more than a few years knows how strong nostalgia can be. And I accept that I can’t always compare games to those I loved many years ago.
Anyway, time to get to the point. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze tops its predecessor on the Wii in several areas. One thing I noticed fairly early on was the fact that this game has a far better variety in terms of levels. There is only so much you can do in a game that takes place on tropical islands, but the first game had a jungle, a forest, ruins in a jungle, and an island level. (That wasn’t all, but there are four worlds that just felt way too similar to each other.) This game, while still including the jungle and island worlds typical of many platformers, also has an alpine level, a fruit harvesting level, and a savannah. I was really pleased they were able to take a far fresher approach to level selection this time around, and I actually looked forward to what the next world would be, which gave me more motivation to defeat some pretty challenging bosses. (Four jungle/forest levels? Puh-lease.)
This game also allows Donkey to be assisted by three companions rather than just Diddy. You now get Dixie (oh, happy day!), who can use her helicopter ponytail to jump to higher ledges than Diddy can reach and even help you to swim faster underwater. And Cranky has the ability to cross dangerous terrain with a cane he can use as a pogo stick, not to mention this same cane is also great for whacking underwater enemies. Cranky can be a force to reckoned with, after all, and it’s nice to no longer be on the receiving end of his cane for once.
And various other things. The lack of motion controls is nice, as shaking the controller about every time I wanted to attack or…blow on stuff was just silly. As was having the ability to blow on stuff, regardless of the method used. I also feel the difficulty level is more fair, and hearts are more prevalent in boss battles. And then there’s the enemies. I just didn’t like the tikis in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Frankly, I would prefer it most of all if the Kremlings would return, if Retro Studios even has the rights to them, but seeing as that hasn’t happened yet, I think the enemies in this game had far more personality than those dumb tikis from the previous one. Of course, the personality of the enemies is a rather silly thing to dislike a game over, or to praise it, but it just pleased me that the penguins and unnaturally bipedal walruses of this game came just a bit closer to competing with the dastardly krocodiles (spelled wrong on purpose, I swear) of the original games. The bosses, too. Who was better, the fat walrus that tried to gore you with his Viking helmet or the weird tiki that spewed bananas? Okay, that’s a rather weird comparison, so I’ll just give you the answer. It was the fat walrus. He was better. He’s no K. Rool, but he’s still better.
So I had a great time playing this game, and I was even motivated to try and collect all the KONG letters to unlock the extra secret levels. Not to mention, a second playthrough of DKCR turned out to be more fun than I had first remembered, as well. In short, this post has simply been a drawn out apology to Retro Studios, who has succeeded in bringing Donkey Kong to the modern age far better than I had originally believed. Keep making games, and I’ll keep buying them. If I can afford them now that even Nintendo games cost $60 each….
The Duck Says Sowwy
First published on The Duck of Indeed February 16, 2015