Wii U is in dire straits right now, it’s hard to deny that. However, the system does have a handful of supremely high quality exclusives that simply can’t be played anywhere else in the gaming industry. It particularly has an amazing selection of platformers, and next month there will be yet another great platformer added to the Wii U’s roster of exclusive games.
Retro Studios is one of Nintendo’s strongest and most dependable development teams. Retro has put out some of the highest rated games of all time with the Metroid Prime trilogy, and they successfully revived Donkey Kong Country with Donkey Kong Country Returns on the original Wii System. Now they are heading to the Wii U for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
A new threat
In the past, Donkey Kong and his pals have faced off against a wide variety of enemies, but a new threat attacks DK Island in Tropical Freeze. A group of villains, all based on animals related to the ice and sea, attack DK Island, covering it in snow and banishing Donkey Kong and his family to a different island. This forces DK and crew to traverse multiple islands in an attempt to return home and recapture what is rightfully theirs.
These enemies are called the Snowmads and they come in many different flavors. The main group of Snowmads are penguins that have three different forms. The first form is just them as regular penguins, and this is when they’re the easiest to defeat. At this stage they are called Tucks. The second form is called the Tuff Tucks, and they have a helmet and a spear in this form. Finally, the third form is called Papa Painguins, and it is in this form that their helmets now have spikes and their spear is double-sided, making them even more difficult to defeat than before.
Over time, all of the different enemy archetypes encountered will evolve as the game progresses. Enemies introduced early on will continue to appear in the later levels, but they will be more dangerous due to new ways that they can potentially kill you being added to their gear and body.
Unlike Donkey Kong Country Returns, Tropical Freeze is spread out across multiple island chains instead of one island. These islands all serve as their own worlds with their own stages, visual aesthetic, gameplay mechanics, and challenges. Each island contains six to seven stages, plus a bonus stage that is unlocked for collecting all the KONG letters in the other stages, and then a boss stage at the very end of the island.
There will be six different islands to traverse in Tropical Freeze. The first is called Lost Mangroves. This is a jungle type island that will serve as a tutorial for many of the basic gameplay mechanics that are used throughout the adventure. This island is mainly designed to familiarize players with how to play Tropical Freeze.
The second island is called Autumn Heights. This island ups the challenge considerably and takes place on a mountain. Bright Savannah is the third island, and it takes place on an island that looks like an African safari. The visual design of the Bright Savannah uses the “shadow” effect that was seen in Donkey Kong Country Returns. In addition, there is a fire that is burning everything down in the Bright Savannah, which is an added obstacle that makes these levels even more challenging.
Donkey Kong Country Returns lacked some of the features that were introduced in the earlier Donkey Kong Country games on the Super Nintendo, but Tropical Freeze is bringing most of them back, mainly the ability for Donkey Kong to swim underwater. In Tropical Freeze, the fourth island is called Sea Breeze Cove and its levels are all based around swimming, with Donkey Kong having to manage his oxygen supply in order to survive.
The fifth island is Juicy Jungle. It has elements of the Lost Mangroves island because it is based in a jungle, but there is a factory on this island that produces large gelatin blobs from the fruits that can be found on the island. These blobs are used for various platforming purposes. Juicy Jungle is capped off with a boss that is based on a polar bear and wields a giant hammer, though the bosses for the other islands have yet to be revealed by Nintendo.
Finally, the last island is DK Island. This island will pay homage to the fan favorite levels of Donkey Kong Country Returns as DK and crew attempt to take back their island from the invading Snowmads.
They’re all finally back, performing for you!
As you’ve probably noticed multiple times throughout this article, I keep saying “DK and crew“. I believe the last time I wrote about Tropical Freeze, we only knew that the playable characters were Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong just like Donkey Kong Country Returns. Since then, Nintendo has revealed two more playable characters in the form of Dixie Kong and Cranky Kong.
Each Kong will play differently. If playing by yourself, then the first player will control Donkey Kong, but will benefit from the abilities of the others by carrying them on his back just like in Donkey Kong Country Returns on Wii. “Buddy barrels” will be found throughout the stages that have the symbol of one of the three other Kongs on them. Smashing these barrels will allow Donkey Kong to free that particular family member and then carry them around on his back to utilize their abilities to his advantage.
Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong play like they did in the Wii game. Diddy will have a jetpack that he can use to hover over long gaps, plus he has his peanut pistols to stun enemies. Dixie Kong has a “bubblegum gun” that functions similarly to Diddy’s pistols, plus she is able to use her ponytail to jump higher and swim faster than the other Kongs.
Cranky Kong uses his cane for bouncing around. Another fan favorite character is making a comeback in Tropical Freeze in the form of Funky Kong. Funky Kong will be taking over the role of shopkeeper for Cranky Kong, since he’s out adventuring this time around to help retake DK Island from the Snowmads.
A new gameplay mechanic being thrown into the mix is the “Kong Pow!” meter. By collecting bananas throughout the levels, players fill a meter at the top of the screen. Filling the meter then lets them activate a power that will eliminate all of the enemies on screen at once.
Each character as their own Kong Pow! special attack. When using it with Diddy Kong, all the enemies will turn into 1Up balloons. Activating Kong Pow! when using Dixie Kong, and the enemies all turn into gold hearts that increase the maximum heart capacity for the characters.
Activating Kong Pow! with Cranky Kong will turn all of the enemies into gold coins (which can then be collected and spent at Funky Kong’s shop). Donkey Kong is unable to perform Kong Pow! by himself, so there must always be a second character there after collecting the 100 bananas necessary to completely fill the meter.
The more things change…
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is introducing numerous new gameplay features and mechanics to the mix, but it is still the Donkey Kong Country that we know and love. The game and its levels are designed in the same vein that Rare created them in back in the 90s when they reinvented Donkey Kong on the Super Nintendo with the original Donkey Kong Country game. The levels are packed with secrets and collectibles like always, and Donkey Kong will be running through the stages on the backs of animal friends, smashing barrels, jumping on enemy heads, and more (even picking items out of the ground and throwing them Super Mario Bros. 2 style is an option this time around).
One interesting thing to note that should please fans of the original Donkey Kong Country titles is that David Wise, the composer that worked on the original games, is returning to work on Tropical Freeze. Weiss was absent during the development of Donkey Kong Country Returns, but his influence on Tropical Freeze should improve the musical score and make it feel even more like classic Donkey Kong Country this time around.
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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is sure to be one of Wii U’s most important exclusive titles in the early months of 2014, and Nintendo hopes it will provide them with an advantage over PS4 and Xbox One. Nintendo can’t have another year like 2013 and 2012, where they posted negative numbers, so 2014 is the year that Nintendo either sinks or swims. With Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. all ready to be launched for Wii U this year, Nintendo certainly stands a fighting chance of reaching those goals moving forward.
Wii U fans don’t have long to wait to play Tropical Freeze. The game will be available on February 21st.