Published February 28, 2014
When Nintendo announced “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” in June 2013, the Internet reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Many gamers had been hoping for a Metroid game to be announced, and were consequently disappointed with what they saw as a very uninspired looking sequel to the successful “Donkey Kong Country Returns” released on the Wii and Nintendo 3DS.
Boy were they wrong.
Not only could “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” be the best game for the Wii U in 2014, it may be the best Wii U game to date.
I was cynical myself at first; it felt like the “Donkey Kong Country” series was running on borrowed time. Nintendo revamped the 1994 classic “Donkey Kong Country” for the Wii in 2010, and then fired it out again for the 3DS in 2013. Surely, another game wasn’t needed so quickly?
Yet “Tropical Freeze” is no cash-in, far from it. Instead it is a legitimate, and extremely high quality entry into a great series.
In the game, mysterious anthropomorphic Viking animals invade Donkey Kong’s homeland, and freeze it over while sending Kong and co. off to a faraway island. The gang must travel across the various islands to get back home and dispel their conquerors ... and get bananas.
Ok, the story is the game’s weak point. But the gameplay is where “Tropical Freeze” shines. While it bears the similar structure of the series, Freeze brings in a whole new set of features including platforming, mine-cart levels and more.
Granted, swimming sections, new backdrops and bringing in characters like Dixie and Cranky Kong with new abilities isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but these aspects give "Tropical Freeze" its very own character. Even the enemies are fun, from the Viking penguins to my personal favorite -- the grouchy owls. As someone who has played every game in the series, I found plenty to be refreshed by in this title.
Nintendo's focus for this title wasn’t originality for the sake of originality but quality, and for the most part, Nintendo knocks this one out of the park.
The new high-definition graphics are stunning, the music is I-must-buy-it-on-iTunes exceptional, and the levels chop and change at a satisfying pace so you are always interested to see what lingers around the corner.
Yet it isn’t a walk in the park. “Tropical Freeze” keeps up with Donkey Kong Country’s reputation of being rock hard, sometimes to the point of frustration.
There are a few moments that are a bit more trial and error than actually challenging, and the boss fights are often unnecessarily long and cumbersome, but for the most part, when you die you die because it is your fault, not the game being unfair.
Less experienced gamers should be aware that despite its cartoony graphics, this game can be tough. Approach with caution.
So never mind the initial lack of enthusiasm: “Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze” is one of the best titles on the Wii U. The game is not without its frustrating moments, and some may be disappointed that there are no enormous leaps forward, but it still shouldn’t stop gamers from swinging to their nearest store and picking this one up.