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What’s Wrong With Another Donkey Kong Country Game?
Donkey Kong Country Returns was one of the best games on the Nintendo Wii. Not only did Donkey Kong Country Returns successfully capture the nostalgic feeling from the Super Nintendo games, but it also added exciting new elements of its own that made it stand out from its predecessors. In short: Donkey Kong Country Returns was fun, challenging, fun, addicting, fun, and visually stunning. It was also a lot of fun. So why is it that when Nintendo announced a sequel to their critically acclaimed 2D side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country Returns: Tropical Freeze, at this year’s E3 wasn’t met with the excitement it deserved?
The problem is that the hype behind Retro Studios’ (the developers behind Donkey Kong Country Returns) was just too strong. Ever since Retro Studios knocked it out of the park with the Metroid Prime trilogy, they’ve been a fan-favorite Nintendo developer ever since. Love for them only got stronger after their brilliant take on the Donkey Kong Country series for the Wii. So when word got out that Retro Studios were working on a secret game for Nintendo new console (Wii U), people were naturally excited. Specifically, the new Retro Studios game being described as a project “everyone wants them to do,” raised everyone’s anticipation levels to godly heights.
With two Nintendo series under their belt, many assumed Retro would go for a third on the Wii U. Speculation on what they were working on grew rampant among the Nintendo fanbase. Were they working on a new F-Zero, Legend of Zelda, or Metroid game? Or were Retro Studios finally creating a new IP from their desired, but cancelled Gamecube games? As Wii U sales declined month after month since launch, perception of the new Retro Studios game changed from a possibly fantastic Wii U game to the system’s savior.
So, it’s not hard to imagine how hyped Wii U owners were when Nintendo confirmed the appearance of Retro Studios new game at E3 2013. It’s even easier to imagine the disappointed looks on their faces when the E3 Nintendo Direct video showed Retro’s secret game being another Donkey Kong game, which left everyone thinking “That’s it?” It appeared Nintendo anticipated the backlash for the mysterious title being another Donkey Kong Country game, as they addressed the issue in a video interview and assured everyone that this was Retro’s decision. While Tropical Freeze may have been the game Retro wanted to work on, it wasn’t the game that “everyone wants them to do.” They wanted a fresh game from Retro Studios, but instead got a game that it—and Nintendo’s 2013 Wii U lineup—is being considered safe.
Despite Nintendo bragging about the detailed fur on their beloved apes and the game’s dynamic camera angles, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze appears identical to the Wii prequel. Which certainly isn’t bad since Donkey Kong Country Returns was incredibly fun, but at a time where the Wii U is still mistaken for as a Wii accessory, the system needed a title that clearly distinguished itself from the Wii. With the game appearing similar to Donkey Kong Country Returns, what’s stopping Tropical Freeze from appearing on the 3DS like its predecessor? On top of the new Donkey Kong game feeling like a waste of Retro’s time, it makes the company look like they’re being restricted either by Nintendo’s hands or by the loss of their original staff.
However, just because Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze wasn’t the game that everybody expected, it doesn’t mean it’s unworthy of everyone’s attention. Judging by the positive responses from video game journalists at E3 or the Nintendo fans trying out the Best Buy demo, Tropical Freeze is shaping up to be a delightful successor and a continuation of Retro’s quality. And with David Wise (original Donkey Kong Country composer) returning for Tropical Freeze, the game is aiming harder to please original fans of the series. To paraphrase a popular quote from The Dark Knight, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze isn’t the Wii U game it needs right now, but it’s certainly the one it deserves. Plus, the game looks fun.