Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, is the 5th installment of the Donkey Kong Country series and the second done by Retro Studios, following the massive hit of its 2010 Donkey Kong Country Returns. It is the first DK game in high definition, as well as the first for the Big Ape on the Nintendo Wii U. The game focuses once again on mainly its platforming levels, spanning 6 worlds with different themes. Some changes from DKCR are made to DKCTF, such that Diddy Kong is not the only character you can team up with; as Dixie Kong makes a triumphant return as well as making the legendary Cranky Kong playable for the first time ever! In addition, the blowing mechanic is gone from DKCR and the game allows you to play with either the GamePad, Wiimote [and Nunchuk], or Pro Controller.
Tropical Freeze actually has a story, like DKCR, though it obviously take a huge backseat to gameplay, not meaning as much as this element means to other games. As the Kong's are celebrating Donkey Kong's birthday, the Pointy Tucks (the enemies) and their mysterious shaded figure, notice Donkey Kong Island and intend to inhabit the home. Using a magic horn, an Ice Dragon appears and freezes all of DK Island, allowing the Pointy Tucks to invade the area, and in turn blowing Donkey Kong away. Now, with his homeland taken, it is up to Donkey Kong and his friends to get back his island!
Mentioned before the gameplay of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a platformer, meaning you play as DK and a partner of your choosing, and you travel to the end of each level, avoiding baddies, making jumps, and of course completing each course. The first thing to notice about the gameplay is Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong; be it you are playing co-op or single player. The Kong's are not balanced like they are in the DKC SNES series, as each now has his/her own special trademark ability, making them more of power-ups for the player's choosing. Diddy has a jetpack (though this returns from the DKCR game) to keep the player floating for a time period, Dixie has a the ability to increase the players jump (rather than her old float mechanic), and Cranky Kong is a rip from the infamous DuckTales video game, using his crane in Scrooge McDuck fashion. Overall, you will find Cranky Kong to be the most useless of the three, which is a bit of a shame because Cranky Kong is a legend among true DKC players; always remembering his rants and crapping on the player how he was so good. The next change that is more noticeable to veterans rather than newcomers, as the underwater mechanics took a full change in this game compared to the former games. The first thing is, Donkey Kong and friends can no longer breathe underwater for however long they like, instead you must use Sonic-esque bubbles to regenerate your oxygen bar so you do not die. The second thing is you can now attack underwater and "swim"; meaning your roll exists underwater as well as the Kong's help you swim faster in their unique ways.
Making a return is the collection of the KONG letters, as well as Puzzle Pieces, and the Temple Artifacts. Throughout each level their are 4 KONG letters to find, as well scattered puzzle pieces that require you to fulfill a task (like collecting all bananas in a certain area), do a special bonus game, or just find in the open! Collecting all the KONG letters in every level of the world will open up the Temple or K-Levels in DKCTF, which are suppose to represent the "hardest levels" for the player. Upon their completion, you are rewarded a Artifact and by collecting all 7 artifacts you are rewarded a secret bonus world. Though the Puzzle Pieces lead to cool things such as a in game OST and concept art, they are unfortunately hidden by tedious tasks or repetitive bonus games. The Bonus Games in past entries, though had similar goals, were always different and represented a challenge, but in this Donkey Kong every single one is the same, so they just become habit by the 3rd world. The tasks in the game for Puzzle Pieces in the game are more annoying than they are skillful, as most of the time it will be something like get all the Banana Coins in this area or destroy every enemy in the area, though it really is up to the player to know when to do this. This kind of works against the 200% people because it makes you stay longer in a level because you are constantly straining yourself to collect basically every single banana. How would you feel trying to collect every coin in a Super Mario Bros. level? While this idea works in the vehicle levels for the Barrel Rocket and Mine Cart, it doesn't work on land platforming. If the idea of this was to make the game hard, then it clearly derives from that point. Another point that derives from the game's overrated sense of difficulty from the community is the fact that you constantly have 999 Banana Coins and 99 lives; so don't worry about ever being short of lives like it's Donkey Kong Country 1-3.
Speaking of vehicle levels, they of course make a triumphant return to the game with no major changes at all! The idea is the same, where you get two hearts, and basically have to survive. On the topic of things that return is Banana Coins and the shop. Though largely forgettable and unimportant compared to the first DKCR, where it was important to visit Cranky Kong to unlock the key to get the other level; this time Funky Kong is running the shop and has items which I really don't know what they do. I believe they are close to the Mega Man shop system we see in MegaMan 9 & 10. Mentioned just before, hidden levels, are now actually hidden as there are multiples of them in each world and require the player to really keep his eye out. Most of the time it requires you to have a partnered specific Kong with you, to find these Jak & Daxter like portals. The last bit about gameplay has to do with the return of DK's animal friends, or I should just say Rambi because none of his animal pals make a return AGAIN. Rambi plays largely the same, though it is disappointing to not see Squawk come back.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze hits a very high note in its term of replay-value, music, and graphics. Honestly, all three parts are astonishing and provide the player with gorgeous visuals with amazing levels themes composed by the legendary David Wise. Though Hard Mode provides the player a new and obviously a harder way to play the game; it is a bit disappointing in the fact that it just turns into a Diddy-fest (well Dixie for most). It would have been better for the Hard Mode to feature classic SNES rules so you can still play as the multiple Kong's except only have 1 heart, rather than just choosing one Kong for every mission. Overall: 8.8/10
To tell you the truth the score would have been better, but everyone I've heard played the game overrated it to the extreme for me and it didn't match up any of those expectations. The music is good not great, the game is moderate not hard and honestly it's fun but short. I enjoyed my entire time with DKCTF, which spanned about 10-12 days before I hit 200%, the game is good and definitely frustrates a player. I think the best levels were the K-levels and the secret Temple World at the end, 2-K, 5-K, 6-K, and the temples are how a game should be made! When it came to hard mode I just used Diddy for everything and I did feel like I was cheating a bit, but it kind of went away because that is how this game is designed versus it's past games. Once I realized that this game was not DKC2, I moved on and enjoyed it for what it was and a damn fine game at that.
The best thing about my two week adventure with DK was beating that hidden level and putting it up on the Miiverse and getting some kid to say "You are a gaming god" watch the part at 1:25 for the hidden temple Hard mode
- Michael Troina
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