The Wii U may be one of the biggest flops in the long history of Nintendo products. It’s clunky gamepad was an attempt to innovate on the Wii’s success, and it’s lack of launch titles and third party support set it up for inevitable failure. For all of its faults, the Wii U did have a (small) library of top notch games that didn’t gain the mainstream success they deserved.
When Mario Kart 8’s ‘Deluxe’ port was announced for the Nintendo Switch, a confirmation that more of the Wii U’s best titles would get a second chance on the hybrid console seemed more than implied. During a surprise Nintendo Direct Mini four months ago, the ported floodgates appeared to open with word of more titles to come, including Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
Released May 4, 2018, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze feels at home on the Nintendo Switch. Though the revamped entry into the series features an additional gameplay mode starring Funky Kong and minor graphical improvements, the port doesn’t take away from the magic or painstakingly difficult levels that made the original 2014 version such fun.
DK’s New Game Mode: Funky Fresh and Totally Accessible
One thing that made the game truly rewarding (or extremely frustrating, depending on who you asked) the first time around was the harder-than-ever level design. Throughout the game, there were many times I found myself dying from ill-timed jumps, drawn out boss fights and a lack of hearts at the most inconvenient times.
The game’s new offering, Funky Mode, shows series regular Funky Kong takes the place of Donkey Kong as the main playable character. Aside from the aesthetic differences, Funky brings a totally tubular new way to play the game — one that makes the game more accessible to younger players.
Not to be outdone by any other Kong in the game, Funky features three new abilities by way of his surfboard: a double jump move, snorkel gear to swim under water indefinitely, and the ability to glide through the air (not dissimilar from Dixie Kong’s original ability in the Super Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest). Paired with a staggering five hearts (compared to the standard two), Funky Mode helps curb some of the difficulty for more casual or young players. The downside of this mode is that, while playing as Funky, you cannot bust open any barrels to gain control of Diddy, Dixie or Cranky Kong.
Funky Mode is refreshing, because it shows Nintendo’s renewed commitment to be the video game company for all types of gamers. Admittedly, after the first two worlds, I found myself switching back to the standard mode to add back the challenges I enjoyed so much when I played the original version four years ago.
Portable Peril and Play
Aside from Funky Mode, the most exciting feature of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the ability to take the game on the go for truly unplugged fun. It’s a common accolade for the Nintendo Switch, but the ability to play my favorite home console games wherever I want is something that still seems like such a wonder.
Though some of the game’s more challenging levels and boss fights (Fugu Face-Off, in particular) left me screaming at my screen, the convenience of playing the game while on lunch at work, outside on the porch swing, or even while watching a pot of noodles boil in the kitchen never got old (though it did garner some stares when the aforementioned screaming happened).
Clever Challenges and Seriously Tough Secrets
One thing that makes Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze so entertaining is it’s ability to provide a rewarding experience for all types of gamers. If you are looking for a solid platformer with tough levels, inventive gameplay and more, DKC: TF has you covered. If you’re a completionist and want to collect all of the hidden puzzle pieces or KONG letters, the game provides you with an exceptional — although sometimes unbalanced in terms of difficulty — adventure. If you’re looking for something breezy and enjoyable to do on a Saturday afternoon, hop on Funky’s surfboard and glide through the game.
This time around, I found myself diving deep into the secrets and clearing out an entire level before moving to the next. I would spend upwards of an hour on some of the levels, trying to find the string of bananas I would need to collect in order to to trigger the appearance of a hidden puzzle piece, or bouncing on moving platforms in a race against a timer to reach my goal. Completing a world in its entirety — treasures and all — was extremely rewarding and kept my excitement for each world at an all-time high.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a barrel of fun that provides enjoyment, challenges and a nostalgic whimsy that made us fall in love with Donkey Kong and company in the original Super Nintendo series. With the addition of Funky Mode, Donkey Kong’s latest adventure provides an accessible way for casual gamers to play, at home or on the go with the Nintendo Switch. The only downside about this re-release is the feeling I was left with of wanting more. Is there a new Donkey Kong on the way for the Nintendo Switch? A boy can dream.