Feature Article

Feeling the Love in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Friends don't let friends play alone.

by

I, like a lot of you, spent a good chunk of my spare time as a kid with a ragged controller in hand, hunkered down on the floor with slices of pizza and a friend or two by my side. These memories are recalled fondly, but not content to live solely in the past, I still make a point to connect with friends over a game in meatspace whenever possible. However, there were a few years when the emphasis on online gaming threatened multiplayer as I once knew it. I get it: online multiplayer is convenient. Still, a friend whimpering in defeat or celebrating triumphantly in your ear doesn't compare to the same scenario on a couch, where you feed off of each other's energy and potentially elbow each other in the ribs.

Keep your online multiplayer, I say. Give me a controller and a second player port, and I'll show you how to co-op.

Thankfully, all hope for local multiplayer isn't lost. With games such as Samurai Gunn and Nidhogg drawing GameSpot editors in like a fun-filled vortex, I'm reminded that the spirit of playing with friends is alive and well. After playing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze with GameSpot video producer Jeremy Jayne at a local event recently, it struck me that Nintendo has actually kept the local co-op candle burning for decades, and games like Super Mario 3D World and the latest Donkey Kong sequel are ensuring that those smart enough to own a Wii U are never without opportunities to connect with a friend in front of the TV.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is enjoyable in single-player, but Retro Studios' tough-as-nails platformer begs for a partner in crime. I began playing solo, but I quickly realized that this was a mistake. Also, the game becomes very difficult very quickly, and the thought of a sidekick becomes really appealing, really fast.

So Jeremy and I teamed up to tackle Tropical Freeze and ours was the only demo station with two players in control, and compared to the furrowed brows and hushed curses coming from around the room, our boisterous and animated reactions clearly stood out. This is a game that warrants your full and undivided attention, but even though Jeremy and I died, a lot, we were enjoying ourselves in the process.

Tropical Freeze's predecessor, Donkey Kong Country Returns, wasn't a walk in the park either, and it, too, was a more enjoyable experience with a second player riding along. Though I have fond memories of Returns, which was a great game in many ways, Tropical Freeze immediately overwrites that game in my mind. Tropical Freeze doesn't significantly alter the Donkey Kong Country formula, but it offers a new character to control in Cranky Kong, whose aptitude with a cane puts Scrooge McDuck to shame. Cranky not only uses it to bounce off of dangerous obstacles and kill enemies underfoot, but he puts it to work underwater as well, clearing enemies and objects from his path.

There are stages where his skill set is particularly useful, with spike traps standing between you and a collectible item, and the same goes for Diddy and Dixie Kong, two other playable characters from previous Donkey Kong Country games who reemerge in Tropical Freeze. Diddy Kong still has his jetpack, giving him an extra bit of hang time, and Dixie's ponytail achieves roughly the same effect as Diddy's jetpack, albeit with an added boost of altitude at the end. There's little your squad can't achieve when two players put these skills to good use, and though you could, in theory, achieve the same results in single-player, the two-player experience is riskier, and thus more rewarding. It may not seem right to champion anything that makes a game harder than it has to be, but if it adds to the overall enjoyment, what's not to like?

I feel the same question cross my mind when people deride Nintendo for delivering games with marginal changes to preexisting formulas and franchises, something I've been guilty of in the past. I can certainly relate to the desire for groundbreaking design and fresh settings and characters, and I can't wait for the next game from Retro Studios that pushes the envelope like Metroid Prime did on the GameCube. However, I can see no reason to hold Tropical Freeze against Retro. It's a logical successor to its previous Donkey Kong game, with new levels, characters, and yet another amazing soundtrack. While I had some fun playing on my own, I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Jeremy, someone I interact with but rarely play games with. I would have been perfectly content to keep playing, but with the cloud of impending deadlines overhead, we had to call it a day sooner than I liked.

Even though adult responsibilities eat up most of my free time, and it might be easier to arrange online multiplayer games as a result, I'm glad games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze continue to beat the local co-op drum. It's not an innovative or groundbreaking game by any measure, but it reminded me why I love games in the first place: they bring people together. In an era where technological innovations impose limits on our social life for the sake of convenience, I'm glad that I can still look to video games to not only connect with old friends, but also make new ones along the way.

Discussion

69 comments
BradBurns
BradBurns

The funny thing is, the original DKC games had a terrible way of implementing local co-op. You just took turns. People tend to forget that. I prefer how Retro handles that aspect.

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

I'm going to be without my wii U from feb onwards... See how a 3 month delay messes up peoples lives Nintendo!!! I'll probably get it a year from now when I'm back home in the uk. :(

ricardolongo
ricardolongo

It honestly surprises me how most people these days can get excited for things like Destiny and Titanfall, and yet they immediately disregard something as incredible as this game seems to be. They act as if sidescrollers were automatically worse than first-person shooters for some unknown reason, and as if tongue-in-cheek anthropomorphic apes were somehow more childish than zombie apocalypses, alien invasions, offending people's mothers at online multiplayer, and the "dudebro" lifestyle.

I am absolutely amazed at this latest video. The beautiful graphics full of personality, the frantic action, the INCREDIBLE David Wise soundtrack. I've been a huge fan of the series since SNES days, and I can safely say this is my most anticipated game of the year so far. February 21st can't come soon enough.

ForsakenWicked
ForsakenWicked

I'm planning on getting a Wii U this year and this is one of the games I plan to get for it. 

dallask
dallask

Nintendo:  Give up on the consoles and sell your games 3rd party to Sony and Microsoft.  You'll get my money!

zimbambo
zimbambo

LOL NO ONE even cares for this game, it is a game NO ONE wanted!!The amount of marketing behind this pile of tripe is gonna be so hilarious when this game is a huge flop!!!


Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

There's no excuse for not having online coop. No excuse. 

Xx_DemonSoul_xX
Xx_DemonSoul_xX

Looks awesome. Sadly, I can't justify a Wii U purchase just for two or three games. Hopefully, their library will continue to grow.

trugs26
trugs26

I hardly bother with online gaming. By the end of your play session, you sometimes feel like you've wasted time. Where as local multiplayer gives me fond memories which I'll never forget. Some of the best days of my life are me and my friends playing games together.

EasyComeEasyGo
EasyComeEasyGo

Nice article Peter Brown, When the new Super Smash Bros. Is release, that is when I'm buying a Wii U but for now, I'm adding DKC: Tropical Freeze on my list. I play all the DK games but not the Kongo games Gamecube. Looking forward on the Review.

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

Anyone else bothered that the headline image is DKCR and not Tropical Freeze?

nurnberg
nurnberg

Hmm, sorry but local multiplayer sucks.  We are not in 1997 anymore.  Games need to feature online multiplayer.

Coonfoot
Coonfoot

After all the recent articles on GameSpot talking about the Wii U's poor sales and Nintendo being in trouble, this was a breath of fresh air.

Nev3rtime
Nev3rtime

Donkey kong country returns was great and for me totally unexpected. I first played it on a friends wii having heard nothing about it. I remember thinking it might have been just some disappointing cash in on snes nostalgia. I was SO wrong! To my mind it blew the snes games out of the water.

This can't achieve the same wow factor. Just like how batman arkham city could never achieve the wonderful surprise of arkham asylum. An other game I was doubting until I sat down and played it.

GH05T-666
GH05T-666

Cant wait to play this, it looks like the best DK since SNES

Cellpwn
Cellpwn

Nintendo has always been good about implementing local co-op, and I have so many great memories because of it. Online multiplayer just isn't the same as playing with 1-3 friends in the same room, sharing the energy, and laughing at their defeats. Man, I really want to play some N64 with some buds right now...


Oh, and I hope this game is better than DKCR. I LOVE the DKC series but DKCR didn't do it for me. I do like how this game is looking, however.

SNESNOSTALGIA2
SNESNOSTALGIA2

Nintendos dedication to local co op is second to none. Don't let the aesthetics fool you - Nintendo games like this aren't just for kids - they're also for adults who grew up with polished, tight gameplay and also like to socialize with friends while they play. Regardless of if this game had co op or not it would still be a must buy. DKCR was the real platforming champ of last gen for true aficionados - dare you to get 200% in DKCR and THEN tell me its for little kids - maybe child prodigies with the dexterity and hand eye coordination of a fighter pilot! Seriously though, I'm one of the people whose happy Retro did this before undertaking a WiiU Metroid - they obviously really wanted to make it and it shows - pure labor of love and games like that become legendary. Like someone comments below me - the rise of fabulous indie platformers has made it harder for the retail ones to stand out - but nothing f***s with DKC - not any Rayman or even the best 2D Marios. It's the cream of the platforming crop. A hope this game sells well. Its funny because although everyone wanted a new Prime like Metroid, those games sold horribly. Where were all you hipsters when Prime on GC sold like s***? Now everyone wants a new Prime lmao

Meinhard1
Meinhard1

Looks amazing but it's all about the David Wise, for me.  I got my fix of excellent platformers last year. (Rayman Legends and 3D World were both near-peak for the genre.)  So I don't necessarily need another right now but David Wise composing DKC music is such a very rare treat.

AndCarlsen
AndCarlsen

That savannah stage looks fantastic. I'm really excited to play this game.

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

Looks amazing, and  from all the previews i seen, they are bringing new fun things every level with barely any repeats. Similar to what Galaxy 2 and 3D World did right. Awesome to see Nintendo is pushing this as a Standard.


The game has a leaderboards with replays which is interesting.

tzolynski
tzolynski

This game looks fun to be honest..

30hanman
30hanman

Have also seen previews from other sites and they also love this game. Can't wait to play it!!!!!

deadpen
deadpen

Ever notice that the nes, snes, and n64 all seemed to produce better graphics halfway through their life as if they "next gen" themselves. Look at super mario bros then battletoads on the nes (along with games on the other systems), kind of a huge leap compared to the wii to wii u, xbox 360 to xbox one, and ps3 to ps4

hadlee73
hadlee73

" ...ours was the only demo station with two players in control, and compared to the furrowed brows and hushed curses coming from around the room..."

I'm trying to determine whether this is a bad thing. If its too frustrating for people to play single player (especially younger players), then come review time it might fall into the same trap that Knack fell into.

Kamina85
Kamina85

Me and one of my friends back when we were kids loved playing the original DKC games. They were fun, challenging, and visually gorgeous for the time. Retro nailed the feel of the original trilogy with DKC Returns, and it looks like they're taking it to the next level with Tropical Freeze. Dixie is back, Cranky is joining the team, Wise is composing again, underwater levels have returned, etc. I'm going to have a blast playing this when it comes out next month.

beuneus12
beuneus12

no selfrespecting friend owns a wii U

rIVAL_sWORD84
rIVAL_sWORD84

Been waiting long for this one . Heck more than Assassin creed or MGS sequels. Finally... 

Stevieweiser
Stevieweiser

I love local coop games. From 19-28 I spent a lot of years with the only multiplayer being online and fixating on "grown-up" games (i.e. lots of violence, your character is a criminal, and hearing lots of "gamers" screaming racism and profanity on the other end of the headset) and nearly gave up on games. Since then, I've rediscovered local coop gaming with my soon-to-be-wife the New Super Mario Bros games, Mario 3D World, and this game will be next. A few years ago, I wouldn't be caught dead playing games that so many classify as for kids because there either isn't any blood, violence, or cussing. Now, I can't wait for this game and all the other creative, challenging, and innovative offerings Nintendo can give us. Memories of having friends over to play Goldeneye, Hexen, and Mario Kart 64 on N64 will always be my favorite gaming memories.


There will be people who blast the Wii U but I ask that you sit down with 1-3 friends, pop in Mario 3D World for a few hours, and tell all of us you didn't have fun. Isn't having fun what gaming is supposed to be about anyway? Who cares what others think!

trugs26
trugs26

@BradBurns I always thought about that as a kid. I always wanted it to be real multiplayer where you can play with someone at the same time. So the new DKC games would've been a dream come true for me. I can't wait to play this game, the level design looks so good, and the animation and effects look like they have a large effect on gameplay (the dynamic environment), which is awesome.

Nintyfan95
Nintyfan95

@ricardolongo Destiny, and Titanfall aren't doing anything new either, DKCTF will be in timeless classic, Desinty is set to be irrelevant in 10 years, and Titanfall will go under the table when Halo, and other big titles hit the Xbox One. 

JoonKimDMD
JoonKimDMD

@ricardolongo I was a big fan of SNES version donkeykong. However, it's been nearly 20 years and the game doesn't show any improvement. In fact, it limits a lot of creativity we saw in SNES version. For example, you only control 1 character, you only ride 1 animal, enemy and background designs are not as good as they were, and minigames are just cookie cutter (eat as many bananas as possible in given amount of time). I honestly want to see this series grow big but it is headed to the wrong direction.

adkcrazox
adkcrazox

Shut the f up and go get a life u piece of sh**

Mayleene
Mayleene

@Xx_DemonSoul_xX And that's the way I feel about Xbox1 and PS4.  No games for me there except the occasional one or two.

BradBurns
BradBurns

@Coonfoot I agree. To an extent overemphasis on the negative by the gaming press can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This happened a lot in the past to Sega consoles. I remember magazines printing these frequent articles when I was little. They kept saying the Dreamcast was dead when it had only been out for a couple months.

The negative articles spooked away many potential buyers. The Wii U situation shares some similarities. 

But hey, these sites gotta get their clicks somehow, the bills ain't gonna pay themselves.

hotdiddykong
hotdiddykong

@Meinhard1 


This is just my opinion but from the rise of Indies and all other things considered the 2D Platforming genre hasnt really been relevant because of them, to me, DK and Rayman are the only 2D Platformers out there with high production values that really stand out to bring back the old school platformer feel with amazing designs, Rayman doing it in amazingly drawn 2D and DK doing it in amazingly crafted 2.5D

inso-maniac
inso-maniac

@deadpeni agree with the 2-d games and even 3-d games if they count as separate but the jump from 2-d to 3-d isnt an improvement always for example i still to this day prefer the 2-d megamans over any 3-d iteration even if it follows the same formula same with mario world. im not a fan of the new super mario bros series its not as nice as mario world (snes) was, but comparing those games to mario galaxy and such i completely agree

Kamina85
Kamina85

@firstclassgamerIndeed, DKC Returns had some great tracks and remixes, don't get me wrong, but the fact they got original composer David Wise to return means we should be in store for an incredible musical experience.

ricardolongo
ricardolongo

@JoonKimDMDWell, I do agree that Returns, while a great game by its own merits, wasn't up to par with the SNES games, mainly thanks to the absence of Animal Buddies and a less enticing set of collectibles. I'm still bummed out by the apparent lack of buddies here, but there are a lot of things to get excited about. The fact that we have three secondary Kongs now is quite cool, and should make up (a bit) for the lack of Enguarde, Squitter and pals. And like I said, this new video is just too damn awesome. It had me gaping all the way through. Seriously, look at those visuals and incredibly fluid background animation! Listen to that track!


Even if Tropical Freeze doesn't really dethrone DKC2: Diddy's Kong Quest (the absolute pinnacle of the series to me), I'm still quite sure it will be an amazing experience.

Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

Oh look nintendo apologists. Lacking even the most basic features is why nintendo is losing. Troll

Me all you want about not having friends. It's 2014 having online coop is as basic as games being in color.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze More Info

  • Released
    • Wii U
    Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has players help Donkey Kong and his friends get back their home from Vikings.