Nintendo Switch

Preview: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze For Nintendo Switch

The Wii U’s treasure trove of first-party games are making a delightful comeback on the Switch. From Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Pokken Tournament DX to Bayonetta and the soon-to-be third port of Hyrule Warriors, Switch gamers are benefiting in big ways when it comes to choice. Gone are the lengthy gaming droughts from the painful, almost haunting, days suffered at the hands of the Wii U; now, Switch owners can expect third-party releases to prop up those periods of inactivity from Nintendo. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the most recent critically-acclaimed Donkey Kong titles is back for some banana-slinging, vine-swinging, toe-teetering handheld action.

We’re returning to the icy shores of Tropical Freeze four years after it was released on the Wii U. With the same storyline, Donkey Kong and his smaller buddies – Diddy, Dixie and Cranky – return to warfare after their beloved archipelago is invaded by the Snowmads; a group of cold climate villains with a penchant for Viking theatrics. As you evade the pitfalls and death traps of Tropical Freeze’s six islands, you’ll relive the inspiring  jungle beats of former Rare composer, David Wise. Not only does the music lift your sprits after several failed attempts on a particularly difficult level, it also helps to keep players in time to the platform rhythm. But for those who have experienced the highs (and lows) of Tropical Freeze on the Wii U, is it worth reinvesting in the Switch port if you’re a DK veteran?

With the Switch’s technology, loading times between the world map and levels are significantly faster. While there are still a few issues on the loading screens, such as framerate drops and stuttering, these are now few and far between. Of course, with the Switch’s portability, DK fans can now take the game anywhere and play at any time in either single player or co-op – all without the waste of the Wii U gamepad’s ‘always-on’ screen. Aside from the overall playability feeling smoother, this is – perhaps – the end of the line for series veterans. For Retro Studios and Nintendo, Tropical Freeze on the Switch is all about accessibility.

As a series, Donkey Kong has always retained its difficult, often treacherous, level terrain. On the Game Boy, Donkey Kong Land II and III were a master class in the adventure platform genre. Once you lost your lives and saw that Game Over screen for the first time, you just knew it wouldn’t be your last. Over the years, the series has been challenged by titles such as Super Meat Boy, N+ and Cuphead, all of which earn players bragging rights once completed. While original mode from the Wii U version is still playable in Tropical Freeze, there’s a new easy mode that changes the feel of Donkey Kong altogether.

Island resident and Kong family member, Funky Kong, features as a playable character in Tropical Freeze on the Switch. Sporting some super cool shades, he uses his surfboard to hover across pitfalls and land without injury on spikes. Not only can he breathe underwater, Funky Kong can also perform infinite corkscrews or rolls and has the ability to double jump. Choosing to play as Funky Kong also enables players to breeze through levels on five hearts, compared to just two in the original mode.

Having played the first two worlds on the game’s original difficulty and in Funky Kong mode, the differences are quite staggering. Shopping also becomes cheaper in Funky Kong mode, too. Red balloons and extra hearts cost a paltry one or two banana coins, while green and blue balloons can be bought in bundles for five coins. Plus, you get to take five items into a level, rather than three in original mode, as well as switch out your inventory within a level. Fortunately, the new easier mode can be played with either Donkey Kong or Funky Kong, depending on the player’s preference. Should you opt for Donkey Kong, you’ll be able to take advantage of the shop’s bargains, whilst (somewhat) retaining the usual difficulty with just one extra heart. Players will be able to switch between the two Kong’s before or after levels too, so there’s an extra reason to play through levels twice; once to complete it, the second to find its collectibles and alternative routes. Seems like Funky Kong’s the new Kirby, with shades.

As far as portability goes, Tropical Freeze looks good on the Switch. It’s not quite as polished and pixel-perfect as newer titles in undocked mode, but it does the job. After playing two boss fights in docked and undocked mode, it’s certainly easier to play (and lose less lives) on the bigger screen. That being said, it’s probably better in the hands of Generation Z who are more likely to sense a razor-sharp feather coming near and react quicker with their deft fingers. And while we’ve yet to play co-operative mode on the Switch in handheld, let’s just say co-op mode in docked is quite the show. You may just go bananas.

A copy of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK. A full review of the game will be published in due course.

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24 comments

    1. Can’t say at the moment, but you do have to start a new game file in Funky Kong mode, so it will either affect it or not. I have two game files open; one for Original and one in Funky Kong mode. :)

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  1. Been waiting since the n64 for a real Donkey Kong Country followup Mario Galaxy/Odyssey style wich is actually a modernized game. Sure this looks fun but to me its still the same as the Snes. These kind of franchises should be just as big as Zelda Breath of the Wild and Mario if they actually utilize it the right way. The typical counter awnser is that Nintendo doesn’t have the people to turn all there franchises into big triple A titles but thats not really our problem now is it. They make more than enough money to do it. Donkey kong country was probally even bigger than Metroid and Mario back in the days maby even bigger than Zelda. Heck it might have even been there best franchise on the Snes altough my personal prefference goes to Zelda cause i’m a fanboy and Metroid.

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    1. For me, Super Mario World & Super Metroid were tied as my #1 favorite SNES games, but in spite of never beating them, the Donkey Kong Country games gave them quite the run for their money. DKC3 was my favorite because of the open world like feel for getting to certain “worlds” & their stages in the overworld. But I agree. The new entries are roughly still like the originals & don’t really push the boundaries of the franchise by much. They are a step back from DKC3’s overworld. And Nintendo definitely has the cash to try & push the franchise but don’t. Probably spending most of it on gimmicks & those Nintendo worlds at Universal’s theme parks; the latter doesn’t bother me. *shrug* Oh well. Not my problem.

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  2. Regarding the gamepad screen being “always on”, they did actually add the possibility to turn it off in some late update (and when it comes to Tropical Freeze, the gamepad always showed a black screen).

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  3. It’s quite hilarious to read people bashing the console from which all of these games come (hyrule warriors, donkey kong, mario kart and, yeah, breath of the wild). You can try and tell su that now it’s better because it’s on a “better” console, but it’s the same game. We already played them, and they were fantastic. And because Wii U had them, Wii U was good. It didn’t sell well, but it was good. Would you please treat these games as what they are? PORTS?

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  4. First: Sorry I haven’t commented on the last two reviews. I have read them now and I loved both!
    This review: great that loading times are better now, but framerate drops. Are. The. Worst. I’ll probably wait with this game since I have it on U, and the fact that the image isn’t the greatest on handheld doesn’t work help either.
    But as usual a fantastic review! Keep up the great work, C.
    Good luck with finding those Congas xP

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