Seeing the Switch re-release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze really does make me lament the tragic fate of the Wii U.
Love it or hate it, it was a genuinely unique system and Nintendo really tried to keep it alive; catering to its fans with a consistent stream of solid-first-party support. And while it pains me that the Wii U never got to live up to its full potential, I’m glad to see it’s awesome library of games finally being enjoyed by a wide audience, on a console people actually want to own. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is now one of those entries.
Being a pretty straight re-release, much remains unchanged—with the exception of some new levels and the added “Funky Mode,” but we’ll get to that—and as such, Phil Brown’s excellent review of the Wii U version still provides a pretty comprehensive coverage of the game. DKCTF on the Switch is still the fantastic game you remember, being challenging but approachable and incredibly fun. The maintains the same level of charm and creativity found in every square pixel of its levels and characters, that its predecessor did. And while the game looked great at a native 720p and ran at a smooth 60fps, the Switch version has been bumped to a crisp 1080p on the dock, while remaining at 720p in handheld mode.
The biggest addition to the Switch version is the “Funky Mode” where players can play as Funky Kong—taking a break from his Barrel Planes and finally getting a piece of the action. Funky is what I would call X-Treme Easy Mode; as Nintendo showed in their January Direct, Funky Kong has a plethora abilities that put his primate pals to shame. He has five hearts as opposed to the standard two (four if you have a partner character), he has a double jump, the ability to slow the descent of his jumps, he can roll ad infinitum, he can breathe underwater, and he is impervious to spikes.
While I won’t be one of those “git gud” gamers who believe Easy Modes are the bane of “hardcore” gaming’s existence, I do question the inclusion of such a ludicrously powered character when DKCTF does possess a lot of options for making the game easier already in the form of items and power moves. While newcomers or younger gamers will find playing Funky Kong does provide an experience that is more laid-back (true to the character himself), and it makes the goal of secret hunting a lot easier, I couldn’t help but feel like more levels would have been a better addition.
And—broken record time—there’s the portability aspect the Switch brings to this game, which does add a lot. Donkey Kong Land on the GameBoy was one of my favourite games growing up and there’s a lot to be said for how well Donkey Kong Country Returns ported to the 3DS. While DKCTF’s levels are quite long, have frequent checkpoints, as well as the simplicity and fun of its gameplay, and an overall fast pace make it perfect for gaming on the go. Although I was a bit confused as to why the game still makes you choose single or multiplayer from the main menu, when a simple drop-in/drop-out mechanic would have worked a treat with the Switch’s portability and the Joy-Con controllers.
Like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Pokken Tournament DX and Bayonetta 2l Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is another in a long list of amazing games that had the misfortune to release on a failing console. The Switch is the console these games deserved to be on, and it’s so great to see them finding new life on it.