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Don't Overlook Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Again When It Comes to the Nintendo Switch

The monkey's coming 'round again for some love. Make sure to give him a hug this time.

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

When news of the January 2018 Nintendo Direct stole up on us in the night and robbed us of our sanity, we all expected to hear about more Wii U games coming to the Switch.

The event's come and gone, the dust's settled, and now we know there are indeed a couple of Wii U games coming to the Switch. Hyrule Warriors is one; the popular Dynasty Warriors-flavored hack-and-slash game is getting a "Definitive Edition" in the Spring. As for the second Wii U port, it's not Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE or the rumored Xenoblade Chronicles X. It's Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

I'm a little sheepish about the oversight. Tropical Freeze is a top-tier action game. It's certainly one of the best in the Wii U's library: We stamped it with a 4.5 out of 5 when it arrived in 2014. It's not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, but it's easier to handle than 2010's Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii.

Reminder that Donkey Kong Country Returns is kind of nutty. Its "Bombs Away" stage was offered up as a challenge during the 2017 Nintendo World Championship, and the segment whipped the audience into a frenzy.

Thankfully, true to its name, Tropical Freeze is comparatively chill. But it won't let you conquer it without a fight, either.

"Tropical Freeze doesn't mess around; it's demanding from the get-go, but rarely in an unfair way," Bob Mackey says in his review. "Even the long, multi-stage boss fights feel like levels in and of themselves; it can be annoying to start over from square one when you lose, but these overpowered foes rarely run out of new tricks before you stomp their heads one final time."

Tropical Freeze is fun. It's well-balanced. It looks great. Its soundtrack is composed by the series' original composer, David Wise, and it has some genius callbacks to favorite tunes like Fear Factory. So why does the title feel chronically overlooked?

"I just prefer vacation spots with a warmer climate" will not fly.

Wii U syndrome is one problem. Tropical Freeze sold 130,000 units within its first eight days of life in North America, which is respectable—for the Wii U. Simply put, Tropical Freeze feels overlooked because it was launched on a system with a very small userbase.

But Tropical Freeze was also hamstrung by a bit of bad press at the 2013 Spike VGX, where Nintendo took some heat on-stage for showing off a Tropical Freeze preview instead of a flashy reveal for, say, a new Metroid game (hello from the future: Sit tight. Give it about, uhh, four years. Approximately).

Bad feelings towards Tropical Freeze go back even further, right to the game's reveal. There'd been rumors about Retro working on a new game for the Wii U, and anyone who hoped for a new Metroid Prime title (i.e. every Wii U owner) suffered a letdown when Tropical Freeze was unveiled.

As Tristan Cooper's Tweet points out, however, the reaction to Tropical Freeze coming to the Switch is very favorable. It's not hard to understand why: The Switch is a certifiable success, and it's built up a fantastic library across its mere nine months of life. Nintendo fans are in a very good mood right now. They have their new Mario game. They have their new Zelda game. They have Splatoon 2, they have Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Tropical Freeze wants to join the party? "Sure! Plenty of room! Just save a seat for Metroid Prime 4; it's going to be dropping by at some point."

I never gave Tropical Freeze the time and attention it deserved the first time around, and I feel a bit guilty about that. I'm going to pay the game a good play-through when it comes around to the Switch in May. I hope you re-visit the jungle alongside me. I mean, hey, the new Funky Kong mode alone is a great incentive to play again. Funky's abilities can help younger players through the game's rougher spots, and you get to assault enemies with a surfboard.

Now that's worth dancing about.

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #1 Kuni-Nino 5 days ago
    Don't know if I'll give it a replay, but I'm really glad it's getting another chance. It's a phenomenal game in all respects. As far as I'm concerned, Tropical Freeze can stand with NSMBU as a great 2D platformer of modern times.

    P.S. NSMBU is also criminally underappreciated.
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  • Avatar for Vanderdulpp #2 Vanderdulpp 5 days ago
    I am THRILLED. This was far and away my favorite Wii U game. Hope Nintendo marks it down to $40 or $50 so more people will give it a shot. Give me 2D DK over 2D mario any day of the week, baby!!
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #3 LunarFlame17 5 days ago
    I just bought this for the Wii U, like, two months ago, but oh well. I’m definitely buying it again for the Switch, cause I’ll buy just about anything if it’s on the Switch.
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  • Avatar for Vaporeon #4 Vaporeon 5 days ago
    @nadiaoxford when you say that Funky Kong is helpful to younger players, you mean like... 33 young, right? :Kappa: Because I TOTALLY need his help on the Owl boss that made me rage quit the WiiU version. I think my limited adult free time makes me less patient with multi-stage patterned boss fights than when I was younger.
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  • Avatar for themblan #5 themblan 5 days ago
    I hope it sells a million, but I won't be double-dipping.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #6 MetManMas 5 days ago
    Eh, I can't really blame people for being reluctant to pick up Tropical Freeze. Donkey Kong Country Returns had some excellent set pieces, but it did make a poor impression with its mandatory waggle (on Wii) and the numerous instant death traps. For me, the nadir of the game was the fourth world, which was made up entirely of mine cart and barrel rocket stages and was like distilled player hate.

    Anyway, I got Tropical Freeze for free in Club Nintendo's last year and I really enjoyed it a lot. It felt like a much more mechanically polished game; Dixie and Cranky gave you more ways to approach challenges, there seems to be a little more restraint in level difficulty (probably 'cuz there's no Super Kong), and you no longer die instantly if you so much as graze an object in the vehicle stages.

    I'll definitely be giving Nintendo my $60 for the game once I get a Switch. After all, you can't have Funky Kong without the fun.Edited 5 days ago by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #7 NiceGuyNeon 5 days ago
    I played it on Wii U, safe to say I'll pass on it for Switch. It's good, but I didn't think it was as good as Mario Bros U. I'm glad it's getting another chance, and really these Wii U ports aren't for me so much as the rest of the world who didn't buy a Wii U just because they were addicted to playing Mario Kart 8 at the Best Buy near the office during lunch breaks instead of, you know, eating.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #8 BulkSlash 5 days ago
    Personally I’d have preferred a re-release of Super Luigi U. I’m not sure I want to give this another chance, it’s been ages since I played it but I remember I didn’t finish it. I think I quit after endlessly trying to collect all the items on some underwater stage with pipes and just got tired of trying and failing. I definitely wouldn’t want to pay full retail for it.Edited 5 days ago by BulkSlash
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  • Avatar for shurn #9 shurn 5 days ago
    I give you my word that I will purchase tropical freeze again.
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  • Avatar for not_themilkybarkid #10 not_themilkybarkid 5 days ago
    @Vaporeon You think that owl boss was bad? Ahaha, you've seen nothing yet. The later levels of this game are ridiculous.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #11 Gamer-Law 5 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino summed it up perfectly. The announcement of both TWEWY and Tropical Freeze for Switch served as the high points of yesterday’s Direct for me.

    I first played Tropical Freeze at the GameStop Expo in 2013 and it did not take long to appreciate just how great it was. I completely agree that it ranks in the top-tier of platformers from recent generations.

    With a larger install base on Switch, Tropical Freeze deserves to find a receptive audience. The inclusion of Funky Kong was probably necessary as a way to make the game accessible to a larger population. The final key will be price point. At $60 I probably could not justify double dipping...but if it fell in the $40-$50 range, I could justify adding the Switch version to my ever expanding backlog.
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  • Avatar for Minkukel #12 Minkukel 5 days ago
    It's indeed one of the best Wii U games, and it's good that people get to play it. At the same time, I'm getting a little tired of everyone craving every game ever released on the Wii U to come over to the Switch, while they never actually supported the Wii U itself. Surely if there's so many good games for the system, more people could've supported it?

    Well whatever the case, I just hope it finds an audience on Switch (I won't be double-dipping as there's no new worlds apparentely), and its success will lead to a third entry in the Retro DKC trilogy at last.
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  • Avatar for zztopp #13 zztopp 3 days ago
    Tropical Freeze is a game designed by the fascist nazis in Wolfenstein 2. It's cuddly exterior hides a poorly designed and extremely frustrating trial and error platformer (which should move smoothly by definition and not have halt and stop gameplay every few seconds).
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