Keeping It Fresh With Funky Kong | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Keeping It Fresh With Funky Kong

Gaming Editor Sam Nason is feeling both hot and cold playing about Nintendo's latest port, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

E3 2013 was one of the best times ever to be a Nintendo fan. In their action-packed Direct presentation we were introduced to a whole host of exciting new titles, including Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World and Super Smash Bros. One game I remember people being a little let down by was Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, only because there was an outcry for a new Metroid Prime game (which has now thankfully been fulfilled). However, the game proved its worth and much more upon its initial release on February 14th 2014. Four years later, how does the game hold up upon its port to the Nintendo Switch?

Incredibly, incredibly well is the answer to this. It’s no understatement to say Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is one of the best 2D platformers ever created. Even from the outset the way Donkey Kong moves is absolutely perfect, with just the right weight and momentum attributed to the gorilla. Any inputs are as responsive as they can be, making navigation fair through the treacherous challenges the game throws at you.

Its difficulty curve is perfect and caters to all players, with the final island housing some of the most difficult platforming I’ve ever done. And despite its difficulty in its later stages the game is incredibly accessible, with Funky Kong’s shop selling a myriad of items and tools to help players of all abilities, with the easy-to-obtain banana coins scattered all over the game. None are mandatory to beat the game, but are instead offered as an optional boost, a sentiment I dearly miss from video games nowadays.

In fact, one of the new additions to the Nintendo Switch version was Funky Mode, whereby players can play as Funky Kong, who has a permanently unlimited roll and corkscrew ability, as well as extra hearts and a surfboard that is impervious to spikes and other hazards. The mode is perfect for new players, as well as those who want to see the layout of a level before completing it in the original, DK-centric way.

Some of the more recognisable screenshots from the game see Donkey Kong in Busted Bayou, a level that uses beautiful silhouetted visuals to capture the unique and serene nature of Donkey Kong’s world, and graphically the game is breath-taking, from the grasslands of Bright Savannah to the tundra of the final island. There is not a single level that looked lazy or uninspired. Everything was bursting with life and colour and made my journey a true joy.

You will be humming along to every tune before you know it.
Complimenting these levels is an incredible score. Written by David Wise, each tune is whimsical and ties the game together perfectly thematically; it’s silly but when I hear the soundtrack it feels so familiar, homely and inviting to listen to. I am, in fact, listening to Grassland Groove as I write this (what a bop). You will be humming along to every tune before you know it.

Apart from all of this there is so much to enjoy about the game – it never misses a beat and is fun to play through all of its 63 stages. The Snowmad designs are outlandish and hilarious (not to mention much better than Returns’ masks), multiplayer is versatile on the Switch given the compatibility of the Joy-Cons and it’s a joy to see such an extended Kong roster. If you have never played this game I can only wholeheartedly recommend it.

Except I can only really do that if you’ve never played this game. For those who owned the title on the Wii U, apart from Funky Mode there is literally nothing new here. Sure, faster loading times are nice, and the Switch obviously offers portability, yet the core game is completely the same.

For some this might be fine, looking to blast through the game and experience the magic of Donkey Kong Country yet again. And to those people that’s great – the game has not stopped being any less awesome. Yet to people yearning for any new content the Switch port is sorely lacking, and perhaps doesn’t justify the double-dipping some may be considering. This isn’t to diminish from the actual content of the game, which I can only echo is outstanding – it’s just a rant at the convoluted and gluttonous nature of the Switch port.

Across the pond in the US the game commands a price of $60 – the price usually reserved for fully-fledged, brand new titles. How Nintendo can justify selling this game for that price is beyond me, especially when the PS4 version of Shadow of the Colossus – a title that had its assets remade from the ground up and is (I can only speculate) more technologically complex – was priced at about £25 maximum. This gets even worse when one considers the game launched on the Wii U for only $50 upon its initial release – what, then, justifies the extra $10? In the UK it’s slightly better, the game only costing £40; but that’s almost the price Super Mario Odyssey launched for, with that game offering something new for everybody, whether they previously owned a Wii U or not.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an outstanding game. It controls great, it’s visually stunning, its level design and atmosphere is absolutely breath-taking, it has some of the catchiest music in all of video games – if you didn’t play this on the Wii U I cannot recommend this delightful game enough. But if you did play it on the Wii U – why get it again? Unless you’re desperate for portability or to play as Funky Kong, there is literally nothing new in the Switch port that warrants purchasing the game again at full price. This game will forever go down as one of the best 2D platformers to ever be created – it’s just a shame the Switch port was handled in this greedily a way.

First Year English and Drama student, conquering one game at a time in between! (@samjnason)


13th May 2018 at 9:00 am

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