Confession time, I never played Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii. I did however thoroughly enjoy the 3DS remake released earlier this year. However, despite my enjoyment there were moments that made clear it was a console port to a handheld device. So when I picked up a nunchuck and Wiimote to play Retro Studio’s Wii U follow-up Tropical Freeze I could immediately tell this is how the game is supposed be played.
Clearly that’s something people knew back in 2010, but finding this out for myself made my time with the new game all the better. There was a lot of hype surrounding Retro’s latest project – some believed it would be a return to the Metroid IP, some madder individuals even thought Eternal Darkness 2 – so much like the Super Mario 3D World reveal there were more than a few groans of disappointment.
Any displeasure is Nintendo’s fault for raising expectations so high, though releasing a sequel to one of the Wii’s best-selling games while the Wii U is going through such an crucial period is a smart move, and one that may pay off.
The actual game is, such is their way, familiarly great. It’s the game we know with the added bells and whistles of a new, more powerful console with high definition visuals. There is only so much that can be added to the formula but the camera swoops and whooshes all look great and succeed in giving the intended illusion of a grander experience.
That said there was a notable dip in visual quality during the minecart stage offered up in the demo. The fast-paced levels that have become a staple of Donkey Kong’s platformers should have been a showcase for the title, but at its fastest there was very obvious screen-tear and a drop in frame-rate. The issue is likely a demo error however.
Set up in the same way as the 3D World demo, the two standard platforming levels were joined by something different (the minecart) and a boss level. The boss fights were fantastic in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and I’m happy to report on the evidence of the first area’s final encounter, nothing has changed. Donkey Kong’s plumber pal would do well to learn from the ape’s boss fights in fact.
Finally, there seemed to be a lack of the challenge that made the 3DS release so much of a hit with the platforming crowd. Of course, four levels is only the smallest slice of what Tropical Freeze has to offer, but even Donkey Kong Country Returns’ early levels provided more of a challenge than evidenced here. Or maybe I just got lucky.
Overall the impression made was a good one. This is a worthy follow-up from a trusted developer. Retro always deliver quality and this is no different. It’s hard to believe however that there enormous team are only working on one game…