When the original Donkey Kong Country launched in 1994 as Nintendo's 16-bit console war coup de grace, you couldn't help but be on board for a game made with the unimaginable power of - GASP! - Jurassic Park-rendering CGI machines. When the novelty of DKC's impressive-for-the-time graphics faded, though, the wizard behind the curtain was revealed as just another shallow platformer, one that lacked the sheer craftsmanship of Nintendo's first-party Super Nintendo titles. And when the supremely inventive Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island released the following year and caught barely a whiff of DKC's fame and adulation, that was the last straw: Donkey Kong was dead to me.
It's hard to believe, but that was nearly 20 years ago, and while I've dabbled in DK here and there, anything branded with his hideously rendered mid-'90s mug acted as a warning sign for these past few decades. And while the Kong family's designs are forever stalled in Clinton-era amber, the world Retro (formerly of Metroid Prime fame) crafted around them in Tropical Freeze makes for a much more appealing take on platforming action.
Of course, if you played 2010's Donkey Kong Country Returns, none of this should really be news to you; if anything, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the New Super Mario Bros. U to Donkey Kong Country Returns' New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Like Returns, Tropical Freeze brings Donkey Kong back to basics by focusing on the titular character; DK can team up with a handful of his relatives, but they act more like Mario Bros.-style power-ups than co-op partners. Diddy gives DK the ability to hover after a jump, Dixie provides a double-jump, and Cranky can bounce DK off of the ground with a pogo-cane move undoubtedly stolen from DuckTales. Certain stages are designed with specific secondary abilities in mind, but others allow for a choice between the three, letting you decide what approach would work best. Of course, if you take a few hits with a fellow Kong strapped to your back, you'll be stuck with the relatively limited powers of DK himself...
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