By the time Donkey Kong Country debuted on the Super Nintendo in 1994, the video game industry was obsessed with 3D. New systems were on the horizon, and companies were more interested in pushing polygons than 2D sprites. Rare's outstanding effort delivered the best of both worlds, with adorable 3D characters set against 2D backgrounds. Not only did DKC extend the life of the SNES, but its creators laid the groundwork for a million-selling franchise that'll continue this fall, when Retro Studios' Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze debuts on Wii U in November.
Hardcore Donkey Kong fans love this IP because Nintendo mostly sticks with the formula from 19 years ago. Similar to its predecessors, Tropical Freeze is a side-scrolling platformer, but with superior graphics that take advantage of the system's processing power, with DK, Diddy and even Dixie Kong barreling through detailed jungles, then seamlessly diving into dangerous underwater locations filled with enemy fish and razor-sharp spikes.
One of the biggest changes puts emphasis on 3D. When our heroes jump into barrels, the camera shifts to provide a different perspective for dramatic effect. In one instance, we slowly make our way around a gigantic tree as DK flies through the air. In another, he zips from barrel to barrel through a rocky environment.
Story-wise, DK and friends set off to reclaim Donkey Kong Island from vikings; that explains all those ships in the beach-themed stage. The journey will take place across five islands that not only showcase jungle and underwater levels, but also ice-themed boards as well.
DKC staples, like jumping on enemies' heads, collecting bananas and letters make a welcome return, as do mine cart segments. Breaking DK-branded barrels let you add another character to the mix, each of which has a signature ability; Diddy's rocket pack lets you avoid enemies and pits, for example.
We still have roughly three months until its release, but based on what we've seen, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze retains what made the prequels so much fun, and jazzes everything up with plenty of eye candy and a two-person multiplayer mode. We'll have a strategic preview closer to November.