Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze may not have been the Retro Studios project that some fans desired or expected, but nevertheless it is a sequel to one of the finest platformers to grace the Wii. Ultimately, the odds are good at this stage that it'll be a hugely enjoyable experience when it arrives in November.
Naturally, Retro Studios and their management colleagues from Kyoto were doing the media rounds during E3 to promote the new title, and they spoke to our colleagues at USgamer.net, talking in some detail about the project and the series' legacy as a whole. On the legacy topic, the game's producer Kensuke Tanabe explained that, unlike the clear dividing lines in the Mario franchises, the DK series is being approached on a project-by-project basis.
Mario is like… Let’s give Mario as an example of something that’s very clear and defined. If you look at Mario here, you have a very clear distinction between 2D games and 3D games. The 2D side-scrollers are continuing in the New Super Mario series, and then you have games like Mario 64. You have Sunshine and Galaxy and Galaxy 2 and now 3D World. Those are the 3D world Marios, and then you have the 2D world Marios. There’s a very clear line between those two series.
Now, with Donkey Kong, it’s never been that clear throughout time. We went from 2D to 3D on the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube, and then back to 2D here. We had things like Jungle Beat, these experimental sorts of projects. Here, we said, "Let’s go back to 2D. Let’s try 2D," and set to reinventing the Donkey Kong Country franchise. In the end, it’s not like we’ve ever drawn a clear distinction between two types of games. We’re really looking at, "Hey, what do we have with our hardware? What does the marketplace want?" We’re adaptable. We can respond to those needs. We’ll come up with games that might incorporate elements from both sides.
As well as explaining how the additional graphical power of the Wii U made for greater detail in the visuals — Retro's Michael Kelbaugh describes the system as "quite a powerhouse" — Tanabe explained how the legacy of the Wii original, and the tweaks in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, have combined to help the team aim for an experience suitable for newcomers and veterans alike.
As I think you know, this series is known as a difficult series. For the fans of the series, I don’t want to betray that expectation of a real challenge. But of course, I want to make the game as accessible as I can to casual players, people who haven’t had an opportunity to try the series yet.
So one of the things that we’ve done is, we’ve taken a feature from the 3DS version of Donkey Kong Country Returns, which is the green balloon. We brought it back in this version. It basically allows the player, as you know, to fall to what is normally a loss of life. The green balloon lifts them up and they can place themselves where they want and let go. It gives the power to use or not use it to the player, though. Basically, we’re just providing a system for players who want to use it if they want to. They can go purchase this item in-game and use it, but of course they don’t have to. It’s just giving those people a chance to get into the game a little easier and make it more accessible. You have the standard Donkey Kong challenge for our veteran players who are really into it, and we’ve got some aids that are available for people who maybe aren’t as used to the series that will allow them to have some of the same experiences as other players.
So, are you looking forward to the arrival of Tropical Freeze in November? Are you confident that the experience will suit the full spectrum of experienced and less skilled gamers? Let us know in the comments below, while you can check out the full interview at usgamer.net.