When Retro Studios’ Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze arrived on the Wii U back in 2014, it made waves but never quite managed to overcome the console’s meager trappings. Thankfully, the game is given new life this week as a Nintendo Switch title, a system more fitting to its uniquely charming brand of primate platforming.
For those who played the game in its original form—which, I’ll venture a guess, was painfully few of you—Tropical Freeze arrives intact. This means all the spot-on DK Country gameplay and its Snowmad-centric plot remain unchanged, but, like other recent Wii U-to-Switch ports, there are a few new surprises.
The first is that, as a Nintendo Switch title, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze can now be easily played on the go. And, unlike the SNES to Game Boy/GBA series ports, this game affords you the full console experience in the palm of your hand.
To that end, Nintendo of America challenged my family to take the DK crew along with us to an appropriately wild locale. Eager to accept, we loaded up the car and headed to Columbia, SC, home of our state’s own Riverbanks Zoo & Garden.
As it turns out, Riverbanks’ 12-year-old gorilla Kazi is currently expecting, with the new infant due later this month. Unfortunately, our visit seemed to coincide with one of her medical checkups, as she was out of the enclosure being tended to by zoo staff when we arrived. (The troop’s male gorillas all seemed to be waiting outside; I made a gorilla paternity test joke that none of the other dads seemed to find as amusing as I did.)
But while we didn’t get a chance to play Tropical Freeze with real gorillas, we did get to check out the recent renovations—like Sea Lion Landing, an on-site reproduction of San Francisco’s Pier 39—and even get some playtime in at Riverbanks’ famed botanical garden.
While the Wii U iteration was perfectly satisfying on its own, the new Switch version of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze proves that it’s just as engaging out on the town as it is in your living room, and the easy two-player co-op afforded by simply sharing a Joy-Con means you can work in some fun family game time without having to lug around extra controllers or cables. Best of all, though, is a new mode that helps to makes the series’ trademark platforming a little less intense for newer, younger players.
Now joining DK, Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong is Funky Kong. In his new Funky Mode, this 1990s throwback character is playable, and his handy surfboard can make jumping easier and falls far less catastrophic. The other Kongs also receive additional health, and the overall difficulty is ratcheted down for a more casual experience.
This, of course, makes traversing the game’s various islands and combatting its multitude of polar enemies an even more enjoyable experience to a wider audience of Switch-owning families. There are still tons of helpful items and collectibles to be found, and the original challenge is still there for those who aren’t star-struck by Funky’s fresh moves.
Taken together, this serves as yet another example of how well Wii U titles hold up when translated to the Switch platform. For those who haven’t played through this chapter of the Donkey Kong Country series, there is easily $60 worth of core content available before you even factor in the new Funky Mode. (And don’t forget that Amazon Prime subscribers can still pre-order this title for a discounted $48.)
For family’s like mine, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze joins previous Wii U retreads like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and inspired original fare like Snipperclips as perfectly portable titles that leverage the dual nature of the Switch console to take shared gaming wherever you dare. Even if its just out for a relaxing spring day at your local zoo.
Nintendo of America provided zoo passes and review software for this feature, but all thoughts are my own.