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Donkey Kong Country is one of those retro video game series that's still just as fun when you play it today. Even the graphics have aged well—of course, it helps that back then they were mind-blowing good. Regardless, these games never get old, no matter how many times you play them.

But when Nintendo revived the classic franchise with Donkey Kong Country Returns fans were worried. True, the series was now in the hands of the talented Metroid Prime developers at Retro Studios, but Nintendo being Nintendo there was a fear that things might get—how to put it?—simplified.

Luckily, that wasn't the case. Donkey Kong Country Returns proved every bit as deep, varied and challenging as its much older predecessors, and DKC fans rejoiced. Now that Retro is developing another follow-up, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, how are they going to top that? Complex got to sit down with the game and speak with Nintendo Assistant Manager of PR David Young, and a few things were revealed.

It's not exactly brutal—like the older games and Donkey Kong Country Returns before it Tropical Freeze feels pretty fair. But you're going to die a lot if you're not familiar with the language and the rhythm of these games.

It's Still Hard as Fuck

Hardcore Donkey Kong Country fans can rest easy, because despite some casual gamers' whining about the difficulty of DKC Returns, that challenge is still present in Tropical Freeze. We played the very first level, when the new "Snowmad" enemies begin invading Kong Island and turning everything frosty; an early mining level, where you jump from track to track in a mine cart; the first world's boss, a bastard of a giant seal with a surprising variety of attacks; and a later level with lots of climbing and falling platforms that we were unable to beat within the time constraints of the demo.

"It is going to be a challenging game," Young said. "That is really the nature of Donkey Kong Country. It is a challenge, and it's going to take a lot of practice for people to get through, especially if you want to complete it and get all the Kong letters, all the puzzle pieces, all the coins, all the bananas. It's really going to be a challenge. And frankly I think that fans would give us a harder time if we did dumb it down. People who like Donkey Kong Country—I think one of the things that makes that what it is is that it is a challenging game."

It's not exactly brutal—like the older games and Donkey Kong Country Returns before it Tropical Freeze feels pretty fair. But you're going to die a lot if you're not familiar with the language and the rhythm of these games.

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Classic Characters Make a Return

Retro's first DKCR game featured Donkey in the starring role and Diddy as his sidekick/your co-op partner. Tropical Freeze adds two more familiar faces to the mix of playable characters: Dixie Kong, who debuted in Donkey Kong Country 2 and starred in Donkey Kong Country 3 with her helpful hair-twirling ability, and Cranky Kong, who's making his debut as a playable character here. He's been present in every Donkey Kong Country game so far, but Tropical Freeze is the first time he actually gets off his ass and fights alongside his family members. The results are pretty funny.

It does feel more than a little ridiculous to have old Cranky Kong hopping around like the spry young whippersnappers he frequently derides, but Young invited the comparison to Yoda's infamous lightsaber battle in Star Wars Episode 2.

"Just like Yoda, he will pull it out and he delivers when the time comes," Young said. "Cranky Kong is the guy who's been around for a long time, but he shows in this game that he still has it. He's some got really unique moves. I mean, I don't know if you watched the animation, but when he's attacking using his cane, just the glee in his face—you can see his facial expression, I mean, it's priceless." Cranky's cane also lets you (or your co-op partner, if you're playing with a friend) bounce like you're on a pogo stick over spikes to get to otherwise unreachable areas.

But Cranky isn't the only returning favorite. Rambi the Rhino is back again as well, and there will probably be other familiar friends too. "There are going to be some surprises," Young said. "I don't want to spoil all the surprises. But it's an amazing experience and we're really looking forward to having it on the market and getting it into people's hands."

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A More Polished Game

Finally, it seems the team at Retro is doing what it can to improve on the winning formula of Donkey Kong Country Returns with Tropical Freeze, just like it did across the three Metroid Prime games. That series truly got better with every iteration, and it looks like DKCR might do the same.

The graphics are better in Tropical Freeze, of course, since it's the first game in the series on Nintendo's HD Wii U console. But there are other changes worth noting. For example, the water levels from the original DKC games—absent from Returns title on Wii—are returning in Tropical Freeze. And when you play with the Wii U GamePad there are no bothersome Wii Remote-shaking moves, making the game much easier to control.

Here's another one: Donkey Kong Country Returns featured a move that let Donkey Kong blow on plants, pinwheels and other objects to get a variety of surprises. Young said the action was added specifically at legendary Donkey Kong creator Shigeru Miyamoto's urging when the Nintendo sage visited Retro Studios in Texas during the first game's development. But it tended to break up the game's otherwise snappy pacing, and in Tropical Freeze it's been replaced with a similar but more precise pulling move.

That seems to be what Tropical Freeze is all about: not adding features willy-nilly, but adding them where they make sense, and elsewhere removing or refining them.

"It's a further refinement from the guys down at Retro," Young said. "It really is kind of upping the ante because of the power of the hardware."

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze hits Wii U exclusively on Feb. 21.