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Talking Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze With Speedrunner DKS

We chat with one of the best Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze players out there about their excellent speedrun for the Any% category.

Back when Nintendo was marketing their Wii system, some of the more hardcore fans were starting to feel left out. Then Nintendo started revealing modern approaches to their 2D classics that made them a household name. While this didn’t work out for Metroid: Other M, Donkey Kong Country came back with help from the much loved Retro Studios, who already made a name for creating the Metroid Prime series. Their second entry Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was accepted well by critics and players alike and was surprisingly designed as an excellent speedgame. Now that the game has the potential to reach more players with the release of the Switch version, we reached out to one of the best Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze runners out there, DKS.

Similar to how Zserf, the player we interviewed after he beat Super Mario 64 in under two hours while blindfolded, started getting into speedruns through time trials on Mario Kart 64, DKS started competing in times in that same game.

“I guess in terms of speedrunning as a whole,” he told us over Twitter messaging, “I got into it by playing the Mario Kart games, especially Double Dash and Mario Kart Wii, they were amazing and I super enjoyed doing time attack in those games.”

After finding a new way to time his runs, the interest in speedruns started to grow for DKS. “Then I discovered RTA (Real-Time Attack) speedruns when I was googling some old game out of nostalgia and I found it super interesting and entertaining, it was probably a Legend of Zelda or Pokemon game.”

“I never got into speedruns of Tropical Freeze until I played the game itself, I remember having watched a couple runs in AGDQ 2015 and spikevegeta's channel and the game looked cool and all, but I was never a big Donkey Kong Country fan, so it didn't appeal to me right away.”

“When I bought the game I just fell in love with it: The level design, the music and especially the time attack feature, and then of course with the speedrunning concept, it became a hundred times more appealing. I just started doing time attacks of level after level and before I knew it I was learning the whole game.”

The process of learning a speedrun can take thousands of hours with a lot of ups and downs. We asked DKS what some of the more challenging moments were. “The good thing about the run is that are strategies for every skill level. So for learning the game I just tried to do things that I knew I could pull off consistently.”

Surprisingly, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has a design that compliments both speed and a more casual pace. This concept was explored in a video by Ceave Gaming that is worth taking a look at for those interested in level design.

Like DKS mentioned, things started by taking a look at particular levels first and then piecing together a full run as confidence in each stage grew. “I practiced for weeks before doing my first run. For me the most fun part is to achieve the goal you want, and the fastest way to be on the skill that you want to be is to practice a lot instead of spamming attempts.”

For some, presenting a speedrun to the world through streaming can help motivate progress. However, starting off by showing off fundamental skill building can be a bit of letdown if criticism on skill starts coming in. “Most of my practice happened offline, but on very specific levels I streamed so the community could help me figure out what was I doing wrong, which was extremely helpful.”

In the esports arena sharing strategies with other players is counterintuitive; letting someone else have an edge can be a huge problem when trying to defeat them. However, in speedrunning there is a communal effort (at least in most cases) where players will happily share with each other. We asked DKS about thoughts on the community side of things.

“The main aspect is for finding strats; even the most knowledgeable player can miss something because they simply never think about things from another perspective, and it happens quite often.”

“Another huge aspect is when making the community grow, that becomes so much easier when everyone is trying to help. This could be making tutorials, encouraging new runners, or even keeping the interactions within the community on friendly terms.”

With Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze now being on the Nintendo Switch and new players coming into it, not to mention some performance cleanup with the Switch version, now is a great time to look into speedrunning this title. Just know that beating DKS will certainly take some time.

Find DKS streaming on Twitch.

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