In an interview with GameSpot, Retro Studios CEO Michael Kelbaugh and Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe were asked about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze’s lack of online cooperative play. While the game does include online leaderboards for the time attack mode, there is no online play for the regular game. While entire expected and a lacking omission, Retro has come out saying they didn’t want to “shoehorn in” online play.
Michael Kelbaugh elaborated, “If we’re going to create an online component for Donkey Kong, we really need to do it right and not shoehorn in, ‘Oh, let’s play Dixie remotely.’ That just wasn’t an objective for Tropical Freeze. So if we were really go back and create an online environment, I think we owe it to the fans to do it better than just making online co-op. We really need to put some thought and resources into doing it the right way.
If we were to make a full online experience, I’d want to spend time to do it and make sure that we stay true to the franchise and incorporate this new feature in the right way and I’m not sure that this game is the right way to start Donkey Kong Country Online [laughs]. I’m really a purist at heart, especially when it comes to Donkey Kong Country, and I’d want to approach it the right way.”
Kensuke Tanabe added, “This is a personal opinion, but if I’m playing with somebody, I think it’s just a heck of a lot more fun to be sitting in the same room as that person rather than playing with somebody at a distance and I think it’s especially true for Nintendo games; we have a history of families playing together, whether that’s the parents playing with the children or the children playing with their siblings. And I think with Donkey Kong, that’s something that we preferred. We really wanted to support that style of play.”
Excuses, excuses. A fair portion of Nintendo fans have been clamoring for online co-op in their platformers ever since 2009’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii. At the time, Shigeru Myamoto said that the Wii’s hardware was incapable of handling online co-op (too much for each system to keep track off would lead to laggy play). The Wii U is obviously more powerful, but online co-op is still an omission in their platformers.
It’s always an either-or answer, too. Iwata, when asked last July by an investor about the omission of online in New Super Mario Bros. U, said that New Mario U was designed to be played with five people in the same room. “… We focused most of our effort on enabling those five people to enjoy the game all together so we did not focus on online play,” Super Mario 3D World’s omission was a similar vein. As producer Yoshiaki Koizumi explained to GameInformer:
“We’ve been testing online multiplayer since the days of Super Mario Galaxy, but with this title we really wanted to deliver an experience that you can share with family, friends, or your boyfriend or girlfriend in the same place like you did with the original NES. We really want players to have fun in front of the TV, talking while they help each other out or get in each other’s way.”
In other words, the company is unwilling to take a creative risk, to evolve the multiplayer in these games beyond the NES era. Media Molecule’s Little Big Planet is a great example of a platformer series that does include online co-op. It works just fine in that series, and anecdotal evidence says that it’s just as fun as local play. For Nintendo, these either-or excuses about online functionality will only wear thinner every time they are made. It is 2014: it is time to evolve their platforming’s multiplayer to the next level. There’s no reason not to have both styles.
What do you think of the lack of online co-op in Tropical Freeze? Are you satisfied with it only being local, or do you dream of something more?