Rumors point toward Nintendo EPD working on a new Donkey Kong game for the Switch. While it’ll likely be 2D, it should be a 3D platformer instead.
Many Nintendo fans have wondered why the excellent Super Mario Odyssey never received a sequel. If leaks are to be believed, then the answer lies within the Donkey Kong series. A recent rumor that has been corroborated by YouTubers, trusted insiders and media outlets has asserted that the Odyssey team is hard at work on a new Donkey Kong adventure to coincide with the franchise’s 40th anniversary in 2021. While this should be taken with a grain of salt, if such a title materializes, it could be phenomenal. And, its success would be double if the game is a 3D platformer.
The most tantalizing and mysterious element of the rumor relates to just that: the game’s identity as a 2D or 3D platformer. Different sources have reported different conclusions, although 2D seems to be better corroborated. Yet, the notion of a brand-new 3D Donkey Kong platformer is too exciting to pass up. Given Nintendo EPD’s 3D platforming skillset, the end result could be another genre-defining adventure.
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Converging factors make 2021 the opportune moment for a 3D Donkey Kong game in particular. Not only is the series celebrating its anniversary, but 3D platformers are making a resurgence. Between Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Psychonauts 2, both PlayStation and Xbox are pushing the genre forward. The interest is high, and no team could capitalize on this popularity better than Nintendo EPD.
Nintendo’s stable needs more 3D platformers, anyway. Outside of Super Mario, few 3D Nintendo platformers exist. Fans are always clamoring for this to change, hoping for series such as Kirby to jump into 3D. While that’s tantalizing, widening the 3D platforming scope to Donkey Kong next would make the most sense. After all, the most notable non-Mario 3D platformer is certainly Donkey Kong 64. Given that game’s flaws, hopefully a new title would be vastly superior. Considering Nintendo EPD’s pedigree though, that seems all but guaranteed.
This idea invites great speculation, as there is so much potential in the concept. Exploring a fully-realized, open-world platforming jungle gym in the vein of Bowser’s Fury as Donkey Kong would be very engaging. From collectables to level motifs to immersive environmental design, Retro Studio’s exemplary 2D Donkey Kong titles have drawn an excellent blueprint. Translating these rich concepts into 3D could be as revelatory as the shift from Super Mario World to Super Mario 64. While there’s little chance of the game redefining the industry like that seminal Nintendo 64 game, it could certainly redefine its series and fans’ expectations for Nintendo’s platformers.
The latter raises the principal issue with a new, 2D Donkey Kong title, being a lack of ambition. Fans have come to expect iterative 2D platformers from Nintendo. Unfortunately, if the new Donkey Kong can be categorized as such, it will be. Regardless of its quality, fans are ready for revolution, not evolution. Donkey Kong can, and should, be at the tip of that spear.
The intrinsic disappointment in missing out on another 3D platformer from Nintendo aside, there would still be reason to get excited over a 2D title. Pound for pound, the Donkey Kong Country games are more immersive and challenging than 2D Mario games. A future where Donkey Kong becomes the de facto 2D series and Mario becomes the de facto 3D series could be exciting, albeit contextualized by what could’ve been, had Donkey Kong pivoted to 3D as well.
From any perspective though, the notion of a new, big-budget Donkey Kong game is exciting. The franchise has long been dormant aside from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze‘s Switch port, and that isn’t right. Seeing Nintendo throw its biggest studio behind the IP, hypothetically, communicates a lot of confidence in the brand. And there should be, as Donkey Kong‘s best titles are better than most other platformers on the market. Perhaps Diddy Kong’s new render wasn’t for nothing after all.
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