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Former Nintendo staff share insight into the Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Cranky Kong reveal for VGX 2013

Posted on December 10, 2023 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch, Wii U

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze Cranky Kong

Some of you may recall that in 2013, former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime appeared at VGX to show off Cranky Kong in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. VGX was the new take on the Spike Video Game Awards that ran for a decade prior. It only took place that single year – Geoff Keighley then went on to form The Game Awards.

Kit Ellis and Krysta Yang, who worked for Nintendo for over a decade, reflected on the whole thing in an episode of Kit & Krysta Podcast. Ellis started out by sharing the following, which goes into why the Cranky Kong news was chosen in the first place:

“… we started to think about what is the reveal for his – the ‘world exclusive’. What could we offer? This was the height of the Wii U doldrums though… we had also started at this point started to do Nintendo Direct, so we had more ways than ever to share news, so there was a bit more competition for where does news go if we have news.

So frankly, this was hard for us to even find something, but we finally did settle on this idea of revealing Cranky Kong as a playable character in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which was going to be coming out the following February. … we’re getting into the home stretch of this game, and we’re thinking this can be a really cool surprise and a nice bit of fan service for Donkey Kong fans to be this exciting thing. It’s not going to be a new game announcement, maybe it’s not on the same level of things that we’ve revealed before, but this will still be cool and we can supplement this with some live gameplay – really show off the character and build it into this extended thing.”

Unfortunately for Nintendo and Geoff – who was the host of VGX – things didn’t go smoothly. Just a few days before VGX 2013, the news about Cranky Kong leaked via a retailer listing. That meant the surprise was ruined, and Geoff was apparently “furious”. Some fans were also disappointed that this was the only thing Nintendo had to show.

Ellis shared the following about Geoff’s response:

“I was not on the receiving end of the communications from Geoff, but from what I heard, he was big mad – like furious. He’s normally a pretty easygoing guy, very even keel, very reasonable – and that’s something we really appreciate about him – but in this case he was livid about this.”

Ellis and Yang speculated that Geoff had a lot of pressure on his shoulders. As we already mentioned, the event was going through a pretty big transition from the Spike Video Game Awards to VGX. 

Reggie did end up appearing at VGX along with a rep from Retro Studios where Cranky Kong in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was officially announced. A part of the segment had Reggie and Geoff jabbing back and forth (with Geoff even bringing up the leak), and one of the talking points was a Metroid pin Reggie had on, fueling fan speculation about a potential future announcement.

You can catch up on the full episode of the Kit & Krysta Podcast here.

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