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Michael Kelbaugh

IGN has gone live with a new feature about how Retro goes about making Nintendo games. There’s commentary from Retro’s Michael Kelbaugh as well as Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe. You can find quotes from both below, and IGN’s full piece here.

Veteran Nintendo producer Kensuke Tanabe and Retro Studios CEO Michael Kelbaugh have both weighed in on why the Big N is against putting its games on mobile devices.

Tanane told GameSpot that translating the controls available with traditional games is “a really, really difficult task.” Also, when all is said and done, “I want Nintendo games to be played on Nintendo hardware,” he stated.

Tanaba’s quotes in full:

USGamer has a few new quotes from Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe and Retro’s Michael Kelbaugh. Between the two, they commented on tutorials, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and the possibility of returning to Metroid one day. You’ll find a roundup of the quotes below.

Retro Studios president and CEO Michael Kelbaugh commented on several topics while speaking with GameSpot, including the Wii U’s technical capabilities.

According to Kelbaugh, the console is “a powerhouse”, adding, “It’s more than adequate to make great games on.”

“Unfortunately, the perception is that it’s not a very powerful machine. That’s just not true. It’s a powerhouse. It’s more than adequate to make great games on.”

Kelbaugh also mentioned that the Wii U is a “great box to make games on.”

The Official Nintendo Magazine has put up its full interview with Retro CEO Michael Kelbaugh and Nintendo SPD producer Kensuke Tanabe. We’ve highlighted a few excerpts below. For the full piece, head on over to ONM.

It’s not unexpected for developers to abandon a few ideas while making games. For Retro Studios, the team was able to take some elements abandoned for Donkey Kong Country Returns and implement them into its direct sequel, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.

One feature scrapped from Returns but included in Tropical Freeze is the game’s dynamic 3D camera. Retro was forced to cut the idea due to a lack of time, but managed to save it for the Wii U title.

Retro Studios president Michael Kelbaugh told ONM this month:

“As a game developer, I’ve felt that you always leave something on the drawing board that you wish you could have got in and you’re always tormented by the thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we have included…?’ I really believe, however, that those thoughts inspire future games and ideas that you use on the next game. For example, the dynamic 3D camera we used in Tropical Freeze was something we wanted to work into Donkey Kong Country Returns. We didn’t have the time, so we implemented it into Tropical Freeze instead.”

Thanks to joclo for the tip.


A slew of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze details have emerged from this month’s issue of ONM. There are a bunch of noteworthy tidbits here, including the ability to upload times and full replays. The full roundup of information can be found below.

– ONM estimates that most levels will take about 10 minutes to complete on your first attempt
– 3-3 Frantic Field: set against a hurricane, with small tornadoes, and lightning as obstacles; eventually you reach the eye of the storm
– Next stage takes place in a forest, with sections on fire due to the previous levels lightning
– Need to use watery fruit to put out vine fires in order to progress
– Game includes tag barrels ala Donkey Kong 64, to switch between Kongs (could just be DK barrels)
– Multiple routes in the various levels
– 3 secret levels per world confirmed
– Time Attack returns
– In Time Attack, you can choose which character’s DK barrels will appear
– Upload times and full replays to show friends, and to help other players improve their own times
– There seems to be more emphasis on the background, which is constantly moving, which makes the world feel alive, and sometimes provides hints to what you’re going to encounter next
– When asked if there was anything the felt was missing from the game, Kensuke Tanabe said that he wishes they could have done more with the animal buddies
– Tanabe also mentions that there is something from A Link to the Past that he wanted to do, couldn’t, and used it in Link’s Awakening instead (ending of LA when the egg opens)
– Retro president’s favorite levels: 6-6 Cliffside Slide, “like jumping right into the middle of an action movie”, it’s a silhouette level. 4-4 Irate Eight, and underwater level which sounds like the giant octopus from DKCR is back. 3-3 Frantic Fields, which is challenging, but with a bit of comedy.
Tanabe mentions that World 4 is made of only underwater levels.
– Kelbaugh also mentions that he likes 4-4, and 3-6 Cannon Canyon, because of the dynamic 3D camera movement
– Animation quality has improved over Returns
– With David Wise, Kenji Yamamoto, and Scott Petersen, they have an amazing soundtrack, and special effects effort
– Tanabe was surprised that so few people in DKCR didn’t want to use the Super Guide once it appeared. He said that the difficulty of Tropical Freeze hasn’t been lowered, but that they have added some features that will give casual players an easier time.
– Difficulty hasn’t been lowered, but the new items, and Kong POW allow you to change the difficulty of the levels somewhat
– Miyamoto told Retro, when first working on DKCR: “This is my baby. Don’t mess it up.”
– Kelbaugh and Tanabe both worked on DKC, with Tanabe on the Japanese localisation, but never met.
Ten years later Tanabe met Kelbaugh, when he became president of Retro. He saw that Kelbaugh had a DKC jacket, and they learned that they both worked on DKC.
– A few years after that they both started on DKCR, Michael gave DKCR the codename F8 – fate.
– Retro was working on Mario Kart 7, and TF at the same time
– Tanabe, and his team at SPD is Retro’s primary contact at Nintendo, but the games are a collaborative effort throughout Nintendo
– If they found themselves on Kong Island Kelbaugh would team up with Diddy, and Tanabe with Donkey Kong, so that he could be carried around


We’re hearing – as reported in this month’s ONM – that Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will offer three secret levels per world. In total, the game would end up featuring 60 levels if true.

ONM also apparently contains a quote from Retro president Michael Kelbaugh who told the magazine, “As for Tropical Freeze, there are a few more things I feel we could have done with the animal buddies”. Some are speculating that Kelbaugh could be hinting at more animal buddies included in the Wii U title.


Retro Studios president Michael Kelbaugh and Nintendo producer Kensuke Tanabe commented on how the two companies cooperate in the development of projects in the latest issue of ONM.

To begin, Kelbaugh explained how the process is ultimately “a symbiotic relationship” between Retro, Nintendo SPD, “and other entities throughout the Nintendo family.”

He said:

“Tanabe-san and his team at SPD are our primary contacts at Nintendo. Please let me be clear: games developed at Retro Studios are a collaboration between members from Retro Studios, SPD and other entities throughout the Nintendo family. It’s a symbiotic relationship that consists of members from all over the world; we are very honoured to be working with such a talented team.

“When we worked on Mario Kart 7, we were working on Tropical Freeze at the same time. Part of the team was working on creating assets for Hideki Konno’s group, the Mario Kart team, and part of our team continued making progress on Tropical Freeze in conjunction with Tanabe-san and SPD.”

Retro Studios president and CEO Michael Kelbaugh commented on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze’s new 3D camera and how the Metroid Prime games influenced the company’s Donkey Kong titles as part of an interview with GamesTM this month. In doing so, Kelbaugh revealed that Metroid Prime’s engine and tools were used to make Returns.

Kelbaugh told the magazine:

With every game we make, we get better. In that sense, yes, the experience we gained working on the Metroid Prime franchise was invaluable.

Specifically answering your question about 3D to 2D, what you may not realise is that we constructed the levels in Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in very much the same manner as we did the levels in Metroid Prime. However, levels in Returns and Tropical Freeze are much, much larger and more detailed. And I’ll share this with you; we used the Metroid Prime engine and tools to develop Returns, so technically, the lessons learned on Metroid Prime were directly applied.

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