I am a huge fan of Nintendo, of course I do love me some Mario and Zelda games, and unlike many old school fans that grew up with the NES, I first met the SNES. Those pretty 16-bits enchanted me on the realization that I had the ability to control the TV for the first time. I already was a fan of cartoons, so thinking about moving the cartoon character and make it do whatever I wanted blew my mind. I love a lot of the games in the system. EarthBound
is an very charming RPG, Super Punch-Out!!
has some of the most effective replay value. But one game overall, has been burned into my soul for years. One in specific became my ultimate love for the system. It was not Super Mario World
, it was not Star Fox
, and it was not Final Fantasy III (VI)
either. The game I refer to is Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest.
So why do I like this game in specific? I am not including the first one, or the third one (even though they are great too). The second installment managed to do something that the other games could not manage. I would give it a 100/100 for perfect execution in all the angles I like. These are the reasons why I declare Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
as my favorite SNES game ever, and it still manages to impress me to this day.
Donkey Kong Country
was an achievement on 1994 with the pre-rendered 3D graphics. Even if Miyamoto himself hated the style, it created a great atmosphere of a detailed world in every level. And its sequel managed to do it even better.
The boot-up logo screen was the same one as the predecessor's, but the new music raised my excitement even more. Having watched movies with my parents before, I could remember jingles from the producers in the introduction like Columbia, TriStar, Twentieth-Century Fox, and many others. Going to the day I discovered it, I was around five years old, and I was such a junkie for Looney Tunes and other toons. We had gone through a long way to visit my aunt who lived in Mexicali (the Mexican side of Calexico) to get in her large house, but it was all worth of it for me as it meant I would play a bit of her marvelous machine. When the Rareware logo appeared on the screen after she turned the switch on, I could feel transported into a whole adventure. That's right. The freaking boot-up screen got me marveled already, and I still had not seen a bit of it. Oh but there was more, then the title screen appeared and the pirate-y music with the sparkling gold chest and the animals around it dazzled me.
Not long after that, we went to the first level and the way the sea was animated, the sound of wood squeaking, the soothing flute in the background,
I felt like I was already at the sea. Of course, it was miles away, but with a strong imagination it is easy to get transported.
Every stage in the game had its own flavor, even if some were too similar to the other ones they had a little detail that made them differ drastically. Be it just to add a storm in the background, accelerate the music, or making the hazards be less predictable, every time we changed the level it was a different experience.
The Theme and Stages
You know what I love of platformers? The scene almost always changes; there are ice levels, lava levels, water levels, and forest levels. Donkey Kong Country 2
, like its prequel, has a variety of stages that follow a thematic. The first world is in a huge pirate ship, then you arrive a crocodile shaped volcano, a rotten swamp, a giant beehive, an amusement park, a haunted forest, and much more!
Despite the salad of ecosystems in it, the pirate theme was strong in the game. I was not the biggest pirate fan ever, but I always thought they were cool, and I loved the sea just like I love it today. There are gold coins everywhere, and you have to outsmart the filthy crocodiles to get the booty. Sometimes you had to destroy them all in a bonus stage or dare to explore different corners of the levels to get the rare DK coins. We do not see enough games with pirates these days. What's up with that?
The plot was not complex, but it did not need much at all. Donkey Kong gets kidnapped by Kaptain K. Rool (hmmm convenient name), so Diddy and his just presented girlfriend Dixie get on the dangerous quest after him. The same crew of the last game was still there, like Diddy, Funky, Cranky, Rambi, and Enguarde, but they also had new characters like Wrinkly, Swanky, Squitter, and Squawk to help you on the quest.
While they follow the same pre-rendered technique as in DKC (making it technically one of the first 2.5D games ever), the use of layers and texture designs are splendid. The mine and hive levels are a great example showing the sparkling crystals an the sliding honey from the hive walls. The most similar game I have seen with so much dynamic backgrounds and sprite works is EarthWorm Jim
. The water effects, multiple layers of animated actions, and not to mention the 3D models made it look very much alive.
If you have already played Donkey Kong Country
, there is not much to differ; if you are one of those poor cases that have not even played the first game, I will tell you anyway.
It plays as a classic side-scrolling platformer with the common strategy of jumping over your enemies. However there will be cases some enemies have to be hit with a barrel, or just avoiding them is the remaining option; not too different from Super Mario
games. Unlike collecting a mushroom, to have a second hit of survival you have to rescue a partner, they can be found in barrels with the DK logo in them. You just have to pick one up and throw it; or just touch it if it's in the air. In some levels you can find an animal buddy in a crate that can help you in the your progress with different abilities like jumping really high, charge through enemies and hidden walls, or building temporary platforms to get in high places. An unique feature of these games is the inclusion of bonus stages in every level to collect important items or extra lives. While they are not required to the completion of your quest, the give you access to the best ending. There will be also hidden DK coins which you will have to take a close look around to find them. Even in the most menacing pits could be a secret passage. In every stage (excluding bosses) will be four golden letters to find spelling K-O-N-G. When collected they will give you an extra life.
Differing from DKC, DKC2 has some new features like Dixie's ability to plane with her twirling pony tail. I can assure you this will come in very handy to cross very long ledges, avoid enemies, or explore the area. Also for the first time, you can make your partner piggy-ride you and throw him/her to three directions. This will help you to reach objects that are way too high, or too far to reach.
Some stages in the overworld are bases to do some special tasks. Some of them returned, like Funky's Flights which this cool dude could send you to different worlds, or Cranky's Cabin which the grumpy and flea-bitten old timer could tell you tips and tell you how his gaming days were way better than today's (gee, I wonder what he has to say about today). There are new ones like Kong Kollege which is managed by the more patient and sweeter wife of Cranky, Wrinkly Kong, in which you can save and also learn how to perform some moves. Swanky's Banana Bonanza is a quiz show hosted by the rich and suave Swanky Kong. Depending on the difficulty of the questions you answer correctly, you can win more extra lives, however once you guess them you cannot take them again.
The levels themselves will vary from the typical horizontal design in various occasions. Some levels will consist on climb up, swim in an aquatic passage, go through a cave labyrinth, race against time, or, my favorite, mine-carting, which you only have to time your jumps while racing through tracks. A little gimmick on the levels is the inclusion of cannon barrels which sometimes consisted in a part, or the whole level. They tested your aim and gave the levels an extra challenge to not get launched directly to the abyss. These variations keep the game fresh and more unpredictable always expecting something new on the way. So for me, I like to get surprises in the way.
OH. MY GOD.
The composition of the music on the game was incredible. You could go from relaxing, to thrilling, rushing, chilling, jazzing or pumping. The synth was an essential instrument accompanied by trumpets and piano in the mix. The music in the overworld map added the feeling of danger in the game's quest unlike the truckin' of the first game. Some of the most memorable tracks for everyone is Stickerbrush Symphony
which was both beautiful and eerie to most of us for a level all covered in dangerous barbs. One of my personal favorites is Disco Train, which was on the roller coaster levels; very upbeat, but a bit scary to listen the screaming at the background.
David Wise did an excellent job detonating multiple emotions in each track.
Speaking of which, OC Remix recently released an album with remixes of the game tracks. Check it out yourself!
It Puts You Right in the Alligators' Den.
And how literal! The quest after your kidnapped uncle challenges you to climb the perilous headquarter base of the Kremlins in Crocodile Island.
The whole game is hard. If you are human you will die, and die, and die, and die, all over, and over, and over, and over again multiple times. Well, at least the game gave you the option to save your progress, but you had to pay up to do so. WHAT?!
Yeah, you could not just go to the save point and then shut the game, you had to pay a fee of 2 Banana Coins or more to get a deserved break of your effort. Oh what an abusive move! On the good part you could save for free the very first time you arrived on a new Kong Kollege on a world map. It becomes pretty rewarding on that grade. Believe me, you will start hating that feature when you finally beat THAT LEVEL in which you were stuck and do not have enough coins to save, though. So you better buckle up. The difficult curve raises way up in the middle, you will need to have steady controls to survive every level because there are very hard jumps and loads of enemies everywhere.
And that's not all! If you had enough Kremcoins, which you collect by winning Bonus games, you could pay Klubba to let you get in Lost World, the secret and most punishing area on the game which I still have not cleared yet. Seriously, those levels are insane!
And I should not forget the bosses. They are always at the end of each world, and they have a different strategy and/or variation all the time. You better have steady eyes, hands, and tolerance to losing lives and getting blisters. Because you will have them. Oh, I am sure you will. But they are the trophy for your effort.
Why is it the best from the trilogy (in my opinion)?
Itís hard to explain.
Donkey Kong Country
, and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kongís Double Trouble
are still amazing games, but the second game made everything that was awesome from the first one better, and the third one was just NOT AS awesome as it. DKC had a main focus on the theme of nature, DKC2 went to pirates and evildoers, while DKC3 went back to the theme of nature but in a more mountainous and hillbilly perspective. It was like you went from western Africa, to the Caribbean, and then to the Rocky Mountains.
DKC2 managed to get more features than the previous entry, while in DKC3 it felt like some of the things were not that necessary in comparison. Also, collecting the DK Coins was a bit harder with the mechanic of outsmarting the short guardian that possesses it.
So in other words, I feel like it just happened to be the best because it was all about being awesome to the teeth. Sounds like an extremely biased conclusion, but I cannot find another way to say it. It is an adventure at its purest definition.
Now I only wish Nintendo at least experimented on doing a fourth installation on Wii or whatever else to give the legacy a new shot. Rareware (I refuse to call them Rare) was acquired by Microsoft time ago, but they are not absolutely forbidden to work with Nintendo a little bit, they did so for the DS version of Diddy Kong Racing
, so maybe they could give a look on that. Though the GBA ports of the game really disappointed me for the excess on cartoony sounds, unnecessary addition of mini-games, cuts on some of the jokes and cameos, the extra boss we never asked for, and the poor quality of the sound and graphics in comparison. Even though, the speedrun mode was not really a bad idea.
To close it, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
is overall a fantastic title. If you want a challenging side-scroller with many hazards on your way and puts on test your ability to juggle your control techniques, do not think twice and acquire it. If you are exploring or building an SNES collection, God have mercy on your soul if you donít include it!
This game got my Seal Of Approval.
[**Monodi's Seal of Approval guarantees you that the featured game will not suck in any single perspective, unless noted. The author is not responsible for any physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual damage that the reader will get by looking at the Seal of Approval in a game he, or she dislikes due to the subjective opinions these are based on. It also guarantees you that no sea animals were harmed in the writing process of this article.]