Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
When the Super Nintendo Classic Mini was announced back in June 2017, there were notable omissions from the system’s 21-game list. No room for Pilotwings, Super Bomberman and Chrono Trigger, and despite the presence of the original Donkey Kong Country, the most glaring omission was its magnificent 1995 sequel Diddy’s Kong Quest. The Super Nintendo (Snes) is home to some of the best video games of the 16but era. Rare’s Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy Kong's Quest is widely regarded as the finest of the three SNES adventures in the series, so let’s strip the game down and explore just why it’s such a satisfying experience. Here are 6 reasons why Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy Kong's Quest is a masterpiece.
The game is enriched by the appearance of various colourful allies, all of whom may help the player during their adventure.
Animal buddies include the return of favourites Rambi the rhino, Squawks the parrot and Enguarde the swordfish, with Rattly the rattlesnake and Squitter the spider making their debuts. The player can ride these creatures and even transform into them at certain points in order to overcome obstacles and reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Four members of the Kong family appear, each of whom help the player in return for banana coins while offering a fun break from the main quest.
Interactions with Monkey Museum curator Cranky Kong deliver a helping of Rare’s famous humour, with the old curmudgeon offering players hints. Cranky refers to the game as an “unnecessary sequel,” a “ridiculous quest” and a “ludicrous adventure,” while warning the player about “the limited fun you’re trying to get out of this shoddy product.”
Ghetto blaster-wielding Funky helps players travel between already-visited levels and areas via his barrel plane, which comes into its own when trying to find those last few DK coins and bonus stages.
Found at Kong Kollege, headmistress Wrinkly offers information on the game’s controls and items, although she’s most handy for allowing you to save your progress.
Game-show host Swanky’s Bonus Bonanza rewards players with extra lives for answering trivia questions about the game itself. However, with in-level bananas and extra life balloons plentiful, not to mention the fact that extra lives reset when the game is turned off, Swanky is the game’s least-useful Kong.
2 - Level design
DKC2 is simply a masterpiece of level design. Most of the stages, particularly during the first two-thirds of the game, are set out so the player can speed through them, with generally a single route to follow. However, it’s when you re-enter a level in order to seek out its secrets that the game’s genius makes itself apparent.
A problem with Donkey Kong Country was that its secrets did not seem designed to be found, with players having to randomly launch TNT barrels at walls in order to find a hidden cave, or jump blindly down pits in the hope that there may be an unseen barrel.
Clearly, the tedious trial and error required to discover these secrets deters the player from looking for them. This was remedied perfectly in DKC2, with stray bananas and subtle camera movements encouraging the player to head off the beaten track, with a reward such as a bonus stage or DK coin granted.
In some cases, a secret area is tantalisingly revealed just after it’s too late to reach it (especially in the brilliant rollercoaster stages), compelling players to re-enter the level and access it.
The game also cleverly plays on platform game conventions and the player’s expectations. For example, the left-to-right nature of 2D platform games means the player will immediately head right from the word go. And that’s the way DKC2 works 99% of the time, except for the single occasion that a pair of Zingers just out of shot to the player’s left at the beginning of a level lead to a DK coin. This all adds to the challenge and replay value of the game and makes discovery of its secrets difficult but not to the point of frustration.
From the moment that gorgeous title screen appears, with Diddy and Dixie opening a chest of the game’s treasures, DKC2 offers a gorgeous visual treat. The pre-rendered 3D images, courtesy of Silicon Graphics, are used once again after they helped make the original game such a success. However, everything seems more refined this time round, with beautiful pseudo-3D backgrounds and colourful sprites that aren’t as grainy as those in DKC.
4 - Controls
Something that isn’t always mentioned when the SNES’s greatness is discussed is how its finest games all have such brilliant controls. Super Mario World takes some beating in this respect, with the ultra-tight controls of Super Mario Kart not far behind. Smooth and sleek, DKC2’s controls - once mastered - make the player feel in complete command. And crucially, the game never feels unfair. If you leap into an enemy or misjudge a jump and fall down a pit, you know it’s your own mistake.
5 - Music
Great game music should fit the action perfectly, and on this score DKC2 delivers in spades. From jaunty pirate-ship sea shanties to the ominous hornet’s nest music, composer David Wise completely immerses the player in the adventure with some unforgettable tunes. ‘Stickerbush Symphony’, from Bramble Blast, is inspirational.
6 - Collectables
While the original DKC saw the introduction of the KONG letters and animal tokens to be collected, these merely offered extra lives and the opportunity to enter bonus stages for… more extra lives.
But with DKC2, Rare embarked upon an era of collectathon platformers that gained pace with DKC3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!, peaked with Banjo Kazooie and jumped the shark with Donkey Kong Country 64.
The trusty bananas return, of course, with a hundred gleaned giving players an extra life. Then there are the banana coins, scattered through the levels, which can be used to play bonus games, save progress, revisit areas and receive hints (see ‘Characters’).
Secret bonus stages reward players with Kremkoins, currency which can be used to pay tolls and gain access to the Lost World and its five tough-as-nails levels. However, without all 75 Kremkoins, players are unable to visit Krocodile Kore and face King K. Rool one final time, offering a substantial challenge beyond the main adventure.
With many of the bonus areas ingeniously hidden (one can even be found within another bonus stage), completionists can enjoy revisiting levels to claim the Kremkoins they missed. A handy exclamation mark after the level’s title on the map screen signifies that all have been discovered there.
Then there’s the magnificent DK coins – huge spinning golden discs of wonder that appear in tantalisingly difficult-to-reach areas and encourage the player to go off the beaten track in order to claim them. It’s amazing how satisfying grabbing these treasures is, particularly the one in Web Woods that appears for a split second in the end-of-level target. Get it wrong and you’ll have to negotiate the entire stage again for another shot.
Each stage contains a single DK coin and collecting all 40 puts Diddy atop Cranky’s Video Game Hero list above Mario, Zelda and Yoshi, ramming the old geezer’s taunts back down his throat and perfectly capping a wonderful game.
Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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