Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES, 30 hours)

Do you remember back in the days of GameCube and PS2 when every game series had to be a trilogy? Metroid Prime was a trilogy. Prince of Persia was a trilogy. Splinter Cell was a trilogy. The GTA games starting with 3 were a trilogy. I bring this up because the Donkey Kong Country series was a trilogy long before that era of gaming. In this second game in the Donkey Kong Country series, Rare Studios tries to squeeze more creativity out of their staff members, but if I’m being perfectly honest, they didn’t do as good a job this time. The original game’s jungle levels, Aztec levels, underwater levels and mine-cart levels all stand out in my memory.  But after I played the sequel on and off for several months, no one level really stood out in my mind. Perhaps the worst thing about Donkey Kong Country 2 is that it’s just too hard. If it weren’t for save states, I may have never finished.

Yes, no doubt about it, DKC2 is hard. By the time I was in the last quarter of the game, I was pretty much save stating before each and every enemy encounter. There are bees that can’t be killed, porcupines that can be hit only from the front, and spinning enemies you can collide with only when they’re facing the right direction. Navigating levels can be nightmarish.  I recognize that sometimes, an increased difficulty level in the second game in a series can be a good thing. If you enjoy the challenge of, say, the Mega Man X series, there could be something great about DKC2 for you. But in my mind, the problem with this game is fuzzy collision detection. Because this game uses polygons rendered on (back then) high-end CG workstations that were converted to 2D, it’s not always clear where an enemy’s hit-box starts and ends. This is especially problematic with the bee enemies.

Again, the first game had pretty distinct levels, but this time around, the levels are less memorable. There are ice stages, swamp stages, castle stages, lava stages, pirate ship stages, and stages in which you fly around as a bird. The mine-carts make a return from the first game. There are quite a lot of levels… thirty-nine in the main game, not counting bonus stages. I found the boss battles to be enjoyable and not overly difficult. Having played Donkey Kong Land 2 before this (and having reviewed it), I discovered a lot of similarities between the two games. One isn’t an outright port of the other, but the levels, boss fights, and animal friends are all either similar or the same. You’re definitely getting a bigger package on the SNES though.

The graphics are on par with the original Donkey Kong Country. Of course, the original game was revolutionary in terms of getting maximum potential out of limited hardware, but the sequel is just more of the same. It’s a bit funny, because a modern Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 can run rings around what these games were doing on the high-end workstations of the era, but alas, technological progress marches on. Something that is worth talking about is the music. It’s really good. I had the pleasure of listening to the OCRemix soundtrack to DKC2, titled Serious Monkey Business, maybe a year or so before playing this game. It was nice to return to these memorable tracks on the SNES sound chip. DKC2 has no slowdown or game-breaking bugs, which is commendable, since we don’t always see that in more modern titles.

And that’s Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest in a nutshell. There are only so many words to describe reloading the same save state and facing the same enemy or jumping over the same pit of doom just to finally get it right and move on to the next challenge. It took me months to finish this game, but if you have a rewind feature in your emulator, I’d guess it would take only a few days. The Game Boy game Donkey Kong Land 2 has a lot in common with this one, but they complement each other nicely instead of being straight up clones of one another. Though I can’t speak expertly on the third game in this trilogy, I think the first DKC is more polished and less frustrating. But if you want an extra challenge out of a 2D platformer, DKC2 might be for you.

3/5

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