By Sarumarine 12 Comments
Ever since Tropical Freeze I've been in a Donkey Kong state of mind. I also dug an old CRT out of my closet and found a space on my desk for it. So I figured that was reason enough to break out some of my old consoles and hook them up for a time. Eventually this led to playing probably my all time favorite DKC game in the form of Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy's Kong Quest.
I'm one of those weirdoes who can go back to just about anything and play it just fine. The whole HD era hasn't done much to change my tolerance to the polygons of the N64 or the OG Playstation. Going back to the SNES was really easy, and damn do those old consoles fire up quickly. No home screen, no load bar, no connecting online or updates or patches. Just press power and go. It's refreshing how fast it is to play a game. It's a matter of trade offs and convenience, but when it all works it's really nice.
Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy's Kong Quest
Man, what a game. Donkey Kong Country 2 left a really solid impression when it came out, and going back to it has just about the same impact as before. The one thing I've realized only recently is the pun in the subtitle if you cram 'Kong' and 'Quest' together for conquest. Diddy's conquest. I would expect no less from the series that brought you alliterations and dumb wordplay like Fear Factory, Tree Top Town, and Very Gnawty's Lair. Not to mention stuff like Punch Bowl in Tropical Freeze.
I beat the game a little over two hours going as fast as I could. I've already played to 102% three or four times way back in the day, so this time I tried my hand at the speedrunning method. World record is like 40 minutes or so if you're curious so I'm a little off from that. At any rate, it gave me everything I needed to reaffirm by love for this game. Pirate Kremlings, Barrel Bayous, Flights of the Zingers, Krazy Kremland, and the dawn of the helicopter ponytail. Not to mention those bramble stages and that oh-so-good music. And man does this game get vicious when it comes to animal stages. I know why Squawks is no longer an animal buddy you can ride, because I murdered that stupid parrot super hard.
So Tight, So Solid
The controls in this game are so good. It's really easy to feel the difference coming off Tropical Freeze. And making a comparison like that only works in the sense of the series, as Retro Studios is a different studio from Rare and has a whole different take on the adventures of Donkey Kong and company. So obviously they handle different. But it's just so nice to have 100% confidence of bouncing off enemies without worrying if the game will give you the extra height. Holding down the Y button for running and zipping through stages feels natural. The total control necessary for navigating all the perils of Crocodile Isle, whether on the ground or flying through the air, are totally there.
Which is good because DKC2 is all about tricky jumps and perilous enemy placements on small platforms or strategically placed killer wasps waiting for you to run into them. I died maybe twenty times or more throughout my 2 hour run, most of them involving pits in bayou stages and crocodiles acting as platforms as they rise and descend out of water. There wasn't really a place I got stuck on, except for a few stages where I forgot that pressing the up and down buttons can control your speed of ascent and descent with Squawks the Parrot or air currents in a giant well. Even the bramble stages went pretty smoothly, which brings me to my next point...
The Bramble Scramble
Aw yeah, I know what you want.
Back when I was a kid the bramble stages were like the hardest thing ever because they were levels where the gimmick involved wrapping death around the player at every angle possible. Then they would spice things up with long strings of barrel cannons where one wrong button press would blast you into certain doom or maybe make you fly Squawks through obstacle courses consisting of angry hornets and dive bombing buzzards. Man, deaths were plentiful back then when it came to the stickerbush levels.
However, these stages always had the coolest, most relaxing music which worked well with the frustration of constantly bumping into the walls and ceilings of pain, especially when that dumb parrot was involved. I really love Stickerbush Symphony. It's probably my favorite song out of DKC2. But I'm still kind of amazed by the reputation it's built up over the years. I would not be surprised if people hated it on principle after crossing the uncanny valley of popularity. There have been a million remixes of this song both official and unofficial. So I feel it's important to mention the rest of the soundtrack ain't nothing to sneeze at either.
Mining Melancholy, Never Forget
I bought the DKC Trilogy album from the Nintendo store back in the day that had all three Donkey Kong Country soundtracks. And I have never forgotten about one of the worst omissions from a soundtrack I've seen in a long time. On the DKC2 CD they had forgotten to include Mining Melancholy that played for levels like Squawk's Shaft, Windy Well, and Kannon's Klaim. That was probably my second favorite song right behind Stickerbush Symphony and I couldn't believe someone had managed to mess up that badly. I had to reburn the whole CD just to put it back in there.
But the main point is that the soundtrack of DKC2 is pretty incredible so missing out on any of them is really noticeable. I could just fire off my favorites like Hot-Head Bop for the cauldron stages. Or Bayou Boogie when you get stuck in the swamp. In a Snow-Bound Land only appears in two stages, but it's still pretty great. Another one of my favorites, which I feel doesn't get quite enough love, is Disco Train for the rollercoaster rides in Krazy Kremland. Even the tracks for the Kong's helping you out had some great themes. Stuff like Funky the Main Monkey, or Swanky's Swing for the quiz games. I also really enjoyed the final boss theme when you go head to head with K. Rool called Crocodile Cacophony. His blunderbuss has some mean tricks.
And of course, I have to give a special spot for Mining Melancholy. Love that theme for the mine.
Second is the Best
The first Donkey Kong Country is a good game, but I really like the direction they took for the sequel. The pirate theme works well enough if only to have an excuse to give the Kremlings cool hats and cutlasses. I also love the various worlds and appreciate how they generally tried to avoid hitting the usual destinations like desert world, ice world, fire world, etc. Some stages had elements of these, but they were usually spread out and incorporated other themes so it at least had some variety. Donkey Kong Country 2 is the only game I know that has a Beehive Rollercoaster World where you go from raiding bee farms to an amusement park and back.
But yeah, definitely happy to play that again.