Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

I don’t know about most people, but the first thing I notice about this game is its incredibly fun title. It’s hardly surprising, given that this came out during the height of Rare’s glory in 1995. DKC2: DKQ here is the sequel to the pretty big hit Donkey Kong Country that came out in 1994, so there’s not a lot of time between the two. However, most fans and critics agree that the sequel here (technically the middle of three) is the best game of the series, and one of the best games on the SNES.

In fact, I approached this game after watching a lengthy review/retrospective series regarding the entire series. This was done by the Geek Critique, which I believe I mentioned before. He argued that this is the best game in the entire series, and that it’s one of the best games period. Naturally I was curious about a game that I only vaguely remembered from my childhood that had garnered such fame and attention.

See, I was of the right age to remember all the fame and fervor that came with these games’ release. I even had the video tape that showcased Donkey Kong Country’s newly enhanced graphics and return to video games after being essentially a side character for several years. As an avid RPG fan, I wasn’t quite foaming at the mouth for it or anything (my equivalent would be Super Mario RPG, which yes, I played a lot and replayed in the past few months: it holds up), but I very much was interested and would get my hands on that first game.

Diddy’s Kong Quest here picks up after that first game. The Kong Krew has already gotten their bananas back, but now somebody’s stolen DK, so Diddy sets out to rescue him. Alongside him will be his girlfriend, Dixie.

Cranky here shows some of the game’s personality and humor

That’s pretty much it for story, though as that above image indicates, the game has fun not taking itself too seriously. At times it borders almost on Saturday morning cartoon humor, but I generally found it enjoyable. The characters I met might not have been the deepest in the world, but they felt fleshed out and fun, which is often all we need in characters, particularly for a game like this, that’s more focused on mechanics.

Diddy’s Kong Quest is, at its core, a mascot platformer. It involves controlling either Diddy or Dixie as they run and jump their way through a stage. B button jumps, Y button attacks, and that’s pretty much all you need. Bouncing on enemies hurts them, but so does using either characters’ attack, both of which have some forward momentum to them.

It’s one of those easy to learn, hard to master systems that a lot of these older games mastered (at least the ones we remember did/do). I found myself all but zipping through the first stage, bouncing along in this pirate ship and getting my feel for the characters and how they control.

My victory over the first stage, which just screams 90s’ as loudly as it can

There are one hit “deaths” here. One hit from anything and a Kong goes away. Lose both the Kongs, and you lose a life. They are fairly generous with the extra lives, particularly early on, but if you’re mediocre or flat out not good at platforming, you’re going to be chewing through them. They did introduce save points at various parts of the stage, which would be how an old school player would do it.

I, of course, played this on my Switch, so I did use and abuse the save state and rewind features a bit. I mostly played the game straight, using those additional features only when I was running dangerously low on lives. Dying sends you back to a checkpoint on a stage, and there’s something to the learning process there that many would argue is integral to figuring out how these old games work.

Here’s a snapshot of a balloon gimmick they used for a few stages; I was not a fan

They do mix up the formula at a few points, throwing in some twists and turns. There’s the above stage, where you ride a balloon and have to push it forward to get from vent to vent, avoiding enemies while you could. There was another that involved riding mine carts in a sort of race setup. Naturally there are also underwater stages, and there’s one or two where you fly.

As that above screenshot indicates, they do give you various animal buddies. These show up in some stages, and at times feel like an entire game could be built around them (that’s part of how you can supposedly test if a buddy’s good: if you could build an entire game around their mechanic, they’re good; thus sayeth the fanbase). These add some fun variety to the stages, and they’ve done a good job making it so that stages are sometimes based around your ability to utilize certain buddies and their abilities.

My personal favorite was Squitter the Spider here.

Everything about this game feels perfectly crafted. Those graphics were super advanced for the time, but unfortunately that means they look very out of date by today’s standards. That was something that happened with a lot of the burgeoning 3d graphics and look, particularly in the late nineties. It’s why I and several others prefer the ones that utilize sprites: they have a more timeless look and appeal to them for some reason. I’d argue that games like Final Fantasy 3/6, Earthbound, and Kirby look more impressive than what we see here.

Still, it’s clear that this is well crafted. I just went on about how the stages feel well designed, and the music is pretty darn good too. I found myself enjoying a few of the tunes, and they do a great job situating the player in the various stages and setting the mood. I haven’t mentioned it until now, but there are also bosses (this is pretty much standard for this sort of game). They, too, feel well designed and crafted.

After playing through this though, I can pretty well conclude that games like this are not really for me. If you want to play a mascot platformer, or just a platformer in general, than this is probably a great one to pick up. The characters have a lot of, well, character, the gameplay feels impressively polished (and game-feel matters a lot), and everything works together well. But it’s also one of those that focuses a lot more on the skill of the player and playing something that is most definitely a video game. I’ve always been more of a fan of those games with more engaging stories, and I prefer combat and mechanics that lean more toward tactical thinking than the stage memorization and mechanical mastery that go into this.

As you can sort of see from the super-secret find the coin special ending thing, I was not a master of this game: 9 out of 40 Koins for me

But, at the same time, if you told me this was one of your favorites and one of the best games made for the SNES, I’d probably agree with you. It’s been a while, but I do remember how platformers played on the system. I’ve also played more than my share of metroidvania games now, so I know how the whole moving and jumping thing works. Diddy’s Kong Quest feels right, and that’s a lot of what matters.

Again, it’s freely available on the SNES online library if you have a Switch Online Account. I’d say it’s worth checking out if you’re interested, but I wouldn’t praise it or insist as much as I would for, say, Kirby, Demon’s Crest, or Super Metroid, though it’s arguably as well made as any of those.

7 for me, as it’s not got what I’m looking for, but I’d say it’s a very well done game and is probably a more “objective” 9

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