I have a bad habit with Virtual Console games. So many times, I open the game up to find the save state halfway through or just beyond the end of the first level, usually because I’ve decided to test it out and never open it again. Donkey Kong Country 2 was definitely one of those games, though I even remember playing this opening level multiple times in the past. Finally, finally, I’ve finished the game!
Being a sequel to a game that I played to death as a kid, most of Diddy’s Kong Quest was familiar to me. It’s a platformer, and the difficulty ramps up (suddenly, I found) as you play. There’s a bunch of zones with a handful of levels, with each level having a different gimmick.
As far as level design goes, I’d say 90% of it is the smart sort of design I enjoy the most. The kind that shows you how things work in a semi-safe environment, then pushes your knowledge of the mechanic through the rest of the level.
That said, there were too many times where the game would kill me in what I consider a cheap death- subverting expectations with zero opportunity to adjust. This trial-and-error style of game design was how things were done in the ’90s, and thankfully we’ve come a long way since then. But playing DKC2 with a modern understanding of game design is, at times, absolutely frustrating.
This is probably one of the most well known parts of the Donkey Kong Country franchise on SNES- the art style is made of prerendered, 3D sprites and animations. The final product was stunning when it came out, showing just how much more powerful the SNES was to the NES- though we know better now.
Even over 20 years later, the effect looks great and holds up! The main drawback is resolution, but even with that in mind, it’s amazing how well this game looks, with each zone having a very distinct aesthetic while still fitting in with the overall art style.
I was debating if I was going to include this section, considering the story is pretty much “Donkey Kong has been kidnapped” and ends with you saving him.
But I’m going to use this section to talk about how much I enjoyed the fact that the level design felt like you were actually moving through the world. It’s so much more than just “this level is in the swamp, so it starts and ends in a swamp”. Each level has, I suppose, a direction you move. Some move through areas, some move upwards, and it all fits within this 3D space of each zone.
It’s hard to pick out the little things that add up to this feeling, but I can say that overall, if actually did feel like I moved up this island, to the top of the tower. The sense of scale and movement was subtle, and it’s really clever… once I picked up on it.
The majority of the music in this instalment, compared to the first, just didn’t stick with me, sadly. It all worked well to fit the mood and atmosphere of each level, but I can’t really hum any of the tunes in the game.
Except for one track: Stickerbush Symphony. While Aquatic Ambience is my favourite from the original, this track is the same level of mellow. If I had played this as a kid, this song would be stuck in my head all the time!
Overall, despite the frustrations, I did really enjoy this game. The challenges were fun to tackle, and the world of Donkey Kong Country is always a blast to visit.
If you’re a fan of challenging platformers, definitely play it! If you’re looking for a relaxing game to play, probably don’t get into Donkey Kong Country on SNES…
Is it worth the money? ($10.40 AUD – Wii U eShop)
Is it worth your time?