torstai 19. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong-Quest (1995)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1995
Available on: GBA, SNES, Virtual Console
Developer(s): Rare
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1-2

Previously known from a series of just moderately successful NES games, arcade titles and Battletoads above everything else, Rare became a megapower in video game development following the release of Donkey Kong Country in 1994. Without any hesitation or rest, work on a bigger, badder and better sequel began. Even though the series’ title character was near completely ousted from the fray, Diddy’s Kong-Quest did amazingly well in the media and eventually became the sixth best-selling SNES game of all time, falling just four ranks behind from its predecessor. It is truly a remarkable sequel with astounding visuals that clean the previous game’s ultimately plain look right off the table. Diddy’s Kong-Quest is far more than just your everyday platformer.

Now it’s officially the little rascal’s show

Just when Donkey Kong Jr. thought he and his banana hoard would be allowed to be in peace, he is kidnapped by K. Rool, now Kaptain instead of King, and his Kremling pirates, who are willing to trade their captive for the hoard. Diddy, always in Junior’s shadow, embarks on a quest to save his mate instead of just giving in to the Kremlings’ demands, and prove himself to be a true video game hero in the footsteps of Cranky and Junior. Since the Kong family doesn’t believe in his talent to become one of the family’s great legends all by himself, he is forcefully accompanied by his girlfriend Dixie.

What can I say? Come on, what can I say? The game looks AMAZING! They fixed everything that was wrong with the previous game’s look, from the layering to the plain, lame level design and background work. All of the characters, including the enemies, have a unique look, and there are much more different ones to begin with. The maps look awesome, the complex level design is fully supported by the graphics engine and the animation’s simply wicked. It’s a thrilling game from all aspects, and the look has plenty to do with that since there are so many unique, memorable stages. David Wise worked on the music alone this time, as Beanland was busy with his pet project, and damn, does he have some good tunes to offer. Some of his stuff in this game is literally breathtaking. Some heavily remixed themes from the previous game, including the K. Rool theme, and loads of new stuff. Me like, me love!

Fun times in Krazy Kremland...
One might easily think not a lot’s changed, Diddy’s Kong-Quest came so quickly after the first game. Think again. It feels like there was tons of stuff they wanted to fool around with when they made the first game, but wouldn’t dare. Here it didn’t matter to them – they knew that what they were doing was good. And it truly is. Diddy’s Kong-Quest breaks some boundaries. There indeed is some “quest” added to the game (don’t you go thinking of Simon’s Quest), and the level design, as I mentioned, is off the charts. OK, there are some damn ice stages – but only two or three of them – and underwater stages, we’ve seen both since the first Super Mario Bros. game. It seems you simply can’t have many platformers without them. But, there are twists; even literally, since a fair deal of the stages are maze-like instead of linear, horizontally scrolling standard levels. For example, in one underwater stage called Lava Lagoon – you can probably figure out a part of where this is going – you’ll have to take advantage of one of your new animal buddies, who I will return to shortly, in order to temporarily cool the lava so that you can swim through it. The new improved designs aren’t limited to stages that are already unique in themselves. You can get a lot out of a stage’s nature and theme just by reading its name before entering. In Windy Well, you’ll travel up a huge well by literally riding the wind, and in Castle Crush, you’ll have to make your way up the tower of a medieval castle, all the while the walls are closing in to squeeze the life out of your poor little monkeys. This game has tons of surprises in store. All of them will certainly NOT make you happy, but that’s why it’s called a game – and the controls are absolutely great, extremely fluid, so don’t worry about frustration on that front and get ready to slap yourself in the face a few times before lashing out your anger on the controller.

You’ll still be in control of two characters. If you’re playing with a friend, you have the option to either co-operate or play against each other in the VS Game. This time teamwork means oh, so much more. The most important new addition to gameplay is a feature commonly known and roughly spoken of as “team throw”. You still switch characters by pressing Select, but at the press of the A button, the lead character hoists the partner to his/her shoulders, and you can then look for a vertical or horizontal point to aim ‘em at. This enables Diddy and Dixie to reach spots or objects they normally wouldn’t; if you throw your partner at an enemy, (s)he’s usually done for and not available for (ab)use until you find the classic DK barrel. Of course, this ability is mostly used to find bonus stages – so don’t worry, the game cannot conclude in an unwinnable state in case you happen to lose your partner due to a bad throw. This time, both of the characters are of the same tiny size, so one fact that might disturb some potential players is that there are many enemies neither character is able to attack physically – meaning jumping on their heads or executing a roll attack. The game is very generous and smart with the convenient placement of barrels, though. In addition to using her luscious hair against enemies in her own version of the roll attack, Dixie can use it to fly for a short time... which in other words means that once again the secondary protagonist overshadows the title character for most of the game’s progress. However, there are many instances in which you need both characters to fully ace a stage. Even the smallest amount of progress in most stages after the first region – which happens to be the pirate ship on which we fought our last big battle, Gangplank Galleon – needs a lot of planning ahead. Oh, you think you lost lives for pride and glory in the first game? Big welcome to Crocodile Isle, mate!

Damn, that's some strong hairspray!
I think this is a brilliant time to go over the relatively many collectables in this game besides the usual bananas and Kong letters. Banana Tokens are found everywhere, there are a few scattered across every stage and they’re used to pay the Kong family for their various services – I’ll return to them as well. Take note that each time you quit the game and reload it, the token counter goes back to zero. All those extra lives you worked hard to collect are gone, as well. It’s a bit of a drag, I know. Kremkoins are a bit harder to find. They look quite a bit like Banana Tokens, but have an ugly Kremling face carved on them instead of the delicious-looking bunch of bananas. These are found exclusively in the bonus stages, and there are 75 of them in the game, one in each bonus stage, which are in fact bonus challenges. You have to beat each bonus stage and collect the Kremkoin in given time to declare the bonus stage done. Just finding them won’t add up to the completion percent, either. In these bonus stages, you aren’t allowed to get hit by an enemy even once and falling down a chasm spells out failure as well. Don’t worry, you can try again as many times as you want.

So what to do with these Kremkoins? Well, in five of the eight regions in the game, you will find a toll bridge known as Klubba’s Kiosk. Klubba is a large turncoat Kremling, who offers passage to one out of five parts of the Lost World in each of the five regions for 15 Kremkoins. The Lost World is a hidden region filled with ultrahard stages, just like Star World in Super Mario World. Don’t bother saving up your Kremkoins, this is the only place in the game you can use them in. To check 100 (+2) % completion in the game, you’ll have to conquer the Lost World, and the very final boss cooped up in there. FUN. INDEED. ...Oh, we have more? Oh yeah, the DK Coins, which are formally known as Video Game Hero Coins. There is one of them in each regular stage, plus the very final boss stage, which makes up for a total of 40 of them. These are also needed for completely conquering the game, and most of them require a lot of searching beyond the box, usually at the cost of your life. So, if you’re aiming to be a perfectionist in this already extremely difficult game, don’t you kiss your mother with that mouth of yours for a short while after possibly acing it.

Two members of the Kong family make their return: Cranky and Funky, and they’re accompanied by newcomers Wrinkly and Swanky. Cranky basically reprises his role from the previous game; he provides advice on how to find the current region’s bonus stages and banters like hell about how great it was when games were so damn good they didn’t need sequels. Uh... the original Donkey Kong HAD a sequel! Well, anyway. Funky’s still in charge of Funky’s Flights, which works in the exact way it did in the previous game, only this time there’s the price of two Banana Tokens to consider for each flight. Cranky’s wife Wrinkly replaces Candy as the proprietor of the save point, but she also provides gameplay advice and methods to take out bosses. The suave bastard Swanky is the host of a game show called Swanky’s Bonus Bonanza, in which he asks random, relatively simple questions related to the game which you must answer correctly to win lots of extra lives per show.

Diddy resting up. He should, since he's in for
some serious shit in the Lost World.
Three animal buddies also return from the last adventure. Squawks the parrot makes himself much more useful this time. He can fly (well, duh) and shoot nuts at enemies. There are actually two versions of him as you can see when you get far enough in the game – a purple Squawks works as a transporter in spelunking stages (yup, a lá Battletoads). Rambi the rhino and Enguarde the swordfish both operate the exact same way, but they can now use a charge attack. You can’t just run (or swim) into a wall and expose a passage to a hidden room anymore, you need to charge at it. Of course the charge attack can be used as an efficient way to dispose of enemies, too. The third animal buddy using a charge attack is Rattly the snake, whose special talent is to jump even higher than Winky in the first game. His charge attack is an EVEN higher jump. Clapper the seal and Glimmer the glowfish are stoic buddies who’ll provide some additional assistance in certain kinds of stages only. Clapper has the talent to spit out gallons of ice cold water, which is used to cool down lava and freeze regular water, and Glimmer uses his glow to light up dark waters – he works the same way as Squawks in the first game. Last, yet definitely not least: Squitter the spider. Squitter’s absolutely awesome. Not only can he use a web shot to dispose of enemies, he can also weave web platforms on thin air, on the go. This time, the heroes don’t just ride the enemies, they can also morph into them, which practically means that there are some stages which are almost completely based on each animal buddy, for example Web Woods and Rambi Rumble, and most notably, which some call the most difficult stage in the game – probably just because it’s the very last one before the boss battle in the Lost World – Animal Antics. Unlike in the first game, you can’t just free a buddy and ride it ‘til the end of the stage, there is always a “No [insert animal here]” sign that marks the moment your accomplice’s gotta go. If you can hold on to your buddy ‘til the sign turns up, there’s always some sort of reward for your efforts. Kind of cooler than the simple Rambi massacre in the first game, I think.

He's back!
Since we got to who’s in the game and who isn’t, let’s just say one more time that the enemy design is awesome, and that Zinger the wasp is the only regular enemy character that makes a return in his original form. The enemies are very unique in nature, like Lockjaw the piranha and Puftup the blowfish, and even their attack patterns change a bit over the course of the game. And the bosses? Yeah, them too. The boss fights in this game beat the first one’s, like, one hundred to nil. They’re innovative, long, and in one of them, you control Squawks instead of the Kongs, due to the fact that the boss flies higher than the Kongs could ever reach, and because he has one single weak spot, a very, very small one – not only is a weapon needed, but also a character that can stay close to the boss all the time. You’re gonna bite your head off with the bosses, I guarantee it... but remember, it’s all for the greater good. Like I said, it’s a great game.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong-Quest is ARGUABLY (I can’t emphasize the word enough) the hardest of all three Donkey Kong Country titles. Several stages from the Crocodile Cauldron region forward will have you screaming in terror, anxiety AND anger. If you can somehow muster up your strength and talent to hack through the game, you still have the ridiculously difficult Lost World region on your hands if you feel the need to go for the 102%. Klobber Karnage is one of the most difficult stages in any game ever, period. This game, as a whole, is NOT EASY. Dealing with some of the most annoying features in level design, such as barrels with timers, nearly demand a child’s patience. As I’m writing this, one hour and 20 minutes have passed since I aced Lost World for the first time in my life, and I’ve been playing the game since it was released. I’m fucking exhausted, that’s what I am! Exhausted, and very, very tired, but still so happy I’ll gladly move on to the challenges of Donkey Kong Country 3.

Despite the fact the game borders on impossible, it’s fun as hell as long as you can take the pain. Even if you can’t, you’ll still find yourself returning to it, because of its look and fluid controls, and the fact that you’re simply possessed by it and the thought of finding every secret held within. Diddy’s Kong-Quest is a magical platformer. Donkey Kong Country was amazing when it came out, but it has little on this one.

Graphics : 9.6
Sound : 9.5
Playability : 9.2
Challenge : 9.5
Overall : 9.3


a.k.a. Diddy’s Kong-Quest, Super Donkey Kong 2 (JAP)

GameRankings: 81.20% (GBA), 92.24% (SNES), 80.00% (Virtual Console)

The game bluntly promotes Rare and Nintendo’s critically acclaimed, also ACM based arcade fighting game Killer Instinct, which was ported to the SNES three months prior to Diddy’s Kong-Quest’s release. A portrait of Chief Thunder can be seen on the back wall of the Monkey Museum, Cranky mentions the game by its name a few times, and the game itself is seen advertised on an arcade marquee on the Krazy Kremland map – the banner says “KI HERE”.

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