Platforming in the shape of a lovely coconut cream-pie

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (1995)

Look, I know perfectly well why we don’t see any cartoons based on video games anymore; because they’re nearly always terrible. I’d say some of the early 90s Mario cartoons were exceptions, but after that, what have you got? A Zelda that gave Link a voice, which wouldn’t have been a disaster if his voice wasn’t the type you overhear in McDonald’s that makes you start grinding your teeth in rage. A Kirby anime and an F-Zero anime that had about 50 quid an episode behind them, and if you were one of those freaks who preferred dubbed to subbed then you were out of luck.

A Street Fighter cartoon with some hilarious animation and drawing, although the famous M. Bison “Yes, yes!” scene was top-drawer. A Battletoads pilot that never got off the ground. Are any one of these unmissable yet? Perfectly memeable of course, but don’t you watch cartoons for the intricate plot and deep characterisation? What do you mean, you only watch it for the swimsuit episodes…?

Well, though I love to write off 90s game animation, I’m overlooking one of the big daddies. Of course, probably the most successful of all these game derivative works is the Pokémon anime, but even that’s a dead horse these days – you might as well watch nu-Simpsons, and I mean newer than Season 12 or 13 when it had already gone mouldy. But never mind that dumbo Ash and his insufferable Pikachu, there’s an even better work out there – the bizarre, almost creepy cartoon adaptation of Donkey Kong Country from the late 90s.

Some of its elements were later used in Donkey Kong 64, but I always felt this was closer to Donkey Kong Country 2 on the Super Nintendo in execution. It had Diddy, Dixie, and at times it was pretty goddamn hard to get through. Even as a kid I was bemused by the computer animation use. We still can’t animate faces all that well to this day, so you’d wanna see this late 90s attempt. You know when you rewatch The Phantom Menace or the Star Wars Special Editions and you marvel at how bad some of the CGI is? This is ten times worse.

Alright, it’s a bit mean of me to go back decades and mock the Frenchies for not doing the animation right here- but they ain’t getting off the hook that easily. Whatever about the animation medium they chose, they couldn’t help how primitive the technology was. What they could help, however, was not having  a bloody music number in each and every episode, sometimes multiple times in 20 minutes.

I was never going to like them anyway, I suppose, but the Donkey Kong Country series made me hate musicals, with the notable exception of the South Park movie of course. If you ever wanted to see Donkey Kong sing a bit of soul or talk about creampies with a  particularly unattractive version of Candy Kong, then be my guest and check the series out on YouTube. Not that I’m implying that there’s an attractive version of a video game monkey, of course… but you just tell me what they were at with Tiny Kong’s redesign.

Yes, it’s hard going alright, and when the derivative works are as insane as this then sometimes you just want to go back to the video game itself where things are nice and clear and you can understand what’s going on. Still, don’t expect Donkey Kong Country 2 to be any kind of game where you can relax and take a load off. It’s funny, because this game sold like hot cakes – Wikipedia tells me it’s the highest selling SNES game that wasn’t a pack-in title – but it seemed to pass me by back in the day, and we never had it.

Conversely, we loved the first Donkey Kong Country, which bloody well everybody had or they were a square, and that was  a tricky game too – unless you played it all the time, which me and millions of other kids did, such that even today I can get through the game almost with my eyes closed. And you have to close your eyes when Squawks tries to blind you in that one level, and restore your vision in time for Blackout Basement.

Well, Donkey Kong Country 2 almost expects you to have played the first DKC game beforehand because its difficulty starts off at near to the same level and only gets more tough from there. Actually, I’d have to say that the difficulty curve in this game is rather well-judged – from hard, to insanely hard to balls hard, I think that’s how the official scale goes.

The goal of the game is to rescue Donkey Kong, by the way, who’s been locked up by K. Rool and takes a few whacks off him every so often to destress. And when you think that Donkey Kong isn’t playable in the third game either, that’s actually a lot of time spent absent for the supposed star of the show.

This is also the first Donkey Kong game where you’ll start to collect stuff, particularly Bonus Coins, in order to unlock levels in the Secret World. These are some of the toughest levels around, so if you can get through these while still collecting everything, then well done, give yourself a pat on the back and you can avoid the DKC cartoon for life as a reward.

I’d say the game’s a bit difficult to get into, actually. That might be a strange claim for platformers, but I mean that the world and the setting are pretty drab and depressing – it’s the heavily polluted, industrialised King K. Rool island you’re assailing, and even the first world, a ship, is a bit bland. After that it’s volcanos, marshes and swamps… it’s probably just me being a silly moo but I do like a bit of brightness and colour in my platform games, something you want get out of DKC2 until later in the game when the jungle and ice levels come into it.

That’s only a teensy minor criticism though because honestly, Donkey Kong Country 2 is a phenomenal platforming game. A lot of people put it at the top of the DKC SNES trilogy podium, and with a lot of reflection I’d tend to agree, even if the first DKC game gets more play from me overall. Still, you can track it down on Virtual Consoles and Switch Onlines a plenty these days, so you have no excuse not to play it.

The question is, Diddy or Dixie? Dixie holds a barrel awkwardly with their hair, but her mid-air helicopter hair is a great move. But then, Diddy does some bomb freestyling at the end of every level… They complement each other pretty well, which you’d expect from them being boyfriend-girlfriend, which is some beginner Donkey Kong lore. I always wanted a girlfriend when I was a young lad, so for a time, I began to wear a red baseball cap like Diddy. That fact I just told you is embarrassing, cringey, bad to picture, worse to watch, and came completely out of nowhere – but it actually did happen. A lot like the Donkey Kong Country cartoon then.

19 April 2022

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