Saturday, December 30, 2017

DKC2: Baboon Booty


Most people have forgotten all about amazing SNES games like Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. It's one of my favorite games of all time, yet hadn't played through the whole game since it was first released.
Introducing Dixie Kong. She proves invaluable with her helicopter spin, and is pretty much essential to reach some of the inaccessible areas. Always had a thing for blondes... A big fan of girl on top, too.

Really like how the last area of DKC becomes the first world of DKC2.  The game also keeps the same feel of the original, with all new worlds and music. Very few video game series can follow up such a truly enjoyable sequel on the heels an amazing game. DKC2 offers a slightly more challenging quest, especially for those determined to find everything.

First three worlds, three wrecked ships. One thing's for sure, those Kremling pirates can't hold their liquor.

Most of the levels in the original DKC were side-scrolling maps, a long strip left to right. DKC2 has a considerable number of maps that that are big open areas like mine shafts or beehives that are explored vertically and horizontally, essentially taking longer to thoroughly explore every area.

The levels themselves are maybe only slightly more difficult than DKC. But if all the Kremcoins weren't hard enough to obtain, it's the DK coins that offer the biggest challenge to find. Each one allegedly placed by Cranky Kong himself. (Though it seems like an awful lot of ambition for someone who likes to nap...)

It can be tricky to consistently locate those DK coins in every level. It simply takes more time to find all the hidden stuff... I think I logged twice as many gameplay hours than DKC before I found everything. And since the bonus areas reward you with Kremcoins instead of extra lives, it makes it a tad harder to stay alive.
Sometimes we catch a glimpse of the DK coin and have to figure out how to get it ... Other times, it's completely hidden from view, and requires a bit of an exploration quest. But then you start to catch on to how the game is making you think, and you start anticipating where it could be hidden, or what they're gonna make you do to obtain it. Truly puts you into the mindset of a video game hero.
DKC2 has always held a certain element of mystery. In addition to ghosts, pirates, and Lost World, the credit earned for game progress is kinda strange. I've earned the 102%, but never quite understood exactly how I got it...  Here's a breakdown of how points are calculated according to Kingizor of the DKC Atlas Forum:

The third world (Krem Quay) is when things really start to get interesting. The game challenges you to start thinking in different ways. Here, a mysterious banana arrow offers a clue. If you follow the spooky upper torso apparition Cloak back towards the direction you came from, he'll eventually toss out a treasure chest... Then he eerily floats down offscreen. The chest contains a cannonball to access the bonus level ahead. 

The DK Coin in Barrel Bayou (3-1) is unique because it's awarded for taking Rambi all the way to the "No Rambi" sign. With all the Zingers and blasting barrels, it's tough enough to do... Especially since it's hard not to hit the checkpoint save barrel halfway through, wich will cause you to start the level midway without your rhino buddy

Glimmer's Galleon (3-2)
The very next level, DK coin proved to be a bit of a challenge to find, but mostly due to the shitty lighting.
I remember exploring everywhere, only to suddenly, randomly, swim up and above the first bonus level. A secret trail to the DK coin. Don't think I would have found it this time round. Thankfully there's DKCAtlas.

Krockhead Klamber (3-3)
At the start of the level, going left instead of right will lead you to a bunch of Zinger bees, requiring Diddy and Dixie to perform precision jumps over Zingers... A treasure chest within three other chests contains the elusive DK coin... Trains you to keep in mind how the game is going to challenge you from now on.

Bramble Blast (3-6 )
Man, I remember how frustrating this level was... Considered by some to be one of the most difficult stages in the game, I managed to beat it on my second try this time round... Of course, I still had to go back and find the bonus areas. Can also see the DK Coin, but can't touch it... D'oh!.

A friend with web. Despite DKC2 being his first appearance, Squitter the Spider was always a welcome sight when you were lucky enough to find him in a stage. Not only can he fend off baddies with his webs, he can take you anywhere.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

DKC on Crank

I have a tradition that I return to every five years or so... I play through the original Super Mario Bros, a game I remember to be challenging as hell as a kid, still captivating as an adult. This time, after Super Mario Bros and the original Donkey Kong Classics, I decided to do a my first play through of Donkey Kong Country in 22 years. Just a couple things I'm curious about now... 

First, is just a minor oddity in the Trick Track Trek stage (5-2), where baddies fall from overhead platforms... There's a Klump character up there, and he never actually falls down. I don't believe it's possible to reach the platform, and there's no bonus or anything that I know of associated with it. Just seems kinda odd. Is he just there to distract you?

Next thing to ponder is during the end credits, old Cranky Kong claims that he finished the game in less than an hour, using only one life... I assumed someone had met this challenge by now....

With all the pitfalls and baddies, is it possible to get through it all without even dying once? Some have done it in less than an hour - But they've lost a few lives.

The best video I've found is this guy who does it in 31 minutes. Yikes!
Donkey Kong Country - SPEED RUN in 0:31:00 by tjp7154
(Just past the seven minute mark, and he's already conquered the second WORLD.)

He absolutely flies through each level as Diddy Kong, spending more time in the air than on the ground... I believe he only dies once, in Torchlight Trouble (falls into a hole in the pitch black cave).

Of course, simply defeating King K. Rool doesn't include getting all the bonus areas to earn 101%... Though some players have STILL managed find score 101% within an hour, which is a crazy feat by itself. Time spent on the map does not count towards your time, only time spent playing levels and bosses. Most players will save their games, quit & restart if they die, so wasted minutes won't count towards their total time.
I was like most players who hoped for a special message or something for completing the game with one life in an hour. Sadly, no such message exists. Best you get, is a nod from Cranky Kong after you score 101%, he says you're nearly as good as he used to be.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Going Ape for DKC

Playing through Donkey Kong Country has me pondering which can be considered the most difficult stage in the game...

Of course the simple answer is that different players will consider certain points to be more challenging than others...


As a kid, I hated Stop & Go Station (2-4). Breezed right through it as an adult.
Mine Cart Madness (5-5) also gave me a hard time, as did Trick Track Trek (5-2) and the similarly troublesome Tanked Up Trouble (6-1). I would have also had Blackout Basement (5-6) and Loopy Lights (6-4) on my original list.

Other players seem to have the hardest time with Snow Barrel Blast (4-1); Visibility in the snow storm totally sucks, and it does contain an easy to miss bonus area. Poison Pond (5-4) is another level that causes problems with murky waters, spinning razors and piranhas.

Personally, I was never a fan of Ice Age Alley (4-3), which includes the return of Manky Kong.

Twenty three years later, the cursed Trick Track Trek (5-2) is still on my list. Navigating precise jumps to avoid obstacles while on a moving platform isn't overly difficult, it just requires patience, timing, and a series of perfectly executed jumps.

Manky Kong also guards the access to a bonus barrel and animal token... But most players being relieved to see the exit sign of Trick Track Trek are happy to jump past him and get the hell out of there, likely to only stumble upon one of the best hidden areas if they're returning on a quest to find everything.

Elevator Antics (5-3) caused considerable cursing and swearing, falling into pits and getting killed by Zingers.
Elevator Antics also contains one of the best hidden bonus stages, quite possibly the final one I needed to find back in '94. Up and over a Zinger and off the screen to the right, is a long high ledge as you navigate your character to a door that's completely hidden off screen and above the map, reminiscent of the first warp whistle hidden in the fortress of Super Mario Bros 3.

Oil Drum Alley (5-1) gets a nod for the simple reason that it contains what is possibly the best hidden bonus room in the entire game. There are a number of shady practices at Kemrock Industries Inc. But concealing a bonus room within a bonus room is particularly devious...

The room can only be accessed by deliberately winning a single banana in the previous bonus game, and ignoring the better prizes. The banana turns into a barrel, which can be used to break open the wall to the right... If that's not tricky enough, the bonus game ends and you're returned to the level as soon as the wall is broken... The only way to enter is to jump through the wall while still carrying the barrel.
 There are fluorescent arrows that indicate an enter and exit, but we might just assume that it's just part of the background, simply indicating the exit of the room we're already in. The bonus within a bonus challenges you to spell "DONKEY KONG COUNTRY", where you can earn up to six lives.

Tanked Up Trouble (6-1). Another moving platform along a preset course, this time with a twist - The need to collect fuel barrels. The stage also has an "invisible" unmarked bonus barrel near the start of the level that can only be discovered by accidentally (or intentionally) jumping off the platform into nothingness.

Another stage many consider to be most difficult is Platform Perils (6-5), the game's final "regular" stage, which I certainly wouldn't label easy. A bottomless pit, with a series of small platforms, some of which are occupied by stronger breed of Krusha baddies that can only be killed with barrels. The level contains a considerably difficult to locate bonus stage at the end of the level, underneath the final walkway.

These stages round out my final list in no particular order, because we're splitting monkey hairs at this point.
*Oil Drum Alley (5-1) On the list because of the crafty bonus room hidden within a bonus room.
Trick Track Trek
(5-2) Considerably difficult, plus an easily missed bonus barrel at the end.
Elevator Antics (5-3): Troublesome enough, and has bonus room door hidden up above the screen.
Tanked Up Trouble (6-1). Difficult on its own, with an invisible bonus suspended in the void.
Platform Perils (6-5) Another tough level with an easily missed bonus area under the final walkway.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Kong & Country

Got back into the original Donkey Kong Country for the first time in 22 years...
Makes me feel old 'cause the first time I saw Donkey Kong, he was chuckin' barrels at me.

Nearly forgot how beautiful and amazing the original DKC was. Might have had almost as much fun as I did first time round...

I have no idea how the hell I managed to locate all the areas and get 101% before Internet walkthrus and videos.

I was gonna see if I could manage to complete the entire game without looking anything up. After all, I did it back in the day...

I was cruising right along and finding all of the bonus areas until stage 3-4: Vine Valley's "Orang-utan Gang". The level contains five bonus rooms, three of which are secret rooms that are broken open with the same barrel.
As a kid, I'd spend hours searching a level until I found everything. Don't have the patience for that anymore. If I get frustrated trying to find something, I'll just look it up. I've got shit to do. I'm actually kinda glad I got stuck, because it led me to stumble upon the coolest thing since sliced banana bread...

DKC Atlas
Animated maps with animated, bananas, barrels, and backgrounds... The Donkey Kong Trilogy maps with every single bonus level and banana, meticulously mapped out using the actual textures and sprites from the game. This Kicks Atlas!

Most often, a hidden bonus area is hinted at with a KONG letter or a trail of bananas in a seemingly unreachable area... As a hint that there's SOMETHING there. But the game contains several bonus stages that are completely hidden, and seem to be found by pure accident or by intrepid explorers obsessively scouring the level. 
The only real clue we had in 1994 was if a level's name had an exclamation point added to it (!), we knew we had found everything. Had noted that some level names had exclamation points, while others did not... Saw difference between a few game save files, reasoning it must be an indication that you'd found everything in a stage.

The final bonus area hidden off screen and under the walkway of the last stage, "Platform Perils". The total count appears to be 33 percentage points earned for completing the levels... Plus 67 hidden percentage points for the hidden bonus areas for 100%. Defeating King K. Rool also counts for 1%, for a total of 101%.

I always remember DKC2 being my favorite of the trilogy, though I hadn't played much DKC since the sequels were released. Hoping to eventually re-play DKC2 in its' entirety.

Released in 1994 for the SNES, Donkey Kong Country is a true a classic.