Review by Retro
"Diddy captures the heart of Dixie and loses a friend in the process"
The film industry has become notorious over the years for making movie sequels that hardly ever live up to the original. Predator was an instant action movie classic in the late 80's, and it deserved a superb sequel. What did it get? A boring, terrible piece of crap follow-up that doesn't even deserve the title, Predator 2. Other great movies, such as Batman, had an impressive sequel or two, but movie makers just wouldn't leave the series alone and let it remain in good standing. Instead, they decided to straddle the series out past its limit, eventually resulting in one of the worst movies of all time, Batman & Robin.
Fortunately, the video game industry isn't the same. More than often, sequels are even better than the originals, and series that are dragged out to their limit sometimes remain to be very good. Just look at Super Mario Bros. 3. At the time, it seemed unlikely that any game in the near future would surpass the popularity of Super Mario Bros., the game that pretty much saved the video game business from becoming nothing more than just a fading memory. Super Mario Bros. 3 became the biggest selling video game of all time, and even to this day, it's still one that millions of gamers would proudly call a ''favorite of all time''. Hey! As far as that goes, Super Mario 64 isn't too bad of a sequel either, is it? Several more great sequels stand out immediately when trying to think of a list of sequels that were even better than the originals, such as Mega Man 2 and Super Metroid.
You can add Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest to that list as well. Donkey Kong, the overpowering ape that busted K. Rool's scene in the first outing has now been kidnapped by the overgrown gator (I've heard of rescuing ''damsels in distress'' before, but what do you call rescuing a male in distress??). Realizing that you don't know what you've got until it's gone, the cartwheeling young whippersnapper, Diddy Kong, and his girlfriend, Dixie Kong, team up to rescue their missing comrade. Dixie can literally spin her head in circles extremely fast, causing her to glide through the air disobeying the law of gravity to an extent as she ever so slowly descends down to the ground (GIRL POWER!). However, she's much slower than Diddy, and she can't jump as high. To even stand the tiniest bit of a chance of reaching K. Rool's hideout, the unlikely duo must utilize their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses.
The members of the Kong Krew are all back once again with the exception of the eye-pleasing Candy Kong. Cranky, the original Donkey Kong who was usurped by Mario a couple of decades ago is back this time to offer rants that are likely to make you chuckle, such as, ''I bet this here Killer Instinct game is rubbish too!'', or helpful hints like ''Finishing Web Woods is cause for celebration. By all means go over the top.'' Funky is still funky and gives you a way of transporting back in time to worlds you've already conquered. The new faces include a rich gorilla named Swanky who will offer you a chance to obtain extra lives in exchange for some dough. Wrinkly Kong is the oldest, but also the nicest ape you'll ever run across. She saves your game for you and, like Cranky, she'll give you some nice pointers on various things. The best things in life are free, but when you need certain things such as high class hints, you must find a few banana tokens and pay a Kong for their wisdom or services.
Animals are still monkeys' best friends. It hurts Rambi the rhino when a snapping alligator bites his ass, but he's the strongest of all the animals and he comes packed with a charging horn attack that can destroy almost anything and break holes in walls, making hidden bonus levels hidden no more. My favorite from the original, Enguarde the swordfish, enjoyed taking part in the first adventure, so he couldn't resist being included in a second quest. His sharp nose can still poke any deep sea nemesis off the screen, and his stabbing charge-up attack is so powerful it can break open boxes that have thousands of pounds of water beating down on them.
Squawks was a boring, multicolored parrot that was only there to shed a little light for you in dark places in the original, but he's actually cool now! You can use him to fly at various speeds and altitudes while you shoot huge nuts at any enemy that gets too close for comfort. Rattly is a dopey-looking rattlesnake with killer hang time, and Squitter is the best animal buddy of all. This stylish arachnid can shoot webs to destroy enemies, but even better, he can spit dense webs that look like thick loogies and then make them spread out, forming a web that he can jump and walk on for a few seconds as a stable platform.
With all the new characters, Donkey Kong Country 2 seems to already have a more than solid foundation for providing an even better gaming experience than the charming original. There is still enough jumping from enemy head to enemy head to satisfy even the most spoilt fans of Mario platformers and enough bananas to feed a jungle of gorillas that stretches across more than 1000 square acres. There's an old saying that goes: Different doesn't always spell disaster. And it's true. In the case of Donkey Kong Country 2, it spells excellence.
The worlds are much bigger, even better designed, and they offer much tougher challenges. In the world of Gangplank Galleon, you'll do a lot of venturing across pirate ships as Kremlings come and go like the wind. When the sky's clouds become so full of water that it rains, you must make Diddy and Dixie climb from rope to rope and jump from mast to mast as fast as you can, since a body of water is quickly rising from the bottom of the screen to the top. They don't mind swimming one bit, but when a giant piranha is swimming back and forth at the surface just waiting for a live monkey platter, they don't have an urge to get their feet wet.
Several 2-D platformers include at least a few stages that are composed of a volcano or lava theme, and that's good, because they're almost always some of the most memorable environments in the respected game. Donkey Kong Country 2 is in with the majority. Crocodile Cauldron's levels will always have you sweating like a hog with its flowing lava and intense gameplay. One of the things you must do to avoid the boiling beds of lava is use stationary crocodile heads that either just serve as a platform for you to stomp all over as if it were dirt (if they're green) or as life savers that open their mouths, hurling you forward through the air (the brown ones). One level, Red Hot Ride, especially stands out like a towering snow-capped mountain in the middle of a smothering sandy desert. You must ride floating hot air balloons across a lake of lava while you go from one vertical steam jet to the next in order to keep from sinking into the hot as hell liquid.
Krem Quay's swampy land seems to have more of a variety of enemies than any other place. Cats o' nine tails that resemble porcupines spin around mindlessly until they get so dizzy they fall down and see stars. What looks to be a peaceful barrel lying on the ground that you can pick up and throw, holds a monster inside that is waiting for you to get within a certain distance before it will scream and run toward you wanting to play bumper barrel with your hairy body (his version of bumper carts). Headless phantoms are always waiting in the distance to throw bees or other nice surprises your way. Oh yeah, and since this is a swampy area, not only will lily pads and life-sized blades of grass serve as a way across the murky waters, but you'll come across more dragonflies than you see lightning bugs (or fireflies, whichever name you prefer) during the summer nights in the southeastern regions of the United States.
As varied as the enemies are in Krem Quay, Krazy Kremland is just as varied in its types of levels. Most of it is made up of beehives. Diddy and Dixie have to forget about their fears, even if they're allergic to bees, and explore the insides of these hives. Needless to say, there are seemingly hundreds of the stinging variety of insects to avoid, and tons of sticky honey that you can eat as a snack and use to make your way up vertical walls as if you're Spider-Man! This world also has such challenges as riding roller coasters with no speed limit to obey, taking it to the skies in Bramble Scramble as you shoot yourself from barrel to barrel, to barrel to barrel (should I keep going?) and much more.
Gloomy Gulch is literally haunted. Bring along your best timing as you use several appearing and disappearing ghosts as a way to make it across a foggy, bottomless pit. Go for a ride on a roller coaster as a transparent spirit chases you, hoping that the timer will run out so he can kill you by simply touching you with his frighteningly cold hands. As gloomy as the Kongs' future may seem with all the danger in these stages, this isn't the end of their quest. There are more levels, including one more complete world after these scary gulches.
Does it sound like Donkey Kong Country 2 has a lot to offer in its gameplay? Ha! It does, but keep this in mind. I've only scratched the surface on the kinds of levels. You'll see many more kinds that I didn't mention at all, such as mines full of flashing diamonds in which you must subside to Mother Nature by allowing the wind to blow you where you need to go, or the swimming stages.
The legions of bonus stages actually have a purpose to them this go-around. Instead of just increasing your percentage of secrets found, you'll get a Kremcoin upon completing each one. These are used to pay the big musclebound creature named Klubba to access the 'lost world'. Each world has one of these stages, and they are more difficult than most of the other levels in the game. Bouncing off of tire after tire as they roll and tumble over spiky lands in Jungle Jinx is always fun, yet tough. But that's nothing. Just wait until you play the very last Klubba's Kiosk stage, Animal Antics. In it, you'll be using every single one of your usable animal friends to make it to the end of the hardest stage in the game.
It's not as if the replay value would ever run out of Donkey Kong Country 2 with just the assets that I've already focused on. But, just to keep its stock higher than the tallest of redwoods, Rare decided to give the game even more unique characteristics. Rather than only being able to switch between the two heroes, you can now make one hop onto the other's shoulders and literally throw them up (not the puking kind of throw up, you nasty reader, you), making a way for you to reach higher ground than you could possibly reach by yourself. A target lying on the ground represents the end of each and every level. Fall onto this target with enough force and you can obtain an item such as an extra life or a measly banana. Finally, Cranky has hidden a large, golden 'hero coin' in each stage. Find as many of these as you can, not just for fun or the percentage points, but to garner Cranky's not so easily earned respect. And of course, like the original, you can play by yourself in a one-player game, as a team with a friend, or against a friend in two-player mode.
Donkey Kong Country 2 is, in almost every way, better than the phenomenally selling original. Even the graphics are better, and that's saying a lot! From the SNES controller lying on the ground in Cranky's Kabin, to the 3-D lifelike maps, to the awesome design of the stages, the visuals never grow ugly. Hornet Hole and the other beehive stages are my favorites, graphically. Their backgrounds are just plain spectacular. Right behind you, you see a few honeycombs, many of which have a resting bee inside that is looking side to side and blinking as if puzzled. Seemingly on the camera are waves of honey that are slowly slipping down just like a sticky substance would. In the far background lies even more honeycomb that looks so real it almost makes you grab at the TV to get a bite. The characters are extraordinarily detailed and animated as well. You can see the bulging biceps and dimples on the arms of muscular creatures; the beetles crawl on all six legs in short, quick steps like a real bug would, and when turned over on their back, their legs move around in frantic fashion as if to say, ''Help! Help! I'll suffocate if I can't walk!''
Donkey Kong Country 2 sounds almost as great as it looks and plays. You'll hear some basic ''bonk'' sounds when you defeat many of the enemies, such as mice or beetles, but even more of them make an impressive shrieking sound when they know the end has come. Pair that up with nice sound effects for explosions, when you collect a DK coin, etc., and you have a game with respectable sounds.
Arctic Abyss is accompanied by a soft rock-sounding tune with a slow, yet comforting beat. Many of the tracks will repeat themselves during your quest. For instance, in an early mine level, you'll hear music with a 'beat' that sounds like sledgehammers or other items you'd use in a mine hitting rocks or metal, along with a haunting hum that'll play every few seconds. Then, much later in the game, you'll have to pass another mining stage with the same background and music. But there's nothing wrong with this, because most of the tracks are excellent. There will be many that you'll want to hear again without having to backtrack to lands you've already conquered. Isn't that a sign of a great soundtrack?
Controlling Diddy, Dixie, and the animals is as easy as learning to ride a bike, with one exception. Making Diddy perform his cartwheel and making Dixie twirl around on the ground to take out an oncoming adversary often results in the loss of a life. Even with years of practice, it's a bit difficult to judge precisely how far that cartwheel will take Diddy or at what point Dixie's head spin will stop.
Donkey Kong Country 2's size, expanded gameplay characteristics, and tougher challenges are what makes it one of the best platformers for the SNES, and of all time as far as that goes. It is SO much bigger than Donkey Kong Country with way more things to do and to collect, to say the least. With that being said, there are even more things about the game that stand out. The bosses are some of my favorites of any game I've ever played. While the two bird bosses that drop eggs and then fly toward you seem a bit clichéd, the others, such as Kleever the slicing sword, the strong creature that resides in the swamp, and the final boss are always extremely fun and exciting to go up against.
Remember how Donkey Kong Country seemed to be full of charisma to no end? Donkey Kong Country 2 has that going for it too, to a degree. Cranky still provides laugh after laugh; Clapper the seal cools down water that is so hot it could make a dish of fried monkey in a matter of seconds, making it swimmable, and then he claps with his fins. Why does the Kong Kollege have 9 ÷ 3 = 6 and 8 X 1 = 9 written on the chalkboard? It's not because monkeys are dumb; it's to add to the charming aspect of the game. But as charismatic as certain parts and things seem, it's way more serious than Donkey Kong Country, with more intense action and faster gameplay.
So what is Donkey Kong Country 2? It's the best game of the series by a long shot, improving on the original in every way except for its controls and music. Platformers are my favorite kind of video game, and I'd put Donkey Kong Country 2 right up there with the very best of them. I would also mention it as one of the best sequels the video game industry has ever seen. If you're one of the unfortunate individuals that doesn't have this Damn Klassic Cartridge in your collection already, stop what you're doing and get it right away. Don't wait until tomorrow.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/13/01, Updated 04/04/03
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