[The DKC 2 Title Screen!]

[The Hot Air Balloon Lava Stage!]

System: Super NES
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Designer: Rare
Release Date: December 1995
Genre: Action/Platformer
Players: 1 or 2
Save Feature? Yes

Whoa...if you thought that the first DKC game had it all, wait until you play the sequel! Whenever I play through the series, I can't help but have a great big smile on my face as I fire up Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. Everything about this game feels incredibly polished and Rare somewhat created an even more fulfilling gameplay experience than the original DKC smash hit. As a result, the second DKC game might very well be not only one of the finest 2-D platformers out there, but one of the greatest video games...period.

Overview: How do you go about creating a sequel to a game as groundbreaking and revolutionary as Donkey Kong Country? Well, Rare apparently had no reservations about such a daunting task because, within a year’s time, the second DKC game was hitting store shelves! And did it ever cap off an outstanding year for the Super Nintendo console! 1995 saw such timeless classics as Chrono Trigger, Mega Man X2, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, and even the fellow ACM graphics-enhanced fighting game Killer Instinct share the video game spotlight. And you can't forget that Final Fantasy III and of course the original Donkey Kong Country megahits came out near the tail end of 1994. My main point is that, despite rumors about a new “Ultra 64” Nintendo console (which would later be renamed the Nintendo 64) usurping control and putting the 16-bit era to bed, the Super Nintendo was still showing a lot of fight especially due to the glowing third-party support it received during this time. It is pure speculation but I do feel that the original DKC game, with its earth-shattering computer rendered graphics, at least made everyone in the gaming world take notice that 16-bit games could still impress despite newer technological breakthroughs. It was unavoidable that at some point, the Super NES would become a vintage relic like the NES but perhaps DKC kept this from happening at least for a couple of glorious years.

Back to the topic at hand, you can only imagine the excitement surrounding the release of DKC 2 during the final days of 1995. Granted, the hype was astoundingly thick in Nintendo circles (think of the Disney movies during that time...I must have seen previews for "The Lion King" 100 times before the movie even came out in theatres!) but then again, the same could be said of the original DKC game and that game actually lived up to the hype! And not to be lost in all of the excitement was that this was actually quite a big moment in the young history of the DKC series. DKC 2 was going to prove whether or not Donkey Kong Country was a one-hit wonder or if it had real staying power as a franchise.

Well, all it took to reach that conclusion was a whopping five minutes because, right from the very beginning, this game just reels you in with its outstanding gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and amazing musical score. The diversity of the stages and the remarkable length of the game (it is even larger than the original DKC game) leave no doubt and DKC 2 even has a few impressive additions of its own. While there are once again bonus stage barrels hidden throughout each stage (and for clarification, these barrels are now marked with a big "B"), there is now a real incentive to not only find all of them but to succeed in the bonus stages as well. While you could obtain bananas, extra lives, and golden tokens in the original game, you can snag special golden coins called Kremkoins in DKC 2! Only by skillfully defeating all of the enemies, collecting all of the stars, or simply searching for and finding the Kremkoin can you obtain these rare gems. Kremkoins are extremely important too because, only by collecting enough of them can you gain access to the Lost World! This elusive (and mysterious!) area is similar to the secret worlds found in Super Mario World and it contains some of the most difficult stages in the entire game. If you truly want to find everything in DKC 2, you’d better become an ace at bonus stages!

In addition to Kremkoins, DKC 2 also introduces the super rare "DK" coins and the lesser banana coins. The DK coins are large coins that are cleverly hidden in every stage of the game by Cranky Kong himself. In order to gain the old geezer's respect, you will have to snag as many of the slippery rascals as you possibly can. And believe me...some of the DK coins are incredibly hard-to-find so you will definitely need to put on your thinking cap to find them all. On the flip side, banana coins are quite common in the world of DKC 2 and can be found with relative ease. They are still very important though because they allow you to purchase secret tips from Cranky and Wrinkly Kong as well as paying to play Swanky Kong’s bonus bonanza trivia game! Heck, even warping around in Funky's plane or merely saving the game can cost you banana coins at times so you'll want to keep a healthy stash in your pocket at all times. The secret tips in particular are really handy in DKC 2 (especially for the more casual gamer) because some of the bonus stages/DK coins are pretty hard-to-find. If you are really struggling and just can't find everything in a particular stage, there is a good chance that ole Cranky Kong can help you out (the insults are even free). I do wish that the original DKC game would have had this option because some of the bonus stages in that game were insanely hard-to-find! Perhaps it wouldn’t have seemed so impossible to complete (i.e. get a 101% rating) with just a little additional help. At least the sequel got it right.

Even the core gameplay, while staying true to its roots, has a few nuances worth mentioning. With Donkey Kong out of the picture in DKC 2 (due to King K. Rool kidnapping him for ransom), Diddy Kong takes center stage in this game along with his stylin' girlfriend Dixie Kong. While the controls feel a lot like the original game in Diddy’s case, Dixie Kong adds a whole new element with her ability to twirl her hair in midair and slowly glide downward. The most significant addition, however, is probably the ability for one character to pick up and throw the other character! By pressing the A button, you can set up this move and throw the top character upwards (to snag normally out-of-reach items/barrels) or sideways (handy for taking out enemies). By mastering this technique, you can reach otherwise impossible platforms and bonuses so definitely practice it!

Lastly, you once again have the services of your awesome animal buddies in DKC 2! While Rambi and Enguarde are back from DKC, some of your new buddies like Squitter the Spider are a lot of fun to play with as well. I like how Squitter can spin webs over chasms and go pretty much anywhere if you know how to control him. Squawks plays a much larger role in this game versus the original DKC game too and he is a lot of fun with his flying (and attacking!) abilities. And while all of your animal friends have basic attacks like in the first DKC game, they also have special abilities like jumping really high (Razzly the Snake is awesome!) or charging up attacks (Rambi and Enguarde specialize in this.) Just hold down the A button to charge up said attacks/abilities and watch your animal friends dominate the competition! It is impossible not to smile when coming across your animal pals in DKC 2.

As you can see, there are a lot of new additions in DKC 2. However, rest assured that the gameplay itself is still very similar to the original DKC game which is a huge plus. DKC was already a masterpiece and DKC 2 took everything from DKC and built on it which is exactly what you hope for in any video game sequel. All I can say is that Rare really nailed this one.

[Ghostly Grove]
[One of the game's amazing honey-themed stages!]
[Your Seal friend!]

Graphics: Although the initial shock and wonder of the original DKC game’s graphics had worn off a little by the time the sequel rolled around, that takes absolutely nothing away from the gorgeous, luscious visuals that permeate DKC 2's core. Rare really outdid themselves this time because everything and I do mean everything just pops off the screen and is extremely pleasing to the eyes. Everything from the bubbly volcano levels to the honey-soaked beehives and thorny/vine stages look outstanding and might even be a hair better than the original game in terms of overall appearance. This game feels a bit more colorful than the original game which could be attributed to the stages themselves (less caves/mines/factory stages and more volcano/crystal/forest/sky/carnival-themed levels in DKC 2). Despite DKC having an impressive amount of diversity in terms of its worlds/stages, the second game just seems to take it to the next level. You find yourself getting really excited whenever you enter a new world or even a new level because there is so much diversity in DKC 2. And virtually every single stage in the game is memorable in some way.

And like with the original game, the animated graphics throughout the world of DKC2 are simply outstanding. Everyone from Diddy and Dixie Kong to the various Kremlings you face all have great personality and only these ACM computer-rendered graphics could give you such an effect back in 1995. I like the exchanges that occur when you press the select button to replace the head monkey with either Diddy or Dixie and the various Kremlings all look very amusing (and downright scary in the case of Klubba). Little animated effects such as fireworks in the background during the roller coaster rides or rain pouring down in the pirate ship stages enhance the mood and show just how much the developers cared about creating a truly great game. Rare did another fabulous job with DKC 2 and I honestly couldn't be happier. Well done!

Music: If you thought that the original DKC game had an amazing soundtrack, just wait until you get an earful of DKC 2! David Wise was brilliant with his DKC compositions but the second game in the series is where he really hit his stride. All of the music in DKC 2 reaches "legendary" status and there are literally no weak tracks in the entire game whatsoever. This is remarkable considering that the style is even different than the original game. There seems to be more of an emphasis on melody instead of the atmospheric, ethereal themes that were found in DKC. Atmospheric music is perfectly fine and all but when you combine it with more memorable, catchy melodies, you end up with something amazing.

Like with DKC, all of the music in DKC2 just feels right and nothing seems to be the least bit out of place. There is a perfect blend of music too ranging from generally "happy" themes to the more down and dirty intense/epic tracks. For example, the game starts out pretty light-hearted with the Pirate Panic and Mainbrace Mayhem melodies (the latter is one of the happiest, catchiest video game tracks out there) but then soon gets more hectic thanks to the Lockjaw's Locker theme. I like how this underwater tune conveys a real sense of urgency which is in direct contrast to the serene Aquatic Ambiance tune found in the original game. This demonstrates David Wise's versatility as a composer and is yet another reason to love this game's soundtrack.

It only gets better too because the level of the music just rises and rises and reaches a beautiful crescendo by game's end. Crocodile Cauldron (the second world) opens with one of the best fire/volcano themes I have ever heard in a video game. It somehow pulls off sounding fierce yet comes across as a real sentimental tune. The very next stage (a dazzling crystal-esque level) also features a sentimental-yet-catchy piece and even adds a humorous element (the very end of the tune sounds like a bunch of bees singing which is hilarious considering that there are bees in the actual stage...hmmmmmm...) Even the swampland stages feature very appropriate, calm tunes while the jungle stages in the Lost World have a unique, tribal feel to them along with a really catchy beat.

And any review of DKC 2 would be incomplete without touching on the immortal Bramble Blast track. This theme is probably my brother's all-time favorite DKC tune and is certainly a favorite of mine as well. It has such a beautiful melody, reeks of nostalgia, and is in perfect contrast to the fierce vine/thorns layout of that stage which actually works really well. Another favorite of mine is the Hornet Hive track with its epic, almost Battletoads-esque feel. And while I know that I have already gone overboard with my discussion of DKC 2's music, let me just say that even the roller coaster stages sound awesome with their superb bass and vibe while the ghostly woods/icy water levels contain some of the most beautiful music in the game. The ending/credits track is another exceptional piece and finishes the game on the perfect note.

Lastly, the sound effects in DKC 2 are equally impressive and really add to the game's atmosphere. I can still hear the creaking sound of King K. Rool's ship, boiling lava in Crocodile Cauldron, and the gentle chirping of crickets in Krem Quay. DKC did a great job in the area of music/SFX and the second game somehow improved on it! Wow!

Play Control: If you played the first DKC game, you have a very good idea of what to expect in DKC 2. The controls in DKC were already fantastic so why change anything, right? That is not to say that DKC 2 is a complete clone of the first game because there are a few new additions worth noting.

While the Diddy Kong controls are exactly the same as in DKC, Dixie Kong's ability to use her hair to attack enemies and execute her impressive helicopter ability complements Diddy's cartwheel jump perfectly. The animal friends that you acquire throughout the game are also very easy to use and have some truly nifty abilities too. I like how the A button can now be used to charge up various attacks like Rambi's super charge or Rattly's ultra-high jump and Squawks in particular controls just beautifully. Everything feels very fluid and honestly reminds me of Battletoads (another game that Rare developed) in some ways. I wonder if that team was involved in the DKC games. Hmmmmmm...

[The first boss of DKC 2]
[Bramble Blast]

Challenge: Like the music, I felt that DKC 2 improved nicely on the original DKC game...particularly in regards to its replay value. While the overall challenge level is probably in the Moderate range like DKC, finding all of the bonus stages, conquering all of the Lost World secret levels, and obtaining all of Cranky's DK Coins is where the real challenge can be found! And as I touched on earlier, unlike in DKC where finding everything was more for pride than anything else, there is truly an incentive for completing DKC 2. There are several stages and even a secret ending that can only be accessed by collecting all of the Kremkoins in the game. On top of that, snagging every last DK Coin is a challenging endeavor indeed. There is something about secrets in video games that appeals to my adventurer's spirit and is one particular aspect of the DKC series that I have always loved...despite my frustration when I can't find that one particular item. And unlike the original game with its nearly impossible-to-find bonus stages (due to literally blind jumps having to be made to find several of them along with the fact that zero hints were given), DKC 2 is at least fair in this regard. Yes, some of the bonus stages/DK Hero Coins are pretty tough to find but nothing falls under the "impossible" category. It is still immensely rewarding to find everything and it feels a lot less frustrating than it did in the original game. Plus you have an added incentive of discovering brand new, secret levels in addition to seeing the "True" ending which required no real motivation. This additional content is what I felt the original game lacked (I felt that DKC was a world or two short of being satisfactory in terms of its overall length.)

Storyline: You have to give Rare at least a little credit for balking at stereotypes and doing the unexpected at times. After all, how often does the freaking hero get kidnapped instead of the typical maiden/princess? Well, that is precisely what happens in DKC 2 as the unsuspecting Donkey Kong gets blindsided (literally!) by Kaptain K. Rool & Co. during one of his (DK's) laid back trips to the beach. Apparently, the Kremlings don't know the meaning of the words "give up" because, in exchange for Donkey Kong, King K. Rool still covets Donkey Kong's legendary banana hoard! Cranky Kong has no problem giving up the bananas since Donkey Kong was dumb enough to get kidnapped ("That would never have happened back in my day!" Cranky says) but Diddy Kong can't accept having to give up something that he and DK went to the ends of the earth (or at least the far reaches of Donkey Kong Isle) to get back from those nasty old Kremlings.

As a result, Diddy Kong bravely decides to go after DK with the aid of his girlfriend, Dixie Kong. What you get is essentially a bit of an underdog story as Diddy goes from being the secondary hero in DKC to top banana in this go-round (although Dixie might have something to say about that). While this story lacks a bit in the epic department, it is at least a decent effort and gives us a reason for visiting Crocodile Isle. It is kind of cool going from the jungle/caves/snow-themed Donkey Kong Isle to the more diverse Crocodile Isle that is home to the Kremlings. This game has a very different feel compared to the original game as a result.

[Cranky Kong]
[Diddy gettin' his groove on!]

Funfactor: At the end of the day, the second DKC game is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable video games that I have ever played and I mean that in every sense of the word! This game just has the right stuff and is just so immensely fun every single time that I fire it up. The gorgeous graphics, legendary music, smooth play control, and outstanding game design and overall atmosphere just add up to one of the finest 2-D platformers of all-time. All five DKC games are outstanding video games in their own right but the second SNES classic just might be the best of the bunch. Along with Chrono Trigger, DKC 2 is what made 1995 one of the greatest years in video game history!

Negatives: Honestly, I can't help but smile right now because DKC 2 did exactly what a sequel should do as it corrected both of the flaws that I found in the original game (unfair bonus stage locations and the game being slightly on the short side) and added in small improvements here and there that resulted in a complete video game. With that being said, you could say that the story, while at least above average, just wasn't epic enough to match a game like, say, Chrono Trigger or even Super Mario RPG. Being that this is a classic 2-D platformer versus legendary RPGs, you could say that this is an unfair comparison. But with a truly epic story, DKC 2 would have literally been the perfect video game...although it still feels perfect to me.

[The True Ending!]

Ratings: Graphics: 5.0* Music: 5.0* Play Control: 4.8 Challenge: 4.7 Storyline: 3.8 Funfactor: 5.0* Overall Score: 28.3 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!


Last Updated: July 6, 2015
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