Released on: November 20, 1995
Available Platforms: Super Nintendo, Gameboy Advance, Wii, Wii U, New 3DS, Nintendo Switch
Price: Free (with Nintendo Switch Online subscription)
That lull in retro reviews must be catching up with me, as it’s time to go back down memory lane. It’s been about a year and a half since young Sergie got his hands on Donkey Kong Country. At this point, he’s played through the game countless times because he loved it so much. One evening, while having dinner with his mom and watching cartoons, a rogue commercial appeared for a sequel to Donkey Kong Country. Young Sergie couldn’t believe his eyes. A new DKC game? He had to play
it! He turns to his mother and asks her to rent Donkey Kong Country 2.
One evening, while waiting with bated breath, young Sergie hears his mom coming home from her trip to the city. She puts her bags down, digs through her purse, and summons the Blockbuster tape case with the words “Donkey Kong Country 2” on it. That made young Sergie’s weekend. Since then, I remember renting DKC2 (Donkey Kong Country 2) numerous times when I was younger. Nowadays, all classic DKC games are available to play via the Nintendo Switch Online’s Super Nintendo app (free with a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online.) Since I’ve recently talked about DKC, I figured now would be as good of a time as any to review its sequel. Is Diddy’s Kong Quest a quest worth taking?
One day, Diddy wakes up to find out that something isn’t right. This time, the bananas are fine (thank goodness.) There is one problem, though… Donkey Kong is nowhere to be found! Diddy notices a letter left behind by the sinister Captain K. Rool. With the help of his friend Dixie Kong, Diddy sets out to save Donkey Kong and defeat the vile K. Rool once again.
By now, it should come as no surprise that games of this era don’t usually have that much depth in their story (usually because of a lack of memory.) Unless the game centers around the plot (like Final Fantasy, or any RPGs for that matter), it’s forgivable. DKC2 very much fits into the category of “simple is best,” as it manages the plot efficiently, and it never intrudes on gameplay.
DKC was an impressive-looking game. Using 3D models as sprites to render the characters and the world was a herculean feat to accomplish. Yet somehow, the folks over at Rare managed to make DKC2 look jaw-dropping. Even by today’s standards, the game looks gorgeous. The environments have so much detail crammed into them
that it feels like a treat when the player enters a never-before-seen area.
Speaking of unbelievable improvements, the music in DKC2 is terrific. I always have an internal debate over which DKC had the better music, and I always tend to fall back on DKC2. I can never forget the tracks for stages like Bramble Scramble, the Haunted Woods, the Spooky Rollercoaster, and the pirate ship levels. As I’m writing this, the entire soundtrack pops up in my head, and every song in it seems to fit perfectly with DKC2.
The gameplay in DKC2 is very much similar to its predecessor. The significant difference is Dixie Kong. Instead of having one Kong be big and powerful, but slow and a smaller but faster Kong, DKC2 has one that is faster and makes technical jumps easier (Diddy), while the other is slower but can slow her fall (Dixie). If the player hits the A button (or its
equivalent), they will have the partner Kong hop on the shoulders of the one the player is controlling. This allows the player to throw the Kong to gather hard-to-reach items or reach greater heights by throwing them upwards.
DKC2 employs the tried-and-true mantra of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ for its gameplay. While Dixie is a new addition and offers significant gameplay differences compared to DKC, the goal is still to get to the end of the level. This design philosophy makes DKC2 very easy to pick up and play.
One thing DKC2 did improve on is its bonus stages. DKC’s bonus stages had one purpose: to give the player extra lives. In DKC2, if the player finds the Bonus Barrel and completes the associated bonus stage, they will receive a K.Rool coin, which the player can use to unlock the secret, more challenging levels of DKC2. While I didn’t mind DKC’s linear stages, DKC2 offers a nice reward for those who love finding secrets and bonus stages.
DKC2 also introduces old and new animal friends. Unlike DKC, where the animal pals were entirely optional, DKC2 has sections and even levels where the animal is required. Sometimes they are optional, but the further the player gets, the less optional some of these animals become. One stage, for example, has the player jump into a barrel to transform into Rattles the snake. Rattles can jump very high and jump on normally invincible and dangerous enemies. The only drawback is that he can only move forward while jumping. Another example I can think of is the boss that has the player transform into a parrot that shoots nuts out of its beak to kill a giant Zinger (wasp-like enemy).
One tradition DKC2 carries from its predecessor is the difficulty of some of the later levels. While I don’t think the difficulty spike is as sharp in DKC2 as in DKC, it is still very noticeable, especially in the last two worlds. The game introduces stages that have the player escape an ever-rising platform that will crush the player if they find
themselves underneath a roof. Another difficult stage is one of the last ones, where the player has to race a vulture to the end of a bramble maze. Winning the race is required to complete the stage, and the labyrinth is tricky for first-timers.
While entirely optional, the player can test their mettle in the Dark World. These stages unlock by giving Clubba fifteen K.Rool coins per stage. These stages, however, are challenging. These are inarguably the most demanding stages in DKC2. Those brave enough to challenge the Dark World stages will need to bring their “A game.”
Donkey Kong Country 2 is a prime example of a sequel done right. It keeps the core concepts from Donkey Kong Country while introducing new elements that help the game feel fresh. Fans of the original Donkey Kong Country and fans of platformers should give Donkey Kong Country 2 a chance. Those who have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription have access to the game for free.