In 1994, Donkey Kong Country was released to much fanfare both critically and commercially selling millions of copies. No less than a year later did Rare create what I consider to be the best of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. It is the ultimate 2D experience from the fine folks at Rare, so hop inside a blaster barrel and get ready for the ride of your life!
K. Rool is back, and this time he's pulled rank! He's a Kaptain now-- Kaptain K. Rool to be exact! He's somehow, someway captured Donkey Kong, and has fled to Crocodile Isle. It's up to Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong to save the day, plunder the isle, and void it of all Kremling pests. The story is very small in this game. It's just the means to an end-- an excuse for all this running, rolling, jumping, and twirling the game throws at you.
Donkey Kong Country 2 is made up of 40+ levels and eight areas to explore. The locales you'll be visiting are much more varied in this installment. From windy mines to hot volcanoes to icy waters to sunken depths to shipwrecked vessels, Diddy's Kong Quest has a lot to offer the player. Each area map has multiple levels all concluding with a boss encounter. These are as simple as dodging the boss' attack patterns, tossing a barrel, egg, or shooting a nut at the boss' weak point, and rinse and repeat until it is defeated. The boss battles have a lot more variation to them than the original DKC, and it is certainly welcomed. Also on each area map are helpful Kongs to assist you along the way. Banana coins are newly introduced in Diddy's Kong Quest, and they're the currency of the game. They're spent on tips at Cranky's Monkey Museum, spent to give the ability to save at Wrinkly's Kong Kollege, and used to be a contestant on Swanky Kong's hit game show where answering questions correctly could earn you extra lives.
The level themselves constantly throw different objectives and obstacles at you. One you're racing up a tower while a pool of acid slowly rises underneath, another you're hopping off the heads of crocodiles where one false step could mean certain (fiery) doom. Each level is cleverly constructed and the difficulty level rises gradually instead of having spikes like in the previous installment.
The same general rules of Donkey Kong Country are in effect in Diddy's Kong Quest. You have two Kongs to work with, this time Diddy Kong stars alongside Dixie Kong, his girlfriend. Apparently they share the last name and are related. What is this-- the South? Anyway, Diddy Kong is fast and nimble while Dixie Kong is a little slower lugging around all that hair. Conveniently, her hair gives her the ability to perform a hair spin, giving her time to hover down to the ground and across long chasms. Dixie is invaluable in later levels or with levels with plenty of pits and gaps to cross. The two Kongs can now work together. One Kong can pick up the other and toss him or her at enemies or at a high, out-of-reach ledge. When one Kong takes damage, the other Kong enters the fray. If that Kong gets damaged, the player has to start from the beginning of the stage or at a halfway continue barrel located in the middle of a given level. By hitting a DK barrel, a missing Kong returns to battle, ready to go. These barrels are strewn about the various levels waiting for your Kongs to be rescued.
Animal buddies from the first game return. This time there's three that come back, a larger Squawks, Enguarde, and Rambi, and two new animal friends in Rattly the rattlesnake and Squitter the spider. Rattly can leap high in the air, bounce off the backs of bee baddies, and reach high up goodies that are out of reach for the Kongs on their own. Meanwhile, Squitter can shoot web shots out that can defeat enemies as well as ones that are able to be walked on. Shoot out several in quick succession, and you can reach higher areas otherwise inaccessible to the Kongs. This time around, there's special barrels that actually transform the Kongs into specific animals. Special signposts show up in levels to revert the Kongs back into their simian shapes.
In the Donkey Kong Country series, the main source of optional content comes from the various hidden bonus areas included in the game's levels. In the original Donkey Kong Country, all you had to do was reach the bonus area. In Diddy's Kong Quest, not only do you have to discover the location of a bonus area, of which there are 1-3 in each level, you have to complete a task inside the room such as finding a kremkoin token, collecting all the stars, and defeating all enemies. All of these tasks are timed with the reward of completing before time runs out being a kremkoin. Kremkoins are used at Klubba's Kiosk to reach the Lost World, a secret world where there's much more difficult levels to endure until one final showdown with Kaptain K. Rool himself. Additionally, there's secret hero coins shaped liked a circle and possessing the letters D and K inside them. They are new to the series. There's one per level, and when they're collected in a given level, stamp will appear next to the level's name on the overworld map.
Donkey Kong Country 2 is a good-looking game. The pre-rendered character models may come across as dated, but everything else is top-shelf quality. The backgrounds are busy (in a good way) with plenty to see and drool at. Everything runs rather smoothly, too, with little in the way of slowdown. On the soundtrack side of things, this game definitely has one of the best scores of the 16-bit era. It holds up remarkably well. I love how there's ambient noise like water sloshing or metal chains smacking into one another in addition to the music. It's a perfect fit completely, and it gives a unique sound and a great rhythm without sounding too synth-y.
Overall, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest may be a mouthful to say, but it's an honest to goodness joy to play. Collecting everything and going for 102% completion will last players anywhere from 3-10 hours depending on skill levels and first time players. The levels are some of the 16-bit era's best as is the magnificent soundtrack (track down the soundtrack, people). The absence of a playable Donkey Kong may be a low blow to some players, but for me, having Dixie Kong as a substitution was quite alright with me. If you're looking for a classic game from the Super Nintendo era, here it is. Go bananas!
[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]