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RELEASE DATE (NA): November 20, 1995 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Save the Banana Ho-- er, I mean, save Donkey Kong!

What do you do when your new video game is an instant success, eventually going on to sell over nine million copies worldwide? You celebrate by guzzling down cases of expensive champagne and chomping down on cement mixers filled to the brim with imported caviar. (Only eat the caviar, not the cement mixers. That will leave a bad flavour in your mouth.) But after that, a developer must immediately ponder endlessly about a sequel. But how exactly do you top a ground-breaking title and improve upon it enough to render it as more than a simple copy job for the sake of extra money and glory? Well, this is more than just the same old Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong slapped in new jungle locales. This is a real sequel, containing enough old and new material to garner it the glory it desires. And this is how it ought to be done.

This game holds a special place for me, only because it was the first Super Nintendo game I ever owned (and for a brief period, the ONLY one). However, I will not be blinded by mere nostalgia; instead, I must look at the game from an evolutionary standpoint, and it does feel as though there was indeed an evolution. It appears that instead of stealing the beloved Banana Hoard like last time, Kaptain K. Rool and his Kremling, cronies... have kidnapped Donkey Kong and will only exchange him for the Banana Hoard! Now who will Mario slap around in a cage by the construction site? Kirby? That idea sucks. Anyway, the beginning of the game is a direct continuation of the original Donkey Kong Country, taking place on perhaps the same ship (Gangplank Galleon) that K. Rool was inhabiting at the end of DKC. Somehow, it managed to crash on Crocodile Isle, the former Hoard-snatching K. Rool's semi-secret hideout location. You'll have to survive the perils of the wrecked ship, and then move slowly up the mountainous island for the final showdown with your nemesis. Of course, you'll have to get through numerous themed areas for some reason, including the steaming lava pits of Crocodile Cauldron, the spooky forests of Gloomy Gulch, and the sensory amusement of Krazy Kremland. And that's not including the hidden "Lost World" that can only be accessed if you have enough Kremkoins (earned from bonus levels, instead of lives like the last game) to pay off the bridge-guarding Klubba. Yes, that's right: there is new currency to collect in this game. A welcome addition, and a more motivational reason to find all those Bonus Barrels and hidden entrances to bonus levels.

There are a number of swift new moves in addition to the limited arsenal of grooves that Diddy Kong is bringing to the party from the first Donkey Kong Country game. Alongside Diddy's typical cartwheeling and physics-defying pit jumping trick, Dixie is equipped with a unique floating technique: she can float by using her enormous blonde ponytails to serve as makeshift helicopter wings. I don't think I need to tell you how painful that probably is, but I'm guessing that it's like hanging a lamp from your earlobe. Painful indeed. There is also the ability for either Kong to hang from hooks in the air and also do some serious climbing on longer rope sequences; this doesn't sound like a big deal, but believe me, it adds some major climbability to the game engine. But perhaps the new move of greatest importance is the toss-up. The current player (either Diddy or Dixie) can pick up the other character and toss them straight upwards or forwards, allowing them to access platforms, hooks, or items that would be otherwise out of normal reach. It's a bit difficult to get the hang of at first, but eventually you should be able to handle it like a pro!

The Kong family remains a staple of the overworld screen, although their functions have changed (and one member seems to have been given the boot). Funky Kong still serves as the main marijuana monkey, although he covers his tracks well with a barrelplane business to take you to areas of the game that you have already visited. Old coot Cranky Kong has somehow come across enough funds to open a shoddy but sturdy museum, where he continues to share his words of wisdom. Newcomer Swanky Kong, complete with blue tweed jacket and a set of teeth straight out of Hollywood, runs his own Bonus Bonanza game, where you can answer trivia questions and win extra lives as prizes! Finally, we have Candy Ko-- oh wait, no. I'm sorry. The sexiest cast member has been booted out for some reason (perhaps she broke up with Donkey Kong and he inherited her booth from DKC). Do not fret, folks -- she has been replaced with an equally sexy Kong! ...Okay, it's really just Cranky's wife, Wrinkly Kong, who runs the Kong College. She is old now, it's true... but is "Wrinkly" the name she was given as an infant, or just a nickname? Either way, that's very cruel. Wrinkly can dispense advice about how to play the game, and you can save your game there too. Unfortunately, all of these aforementioned services are no longer free; Diddy and Dixie must collect Banana Coins to pay for these services! Have the Kongs no shame?

The roster of animal buddies has also undergone a shift in the second round of the series! Included is a healthy mix of some old friends and some intriguing new ones. For whatever hair-brained reason, Rare decided to drop Expresso the ostrich and Winky the frog from the ranks; I guess they were either massively unpopular characters, or parents complained after their kids misused the name "Winky" in vain. Anyway... Rambi the rhino and Enguarde the swordfish continue their legacy, while Squawks the parrot is upgraded from flashlight holder to a weapon in motion. He can now fly and fire eggs from his mouth (how they are produced so quickly is a mystery -- it must be hellish on his esophagus). But we can also welcome several newcomers! A springy rattlesnake named Rattly and a web-slingin' (both as a projectile and as a platform for climbing to greater heights) spider with shoes named Squitter rounds out the new cast of directly manipulated animals. There is also Glimmer the anglerfish that can light your way in dark waters, and Clapper, a seal who can cool down really hot water and turn already cool water to ice for easy crossing. It's an expanded cast, but one that I'm sure most of us could probably warm up to (or cool down to in Clapper's case). But the fun doesn't stop there: this game introduces transformation barrels that allow Diddy and Dixie to BECOME certain animals! No longer must animals be weighed down by plump monkeys! Now they are free to roam on their own. This allows more freedom, yes, although it detracts from our main protagonists. I don't recall this game ever becoming Rambi Country... yet. And thankfully, they removed the possibility of collecting golden animal statues. Those were such a nuisance.

The graphics are perhaps even more vibrant this time around, and Rare has spared no expense on keeping us entertained. The game designers clearly decided to have a bit more fun this time around and include more comical imagery throughout. Examples include Diddy Kong "rapping" or Dixie Kong cranking out a riff after hitting the target at the end of the level from a decent height, or the giant Kremlings in the background of the Kremland map screen, or even the poorly-calculated math featured on the blackboard of the Kong College. The music, I feel, is also a step forward. There is a much greater range of orchestration this time around, and the new overall pirate-based theme of the game has allowed for a more sea-worthy yet still upbeat soundtrack. Fear not, ambience fans, for there is still something for you as well. In addition, the sound effects continue to follow the typical high standard set by its predecessor. The fact that everything sounds great in stereo is undoubtedly an added bonus for us all. And there is certainly additional polish found in the game, including the addition of a secret second ending, only available by finding ALL of the bonus level Kremkoins and battling a revived Kaptain K. Rool. There is also a hidden music test and cheat mode, both of which are easy to access, provided you know how. You can get to both of them by [ CENSORED BY RARE ].

Fans of the first Donkey Kong Country game will love this, because it's filled with the same level of challenge but builds upon the old engine with new obstacles and moves to complement the magic of the first game. And even those who have never picked up a DKC game before will surely find something to enjoy in this fine package. Rare created another hit with Donkey Kong Country 2, and with sales of almost 5 million copies, we should be in agreement that this sequel was done the right way. And this was later followed up by a second sequel... but something was odd about that one... Anyway, my advice is to knab DKC2 in whatever form you can, via the SNES, the Game Boy Advance, or on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console system. Whatever it takes... catch the monkey madness!

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