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CONSOLE: Game Boy Advance DEVELOPER: Rare PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 15, 2004 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Put on your sunglasses! We're going ape hunting!

The remake of Donkey Kong Country for the Game Boy Advance sold over one million copies in the United States. That is a lot of extra golden bananas for Nintendo to swallow. Naturally, they decided to port the entire trilogy of Donkey Kong Country games to the Game Boy Advance. Donkey Kong Country 2 came a year after the original, and gives gamers who are unfamiliar with the complete trilogy a solid glimpse at just what was cooking for the prime primate back in 1995.

If you are wondering about specific details regarding the original DKC2 for the SNES, you might be inclined to closely examine my review of Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. This port drops the subtitle but maintains all the action and thrills of old times. You can see a slightly expanded version of the storyline on-screen via a bare basic introductory sequence on the beach plays out prior to your game. Watch as Donkey Kong gets apenapped by Kaptain K. Rool and his Kremling crew as their giant ship hovers overhead. It's now up to Diddy Kong and his lovable girlfriend, Dixie Kong, to hop over to Crocodile Isle and save his hairy hide! ...Did anyone ever notice that Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong are boyfriend and girlfriend, but they also have the same surname? It's a quandary, I tells ya!

The graphics were what the Donkey Kong Country series were hyped for, and DKC2 was no exception. The game looked great back in 1995, boasting crisp, sleekly-modeled animation and lush environments. With the superior hardware of the Game Boy Advance, we should be able to expect a similar, if not superior, experience. However, just like the first GBA conversation, developer Rare had to make a few sacrifices for the smaller screen. Lighting effects have been removed and everything has been brightened extensively to compensate for the lack of a backlight in regular GBA units (although by this time, the Game Boy Advance SP unit had been released, which included a handy backlight). The little details of the SNES version remain, even if they are washed out. Plus there are a few new character models for this particular version, available more in the mini-games than in the actual game (although all the world map screens bear few similarities to their source counterparts). Other parts have received a makeover, such as Cranky Kong's locale (which is now a hut instead of a museum). Wrinkly Kong's college seems to have remained intact though, so you'll still see incorrect math on the blackboard.

On a similar vein, sound quality is pretty much retained, as is the full DKC2 soundtrack. Granted, the music had to be altered to make use of the limited abilities of the sound hardware, but it's there and it's as decent as it was in its original form. Rare also had the guts to put in some extra sound effects here and there, including a strange scream when you jump on a wandering Kremling that sounds somewhat like Beastly from "Care Bears". I'm a bit stunned by that, to be honest. Diddy and Dixie also have voices (used more when they are hurt), which seem to be pulled more from Donkey Kong 64 than anything else. The controls have also been altered a bit to accommodate the loss of two buttons; the R-button now serves as the method for picking up the other character. That's pretty much the main difference that I've noticed. Beyond that, the game responds well to my finger commands, yes!

Rare has not abandoned the idea of extra features either, even though they were quite superfluous last time. First is another time attack mode, "Diddy's Dash", which has you try and scoot through the levels and try to beat a record time. There's no time to loaf about and enjoy the scenery -- you just need to get moving! Secondly, there are a number of mini-games that may pique your interest. "Funky's Flights" is repeated from the first game, and forces you to fly through hoops in the air, just like in many other games, including Spyro: Year of the Dragon and Superman 64. There's "Bag A Bug", which pits you as Diddy Kong who must collect as many flying red bugs as he can before the timer stops. Hopefully, he can scoop up more bugs than the weapon-wielding Klubba, who is out for a stroll in search of tasty airborne vittles! Finally, there's "Expresso Racing", a game that can be enjoyed by up to four players, and is basically an ostrich race starring the formerly deceased Expresso from the original DKC. You can play it from the mini-games menu, or in Cranky's Hut, provided you supply him with enough collected golden feathers to encourage a scrawny Expresso to try and race. Yeah, it's all pretty unexhilarating in textual form, is it not? The scrapbook idea from DKC has re-emerged as well, so start nabbing those little camera icons again and get cool photos of...things...

If you never had the opportunity to experience Donkey Kong Country 2 on the SNES, it's worth either picking up this version, as it is essentially the same with a few cosmetic changes, or better yet, just flip on your Wii and download it via the Virtual Console. This port of DKC2 is pretty good, although the extra features are far from necessary and are merely there as additional incentive to pick up the game if a consumer is not already convinced. DKC2 was my favourite game of the trilogy on the SNES, and so this, too, is the best GBA game of the revamped trilogy. Check it out if you can!


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