There is something magical about adding pirates to a setting, as any instalment I have come across doing this, stands on its own in a wonderful way. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire are some of my favourite titles ever and this shift in tone is a huge reason to why, as it lends itself easily to give developers creative freedom! So, what happens when you mix Donkey Kong Country with terrors of the seas? Simple; we get one of the best games ever made!
Kaptain K.Rool has stepped down from being King and finally captured Donkey Kong, demanding the gorilla family’s banana hoard for his life. Diddy does not comply with this and alongside Dixie, sets out to save his uncle. This time, you will venture through Crocodile Island and take on new challenges that do reminisce of the previous entry, but in a completely fresh manner. Playing as the duo, you can alter between them by the press of a button, with one hit from anything dangerous meaning one Kong will disappear and a second one after that resulting in losing a life. Despite that Dixie can float in midair, Diddy is faster and the requirement for quick actions is just as valid as his girlfriend’s ability, giving both characters strengths without either being overpowered.
Additionally, they both can take out foes by hopping on their heads or use a melee attack that can be combined with their leaps to create a long jump, with you also being able to carry and throw each other to reach hidden goodies. The last move is not as agile as the other ones, but is well integrated for the exploration. Donkey Kong Country 2 is just as hard as its predecessor, so you are going to have to look around for the icons K, O, N, and G, collect 100 bananas or find balloons for gaining extra lives. This difficulty comes from how this sequel improves upon the original by making the adventure more about general obstacle courses than mainly timed platforming.
Reflexes will be tested and you still need a keen eye for noticing secrets around, which are both still enthralling aspects. However, this game relishes in the amount of concepts it has, with not a single one being a downer. Minecarts are back where you will have to hop accordingly, but also take on races for example! Swimming through water is yet again one key feature with hazards to avoid, but you will have to cool down the water on some occasions or even turn it into ice in order to skate on it! There is a ton of imaginative setups in the levels that demands you to react quickly and use the kongs capabilities thoroughly. Even merely climbing vines can be exciting due to the outstanding enemy placement following this mindset.
Speaking of, the fiends are not only fantastically put around as obstacles or platform units, but are incredibly diverse too. Familiar ones are back like patroling kremlings and flying buzzers, but also pirates hiding in TNT who charge at you or phantoms throwing boxes! This variety adds to make things hectic, as there are multiple patterns to remember combined with layouts that will require you to do unique actions like bouncing on crocodiles’ mouths.
Furthermore, animal companions return and you will either ride them for the chance to jump back on them again if you lose one after getting hit or turn into them with the number of kongs you had representing their health. Old faces will be present like Rambi for ramming down anyone in front of him, but you also have newcomers such as Squitter for making web to land on and taking down foes with. All of these buddies offer multiple ways to play by changing up your abilities in smart ways, while keeping to this entry’s core ideas. Even the tense flying sections where you control the parrot Squaks are enhanced through neat gimmicks that throw you off, such as harsh wind and hallways of thorns!
Other power-ups could be relegated to the different forms of barrels to throw when the duo is on foot, with them being TNT for causing explosions, normal ones for rolling damage, and those marked “DK” for spawning either Diddy or Dixie. There are also those for blasting you in multiple directions that will test your timing and the ones used as checkpoints, but the amount of types to toss is still great. Even the ones taking you to the bonus stages contain tons of unique setups, be it platforming challenges, collecting all of the stars, killing opponents or even mini-games. All are diverse and never stray away from the core mechanics, such as hurling boxes at hopping enemies! I also love how creative even entering these can be, like bringing a cannonball to a cannon!
I could go on with how you will use honey inside a hive for wall jumping or air balloons to navigate over hot lava, but to cut it short: the variety in Donkey Kong Country 2 is phenomenal and I am amazed by how many ideas were implemented, while still keeping the focus on its defined genre! Even the boss battles are exhilarating by testing your ability to dodge and react on the spot, with their patterns changing gradually as you fight them with more elements to take into consideration! Some also incorporate platforming, like the one against a giant sword where you must use hooks to avoid its swings!
Even how the overworld is structured is admirable. You can find Cranky Kong for some intriguing hints, which you can similarly get at the Kollege where you can also save your progress at! However, the latter part is only free once and after that, you need to either visit another such establishment or pay for it with banana koins that can be found throughout the stages! This is a really neat setup as you are forced to explore the levels and be careful, with lives clearly mattering! If you are low on retries, Swanky Kong can be met for answering trivia questions in order to gain more and they are legitimately fun to take on! Lastly, we have Funky Kong who can take you to other destinations for a fee should you want to revisit them.
There are even more minor details here that I wish I could elaborate upon, like how the end of each stage has a bonus target that provides randomised rewards and can be acquired by leaping on it from a high altitude. What I want to say through all of my praises though, is that this is a fantastic platformer that brings tons of creative and brilliant concepts, making it hard to put down. It is always challenging, brimming with imaginative ideas around every corner, beautifully structured, and continually entertaining. There is nothing I can fault this instalment on.
Gameplay Score: 10/10
Yarr, I heart this isle!
Donkey Kong Country 2 continues to mesmerise me in its visuals. Utilizing the predecessor’s pseudo-3D graphic technique, this sequel has even more to it through spectacular locations, all with a pirate tone. This could have easily been used as a shallow gimmick, but this SNES title goes all out with it. Starting on a boat, you go from attacking everyone on deck to climbing up the masts, before entering a volcano filled with more deadly creatures to take down, leading you to travel in a dark swamp where beasts are lurking, and then enter an amusement park with skulls on rollercoasters. Every zone is diverse and uses its key motive to give everything a distinct feel, which also works with the theme of this project due to the tons of treasures to find!
Not to mention, all the enemies fit with the different environment, with rats, peg-legged kremlings, ghosts, piranhas, and tons of other ones providing to make each area feel alive and unique. Even the parallax backgrounds are more varied thanks to weather effects changing depending on where you are or containing fun details like fireworks while winning races. Furthermore, it is quite imaginative with its setting, to the point that some levels are inside a hive or even up in the air as you are dodging thorns! It really is a magical adventure that truly uses its ideas superbly.
Onwards, this entry is brimming with huge amounts of colours, making each area shine wonderfully with believable adversaries within. This also goes for the maps as they are magnificent with subtle elements showcasing what kind of stage you will be tackling, with all of them being pieces of art that I would love to have on my wall. I also adore the smooth animations of every creature, with Diddy and Dixie being absolutely cute with theirs, whether they are killing time juggling balls and drinking juice or switching places by tossing each other away.
Behind the compositions for this game is David Wise and I honestly do not know how much more I need to say after this. Every tune perfectly compliments their levels, be it the uplifting pirate theme with flutes and trumpets, mining caverns with tools used to create echoed tones or the tense beats when fighting a boss. These melodies are even gorgeous on their own due to including diverse buildups, instruments, and notes. It is truly one of the best soundtracks to ever grace the SNES, and that is saying a lot.
The rest of the audio is just as amazing by containing varied animalistic sounds and environmental effects that are atmospheric and fitting, with exploding barrels and bumping on opponents’ heads being satisfying. Really, there is so much to unpack here, that it is hard to do it all justice without turning this review into a documentary. Donkey Kong Country 2 simply excels by using a concept tremendously well and understanding how it actually can enhance its journey in so many creative ways.
Presentation Score: 10/10
So many treasures!
You can go through this title with another friend in either team or contest mode, which are neat ideas even if they result in merely playing alternatively via either sharing your progress or not. However, what makes this project have fantastic replay value, is the number of things to discover. DK coins are severely difficult to acquire and will tally up to get a better ending, while the kremling tokens from finishing bonus levels are used to unlock challenging courses. Exclamation marks show which places have been cleared for secrets, with none of them being too obscure to find and the hints being good supports, making them engaging to go for! The extra stages will test you to your bones though, so do not be surprised if you see the game over screen a couple of times after this. Luckily, it is never for an unfair or unentertaining reason.
Extra Score: 10/10
Revisiting Donkey Kong Country 2 was strange. I always enjoyed the SNES trilogy overall, but completing this entry for this article, had me noticing plenty of excellent design choices! A wonderful presentation that goes beyond words, magnificent level design that never gets dull, enthralling variety everywhere, and extra content that is truly exciting and sweetens the journey. It is hard to say that anything in this world is perfect, but this sequel could be a contender for being just that. Whether it be the original version or the mixed port for the GBA, you need to play this gem.