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Title: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (#2)
Rom Player: ZSNES
Reviewer: Perndog

Synopsis: Donkey Kong Country for the SNES was anxiously anticipated for months by thousands of fans; Nintendo Power magazine ran long features covering its revolutionary graphics and even sent subscribers a short video with a sneak peek at the game. Upon its release, it was hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, not only for its fantastic visuals but for its addictive gameplay and huge replay value (I got 101% in 58 minutes...how about you?)

And then came the sequel. Rare took everything they did right with Donkey Kong Country, multiplied it by 5.398, and added the secret ingredient that pushed the package over the line from great to legendary: pirates. That's right, the top minds in the video game industry have long known that the quality of a game is directly proportional to the cube of the number of pirates in it (disregarding the below-average SNES game based on Cutthroat Island, which proves that the rule of crappy movie-based games is even more powerful than the pirate rule). With the Donkey Kong Country formula going for it, the addition of pirates guaranteed the success of DKC2.

Even without the pirates, though, it was a guaranteed hit. This game really did have everything:

Game Play: 8. You've got bananas, bunches of bananas, and coins with bananas on them. You've got barrels that shoot, barrels that blow up, barrels that move, barrels that spin, and now cannonballs when you want to send a message that speaks louder than just a bunch of wood. There are animals you can ride or turn into to jump higher, swim faster, or just kill things better. There are countless different bad guys - little ones with big teeth, big ones with little teeth, invincible ones, vincible ones, flying ones, walking ones, and swimming ones. You run, jump, swim, fly, ride roller coasters, and even race. There is so much variety in the game play that you won't get bored even after you stop staring at the pretty pictures. The control is also excellent; everything you need to do is simple and intuitive--the game even spells out button letters with bananas to give you hints--and the characters are responsive enough that when you die, you can be sure it's your fault and not because the monkey wouldn't listen to you. A perfect 10 is avoided only due to lack of depth (if you want a complicated game, don't grab a 2d platformer) and innovation (this *is* a faithful sequel).

Graphics: 10. Donkey Kong Country was a good game all around, but it was known for its graphics. To improve on that, the guys at Rare had to deliver nearly the best visuals ever seen on the SNES, and they delivered in spades. The technical detail (while over-hyped; sure, you can render individual hairs on the monkey's arms with your top-end development machines, but don't expect them to survive the transition to Super NES sprites) was impressive, but what really made the game stand out was the artistic presentation. From the first level, players were treated with vivid (but not overly bright, as in the 3rd installment) palettes, baddies oozing with character (who can forget Klobber, with two bouncy peg legs, or Kutlass, the little guy with huge swords?), and little details that really bring the game to life: the bobbing deck in the earliest levels, the wavy effect on the backgrounds in water levels, and all of the ambience on some of the world maps. Perhaps more importantly, the levels demonstrated great and constant variety, from ship holds to bramble mazes to gigantic beehives (complete with gigantic bees), making it difficult for anyone to get bored. Diddy's Kong Quest also has quite a darker style than its predecessor, both in graphics and music (with a few exceptions), which is a subjective plus for me. Overall, this game has to stand among the very finest of the SNES in terms of graphics.

Music: 9. As an avid listener of game music, this is one of the details that particularly stands out to me, regardless of the game. I admit, the first time I played through this game I had the sound off because I got it for Christmas so I was listening to all the tapes I'd received instead. But once I turned the volume back up, I was really impressed by the music in this game. As I mentioned before, the graphics had a much darker feel than Donkey Kong Country, and the music matched well. In fact, what really made DKC2's music shine was how well each tune was fitted to its particular level. The first ship stage opened to no more than the sound of creaking timbers to really immerse you before breaking into a pirate ditty that built up to a normal level by the time you'd got into the groove of the game. In the rigging stages, wind sounds covered up music that had a light, faraway sound, as if you really were high above everything. Volcanoes featured a prominent baseline over sounds of bubbling lava, castles had a rhythmic, brassy, and march-like score, and swamps had a calm melody over plenty of chirping bugs and frogs. The music accomplished just what good game music should: it complemented the graphics to add one more level of immersion to the game.

Originality: 6. Donkey Kong Country was original, or nearly as much so as any platformer can be. Donkey Kong Country 2 was a sequel, and quite a direct one at that. It had more than enough new content beyond the original to make it interesting, but not much that hadn't been seen before in one form or another. What it did was refine all of the old clichés and formulas, and it did a fine job of that.

Replay value: plenty. Platformers in general are not replay-friendly. Aside from the odd hard difficulty mode, few platformers before Donkey Kong Country had much incentive for players to come back for more, and even fewer let you see what percent of the game you'd completed (*nod in the direction of Super Mario World). With the sheer number of bonus areas and Hero Coins and the added challenge of going for a record time, Diddy's Kong Quest had plenty of players returning long after they'd beaten the boss, and many even after they'd discovered all the secrets.

Overall: 10. Like I said, Rare did everything right with Donkey Kong Country 2. The gameplay, the technical details, the artistic quality, and of course, the pirates, all combined to make this title truly exceptional. It was followed up a year later with DKC 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble, which had a few superior points but lacked much of the character and presentation (and pirates) that made DKC 2 stand out (and it added those stupid bears...ugh..). Thus, a rare achievement for the second title in a series, I call Donkey Kong Country 2 the greatest 2D platformer ever.

Best Cheats: The official player's guide is all you need. I got to 80% without it, realized I didn't have any gaming scruples, and dove right into that guide to show this game who's boss. And then I played through it again enough times that I remembered where everything was and didn't need the guide anymore. I think I'm going to start over tomorrow.

Game Play: 8
Graphics: 10
Music/Sound: 9
Originality: 6
Overall Rating: 10


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