While Donkey Kong Country is considered a classic by many when people think of the broader trilogy it is this successive sequel that is seen as the greater of the three, and with good reason.
We begin with Diddy Kong finding out that K. Rool has kidnapped Donkey Kong. That’s right, this game is mostly without its titular character, which is why it is more often referred to as Diddy’s Kong Quest. Hoping to save the burly ape, Diddy and his girlfriend Dixie Kong head towards the Crocodile Isle in order to rescue him and stop K. Rool once again.
The gameplay is much the same as its predecessor but contains a variety of fixes and enhancements. First, the buddy system is changed up to the point that the two monkeys can interact. At any time when you have both Kongs on screen, you can have one jump on the back of the other and, with this, you can either throw them to take out enemies or reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Dixie also has her own special ability to be able to float mid-jump, slowing down her descent considerably.
There are more than 40 levels again, with various different locales from a spooky amusement park, to the classic Bramble Blast, inside a giant beehive and pirate ships. These stages and worlds are all incredibly diverse and well created. However, there are some changes. In addition to the KONG letters that were introduced throughout the game, there are other collectables to hunt down. Krem Coins can be found in the numerous bonus stages within each level, with a large DK coin also awaiting discovery. Find everything and you can unlock a special Lost World, which makes exploring the stages even more key – as you may have missed a bonus barrel or secret path to get the DK Coin, adding to the already genius level design.
Throughout each of the worlds, you will also encounter various other Kongs: Cranky Kong who helps you find secrets; Swanky Kong who offers quizzes with Banana Coins and lives as prizes; and Wrinkly Kong who offers tips and will help you save the game. Unfortunately, this is the only way to save the game outside of save states, and, after the initial save, it will cost you Banana Coins. This can be quite detrimental but isn’t as much an issue now as it used to be with the Wii U Virtual Console’s features.
The Animal Buddies also make a return. Old favourites such as Rambi and Engarde rejoin the Kong carnage, while new friends appear in Ratty the Rattlesnake and Squitter the Spider. There are stronger abilities all-round, such as charging as Rambi and Engarde, jumping higher as Ratty or firing webs as Squitter. In addition to that, there are also levels where you can change into the animal completely, without needing to play as the Kongs. This changes the way you see the levels and can be a lot of fun.
The controls remain as tight and focused as before, but no longer feel as sluggish as the predecessor. This may be due to the fact that you’re playing as two young Kongs this time, but the moves that they have, seem a lot faster to activate.
Graphically, the game is sharper than its predecessor, but on the Wii U, it still suffers when on a large television screen. You can see faults in the sprites as they don’t upscale sufficiently and haven’t aged as well. On the Wii U GamePad however, the game looks great once again. Unfortunately, the PAL version makes a return here, meaning the game is running in 50fps and then converted to 60fps. Most won’t notice, but if you’re more attuned to these things the slight stutter every so often will be more apparent.
The music of the game is as spectacular as before. The tracks range between subtle and some less subtle. They truly are catchy and you may find yourself humming along with several of them. The sound effects are realistic, and a lot more subtle. You’ll hear the lightning crack and hear the squeals of the enemies as you jump on them. It really is a nice touch.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest has truly stood against the test of time, much like its predecessor. It is still ridiculously fun, looks great most of the time, sounds great and, unlike its predecessor, has got a lot more reason for you to explore the levels. It truly is one of the greatest 2D platformers of the 90s and still holds up to this day. If you have never tried it, you definitely should.