When the original Donkey Konga hit Japan with its crazy conga drum peripheral, the masses deemed it a good thing. The game, developed by Namco and bearing more than a passing resemblance to its other drum-based rhythm game, Taiko no Tatsujin, struck a chord with Japanese gamers and garnered a loyal enough following that Nintendo and Namco have teamed up again for a sequel, Donkey Konga 2: Hit Song Parade. Donkey Konga 2, recently released in Japan, serves up more of what gave the original its appeal: monkeys, drums, an eclectic mix of Japanese music, multiplayer support, and general wackiness. In keeping with our rhythm game and monkey leanings, we naturally snapped up a copy to see how this latest mix of drums and apes has come together.
As before, the game draws heavily on the mechanics introduced in Namco's Taiko no Tatsujin games and uses a variation on its presentation. You'll see Donkey Kong on the left side of the screen along with his trusty drum. When you play the game, a steady stream of action icons scroll in from the right. As they near a marker by your drum, you'll have to perform the appropriate action. The game has four different actions: left drum, right drum, both drums, and clapping. Some actions are also stretched out to cover a longer area, asking you to execute that action as quickly as possible for more points. If you are in time with the song, you do well and earn points. Missing the cues eventually causes you to lose the game.
While the game supports the Donkey Konga controller or the standard GameCube controller, only one of them gives you a proper wacky experience. Guess which that is? If you said, "The Donkey Konga controller," you'd be correct. The small plastic set of drums with a built-in microphone lets you feel like a simian beating drums in ways the standard GameCube controller simply can't.
You'll hone your drum-beating and clapping skills in a variety of different modes that support up to four players. While many of the modes from the original game return, it appears that there have been quite a few additions to the mix as well. While we haven't explored them all yet, we have found a mode that incorporates a slot machine with the faces of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker characters. We haven't quite sorted out the precise mechanics, but it seems that a three-slot counter will appear with the heads of Link, Tetra, Gannon, and Tingle cycling through. You'll stop it from running as action icons labeled "stop" come through. At the end of the song, you'll also engage in a bizarre competition of "rock, paper, scissors" with your opponent that has you cycling between each of the corresponding hand shapes by bashing the drum quickly. While it's all a bit odd, it works in its own goofy way.
As far as the graphics go, Donkey Konga 2 actually offers quite a few improvements over its predecessor. While the game uses the somewhat annoying and underwhelming intro cinematic style the original game uses, the in-game graphics have been beefed up some. You'll see a greater variety of odd animations as bizarre objects fly across the playfield during a song. Most significantly, the backgrounds include polygonal 3D environments that allow some camera movement as you play, which helps keep the game visually interesting.
Donkey Konga 2's audio features an eclectic mix of Japanese tunes that run the gamut from TV and anime themes to folk songs. You'll hear the same basic sound effects, although some new optional sound effects for your drum beats are on hand as well.
At first blush, Donkey Konga 2: Hit Song Parade is shaping up to be a solid follow-up to the original Donkey Konga, and it should please fans of the series. While we're not 100 percent sold on the song selection, we were pleased to see the inclusion of Mazinger-Z's signature tune, so we can't complain too much. If you're looking to import the game, you'll want to be a little careful. The menus are Japanese intensive, which can make navigation a little tough if you don't know much Japanese. However, you can get by reasonably OK through trial and error.
The game is being sold by itself or in a bundle with the original Donkey Konga and the Donkey Konga controller if you're looking to leap into the series whole hog. The US version of the first Donkey Konga isn't due to hit stores until this fall. For those wondering if Donkey Konga 2 will come over as well, we expect that will depend on whether US audiences can become one with their inner drum-beating monkeys and make Donkey Konga a success. At present, Nintendo of America has no official plans to release Donkey Konga 2 on this side of the Pacific.