What happens when you take the best SNES platformer and make it better? Words cannot describe.
This game succeeds on every note of the original Donkey Kong Country; namely, amazing level design. Tweaked to perfection, every stage flows beautifully. If you are skilled enough, you can finish every stage in the game without ever slowing down or stopping for anything. This gives the player room to grow; as he gets better, he discovers ways to play the game faster, and faster, with short cuts and death-defying leaps of faith. The game is, also, not easy by far; while early levels don't seem that bad, later levels get downright brutal, and the secret levels, at times, feel nearly impossible. Even a full stock of lives won't save you; playing co-op, a friend and I burned through nearly 20 lives trying to clear a single stage. And yet, gloriously, you never once feel as if it's the game's fault you've died. There is not a single cheap death in the game; if you die, it's simply because you weren't good enough to do it right. All of this combines to give you the fuel needed to keep going, through to 102% completion.
You want variety? This game gives you variety. Not only do Diddy and Dixie play vastly different themselves, but the game offers up 7 unique worlds that feel as if they try their hardest to buck platformer clichés; and while you still run in to a Lava World, and a few levels set in Icy caves, they still offer up fresh and unique challenges - such as freezing the water in order to walk across the surface - or riding hot air balloons across a boiling pool of lava. Other stage themes include a Carnival, A Bayou, Haunted Woods, and more. And, if you ever get bored of the ol' "hop and bop", Bonus Stages return to break up the monotony with short diversions involving collecting stars, defeating all enemies, or simply finding the exit before time runs out. After winning the Bonus Stage, you are awarded with a Kremkoin, which you use to pay off a debt to Klubba, a mean Kremling who guards the entrance to the secret "Lost World". Also scattered around stages are "Hero Coins", which Cranky Kong demands Diddy find if he wants to be declared a Hero like Donkey Kong.
And you'll have to master every move to finish the game. Diddy, at first, seems relatively unchanged from how he appeared in the first Donkey Kong Country, but when you consider his new friend - Dixie Kong - it sheds a whole new light on Diddy. Previously, Donkey Kong was the slow, sturdy muscle and Diddy was the one who was fast and agile. This time around, Diddy must be the muscle and Dixie takes over as the one with more agility - while she be faster than Diddy, she has a unique pony-tail whirl that allows her to slowly glide downwards, making her optimal for tricky platforming challenges. The rest of the moves for these two reflect their positions: Diddy carries a barrel in front of him, giving him a good shield against direct attacks, while Dixie carries barrels over her head, making it harder for her to defend herself.
Accompanying you on this journey is some of the best, most varied videogame music ever, and flat out one of my favorite soundtracks from the Super NES era. Musical styles range from Techno to Orchestral, all the way to Sea Shanties you'd expect from the decidedly Pirate-themed game. All of it is extremely enjoyable and very listenable - even outside of the game itself. As for sound effects - well, it's a Donkey Kong Country game. Expect monkey "ooks" and "eeks", and a variety of quirky, cartoony sound effects to go along with them. Visually, the game improves on the visuals of the original game; the rough edges around the sprites are removed, animation feels smoother, and more natural. The levels themselves feel more dynamic, and are a lot more detailed. Diamonds sparkle in the mines. Fireworks pop in the background of the carnival stages. Looking through a sheet of ice will distort whatever is behind it realistically. This game pushes the SNES above and beyond what I think anybody thought it would be able to do.
Another enhancement over the previous game is bosses: In the original Donkey Kong Country, bosses were... repetitive. They weren't so much unique or thrilling as they were just there for the sake of being there. DKC2 ups the ante with fresh and interesting bosses, none of which feel tired or predictable in any way. Half the fun is figuring out just how to damage the bosses themselves, while the other half comes from having to move faster and faster as the boss gets closer to defeat. And, especially later bosses, when they finally go down - you feel like you earned your victory.
What this boils down to is that Donkey Kong Country 2 does not only live up to it's predecessor, it improves it, adding more levels, more challenge, more variety, and more secrets; A difficult task to achieve when the original Donkey Kong Country was already such an amazing game. Do not miss this for anything in the world. Anyone who considers themselves a gamer to any degree must at least play this game once.