Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest is a work of art. It is a very good game, from any perspective; you can be a jaded vet or a fresh-faced newcomer, but after playing this video game from first stage to last, you can only call the experience enlightening. The music is beautifully composed and memorable, the graphics expertly rendered, and, I'll be damned, this is a nineties platformer with a genuinely emotional storyline, albeit a simple one. The original Donkey Kong Country may have been full of bright colors, but it was a sad and moody game. It was the story of two best buds on an adventure together — one a jaded vet and one a fresh-faced newcomer, in fact! — but it was all very stern and business-like. The sequel is, oddly, its opposite in nearly every way. Lost in a country of darkness and gloom, amid nothing but hostile figures, our two apish heroes carry on with a giggle and smirk, their mood substantially brighter than anything in the original. You no longer defend your home country from an invasion, you are invading the enemy's; you don't play as Donkey Kong, you're out to rescue him. By nineties platformer standards, this is quite the thematic twist. This game also addresses surprisingly deep questions. What did Diddy learn from his adventure with Donkey Kong? Now that the big guy isn't there to guide the way, can he save his clan on his own? And, more importantly, is he good enough to support his own apprentice, in the form of his girlfriend Dixie? The game, both technologically advanced and thematically sophisticated for its time, manages to convey all of this thematically, helping itself along with just a few lines of dialogue from supporting characters. In addition to replicating and improving upon everything that made Donkey Kong Country such a great game (graphics, music, varied stage design, a simple and engaging storyline), this game expands on the original by adding a hidden complexity that it lacked; there are hidden areas, secret treasures to be unearthed, currencies to keep track of. Sequels, generally speaking, don not have a great track history, but Donkey Kong Country 2 bucks the trend. It's both an excellent gaming experience and a beautiful work of art. If you can get it, do. You won't walk away unsatisfied.
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