Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 05/09/05 | Genre: Music
The original Donkey Konga proved to be a critical and commercial success. It seemed that everyone-- players of all ages and all gaming skill levels--enjoyed drumming to Nintendo's first rhythm game. The game is played by beating on a pair of special conga controllers. The first Donkey Konga featured 33 songs that mainly consisted of classic or oldies tunes, and even a few video game remixes. It turned out that these were songs that almost everyone enjoyed playing, and Donkey Konga is still a great party game today. Still that, didn't many from noticing that soundtrack lacked anything modern or current. The sequel aims to remedy and perhaps attract a new crowd of buyers.
Donkey Konga 2 is almost identical to its predecessor. Its new soundtrack and two new mini-games are the only differences. Donkey Konga 2 is more of an expansion pack than a sequel, which is fine. That's what players expect from a series of musical games. The basics of the game are the exact same. Using the special bongo controllers, players jam to the beat by trying to accurately play the rhythm scrolling across the screen. The DK Bongos controller features two drum heads, and a microphone to sense clapping. Notes on the screen indicate when players should hit the left drum, right drum, both simultaneously, or clap. It's simple to learn, and fun to play, especially in a group.
Donkey Konga 2 offers all of the same modes as the first game with in addition to one new one. What was the main single player mode, called Street Performance, can now be played by one or two players. In this mode, would be drummers play to the rhythm in three different difficulty levels for each of the 32 songs to earn high scores and coins. The third level of difficulty for each song must be unlocked by spending these coins in the game's Shopping Mall. So players will have to practice on the easy and medium arrangements before they can try a hand at the hardest level. As before, the higher difficulty level has more notes in each arrangement, but the added challenge generally makes the song more fun to play.
The Battle Mode allows to two players to compete for a high score on a single song. At the end of the song, one player is crowned victorious. This was one disappointment I had with the game. Battling with two players is great, but I was hoping for a four player competitive mode. This is something the original game lacked as well. A tournament mode would have been a great addition would have been great for that matter.
Fortunately, the two new mini-games can be played with up to four players. The mini-games in Donkey Konga 2 make more sense this time and are more fun to play. Rhythm Keeper challenges players to drum to a beat from memory for a few measures. It's like a drumming version of Simon Says, and it can be very challenging. With multiple competitors, players take turns until they are eliminated one-by-one. The second mini-game is Barrel Race. Players are given a sequence of notes to play and whoever plays it the fastest wins the round. You'll suffer penalties for wrong notes though. The mini-games make more sense in the context of a drumming game than they did in the original Donkey Konga, and they're more fun to play this time around.
Challenge, Concert, and Freestyle modes round out the rest of the play options. In Challenge mode, one or two players play as many songs as they can in a row, attempting to get through all 32 tracks. A gauge decreases with mistakes made, and if it becomes empty, the Challenge session will be over. Concert allows up to four players to play a song together, but it's not competitive. Instead, the players try to drum together to earn more coins. It's fun, but I still wish there was a truly competitive four player mode with a winner declared at the end of each round. Lastly, the new Freestyle mode is just that. Jam to a song with no requirements at all. Test out new drum sounds and just screw around. This is a welcome addition, one I had wanted while playing the previous game.
So basically, Donkey Konga 2 has all of the same features as the original in addition to a couple new mini-games and Freestyle mode. So the major difference is the soundtrack. This is where most people have concerns. In attempt to make Donkey Konga cool, Nintendo has put together a more modern soundtrack, but it fails for most tastes. I can't say whether or not you'll like or dislike the game based on the soundtrack, but I can tell you that over 20 of the game's 32-song soundtrack are pop and R&B hits that are two years past their prime. As for the rest, there is only one Latin song, a few classical songs, and no video game tunes save fore a remix of the Donkey Konga Theme song. The Mario and Zelda remixes from the first Donkey Konga were fantastic, so the lack of video game remixes is a sore disappointment. What makes it a little worse is that the European version of Donkey Konga 2 includes four new game remixes, so it's not as if it was impossible for Nintendo to put together some new songs for us.
You can check out a full track listing at DonkeyKonga.com or GameFAQs.com. While I can't tell you personally what songs are good and what songs are not, it's easy to see that with the selection of more current hits, it becomes harder to please almost anyone's tastes. What makes it worse is that all of these hits are a couple years past their real popularity. With the first Donkey Konga, most of the songs were old enough where they would be considered oldies or classics, and everyone enjoyed them. With Donkey Konga 2, the songs are just old enough to be considered "out". It doesn't help that many players felt 33 songs made for a short list in a musical game. So 32 this time around doesn't make it any better. If there were more songs, then they could include more music from more genres, and it wouldn't matter if there was a while bunch you didn't like. As it is now, if you can't stand a certain style of rock, or a certain kind of R&B, then half of the game's soundtrack is out for you. As with the original, the songs are once again sung by cover bands rather than the original artists. It's okay because the covers are usually pretty good, but it does stick out a little more in this more recent soundtrack.
The worst thing about Donkey Konga 2's songs is that several of them feel forced into the game. The drum arrangements don't fit well into these songs and it's not as fun to play. This has nothing to do with how well you like the song. Understand that in the first Donkey Konga the designers did a great job arranging notes for the various styles of music in the soundtrack. The arrangements fit the songs well, and that made them fun to play. There are still several good arrangements in Donkey Konga 2, but there are also some that just don't flow right.
Ultimately, what you have is an expansion pack for Donkey Konga, not really a whole new game. That's not really a problem at all. Donkey Konga 2 is basically the same with two new good mini-game additions, a more "pop" soundtrack, and, unfortunately, some awkward note arrangements. So take a look at the full track listing, and see if it's too your liking. Donkey Konga 2 is just about as good as its predecessor. I can't really make a judgment based on the music. However, that won't stop me from wishing for a broader soundtrack with more video game remixes.