Fresh off the success of Donkey Kong Country, Rare designed a more dark and expansive sequel — Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest. David Wise returned to score the title, this time entirely alone, and was also responsible for all the sound design and programming. He used the soundtrack as an opportunity to experiment and explored all sorts of different styles and influences for the game. The resultant work is not only his finest game score to date, but also one of the most compositionally and technologically accomplished examples of game audio on the Super Nintendo. The score was released in similarly comprehensive albums in both the United States and Japan.
Once again, Dave Wise's compositions for Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest are highly accessible. They were written to appeal to a young and diverse audience, much like the soundtracks of Nintendo and Sega platformers of old. Compositions such as "Disco Train" and "Hot-Head Bop" once again shine with Wise's distinctive lyricism. They develop in such an exuberant fashion during their extended playtimes and thus remain appealing throughout their respective levels. There are also a range of short catchy compositions such as "Swangy Swing", "Cranky's Conga", "School House Harmony", and "Snakey Chantey", many of these are based on existing favourites from the original Donkey Kong Country soundtrack. Even the much-loved Donkey Kong Country theme makes a reappearance in "Token Tango", used for a novelty bonus stage.
Nevertheless, there are some differences between the Diddy Kong's Quest soundtrack and its predecessor. Most notably, there is an increased emphasis of darker tracks to reflect — and, to an extent, define — the considerably more serious feel of the game. The opener "K. Rool Returns," for instance, sounds more like an epic cinematic cue from a fantasy movie than a Super Nintendo game. Others such as the swashbuckling overworld theme "Welcome to Crocodile Isle", the orchestral-industrial fusion "Lockjaw's Saga", or the Mussorgsky homage "Haunted Chase" make an even greater impact on listeners given their central use in the game. At the end of the soundtrack, "Lost World Anthem", "Primal Rave", and "Crocodile Cacophony" are especially compelling with their heavy beats and discordant chords, giving a sense of the impending climax. Of course, the SPC sound chip is still limiting, but it's still incredibly impressive what Dave Wise manages to achieve with it.
Away from the darker tracks, several additions to the soundtrack stand out as especially impressive. "Forest Interlude" and "In a Snow-Bound Land" are premiere examples of gorgeous ambient soundscaping on the Super Nintendo. The former gradually develops to incorporate more organic elements to depict a forest coming to life over the course of a level. In contrast, "In a Snow-Bound Land" maintains a minimalistic and percussive emphasis throughout to depict more barren snowfields. In each case, the samples used are excellent and are blended together beautifully. "Stickerbrush Symphony" meanwhile is the spiritual successor of "Aquatic Ambience" in style, not location. Wise was clearly inspired by 'new age' artists here with his ethereal synthpads and subdued beats. However, it is the Celtic-inspired melody that really captures listener's hearts and is on par with the very best in Chrono Trigger. It shouldn't work in context, yet it does, and it is even more wonderful as a stand-alone listen.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest was David Wise's magnum opus. Though he retained an accessible and melodic flavour throughout the soundtrack, the bulk of his efforts focused on offering beautiful synthscapes and dark orchestral anthems that pushed the Super Nintendo to its limits. Practically every track is interesting here and there are many masterpieces. It is certainly the most impressive soundtrack in the Donkey Kong Country trilogy compositionally and it probably ranks as the most technologically accomplished soundtrack on the Super Nintendo. All fans of the series' music should pick up either the domestic or import versions of this soundtrack, both of which satisfy.