With the upcoming release of the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition (NA) / Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (EU), we're going to provide short profiles of all 30 games included on the system. This time around we look at Double Dragon II: The Revenge.
So far this series of articles on the NES Mini games has mostly featured conversions of relatively simple arcade games, with Konami's Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest bucking the trend as console-first action-oriented titles, albeit the latter flirts with more RPG elements. Double Dragon II: The Revenge (by Technōs Japan) is another arcade game that made its way to the living room, but importantly the title that came to NES was in no way a simple port - it was an expanded game compared to the coin-op. They shared a name, but outside of that NES players would have felt like they were playing a console title rather than an arcade port.
So why are we getting the second game on the Mini NES and not the first? That's simple, the first was a disappointment that failed the deliver the key feature of the beat 'em up genre in this era - two-player co-op. It was really Single Dragon, which is a less catchy but more accurate name. The Revenge delivered two player co-op, which means it's an improvement right off the bat.
Some may also ask "why isn't the third game included?", considering the fact we have two Castlevania games on the system. The third one, frankly, wouldn't be a wise inclusion. It's an odd game that decided to ramp up difficulty by giving you multiple playable characters but only one life for each. That's cruelty that even From Software would consider barbaric.
With those flaws in the first and third games, The Revenge was really the only way to go for Nintendo when putting this collection together. It's a welcome inclusion, too, as the Double Dragon games are a key part of NES history, warts and all, and helped set standards and gameplay norms that would help to define the beat 'em up genre on home consoles.
As for the nitty gritty of the game itself, you have brothers Billy and Jimmy (no 'Bimmy and Jimmy' typos in this one) avenging a fallen loved one by going on a murderous punching and kicking spree on the streets. It's interesting how violence in video games is thrown around as a topic nowadays, but the issue some really have is that the violence is more realistic. After all, beat 'em ups like this look cute in 8-bit but are all about punching goons in the face.
We said the Double Dragon series helped set norms that informed the genre in later generations, but ironically this entry experimented a little. Yes, we get co-op, but we also have a strange control setup in which A and B attack left and right respectively; perhaps a clever idea in principle, it can be confusing initially if you're used to treating these buttons as alternate attacks for the direction you're facing.
You should also prepare for quite a stiff challenge, even in co-op, and for the game to pull some cheap moves on you. Some enemies lay it on thick with unfair attacks, and for reasons only the developers know there are platforming sections... with platforms that disappear. It's like Mega Man, if he was taller, couldn't jump as well and moved about 50% slower. These sections are beatable, but they're frustrating. As for enemies with unfair attacks, a well known trick is to do a jumping attack, trigger the block / flinch animation of the enemy and immediately uppercut them. You can do this over and over again, in many cases; as we said in one of our reviews - "you have to fight cheap moves with cheap moves!"
Ultimately, though, games like this aren't necessarily all about enjoying the best gameplay experiences - they're about punching and kicking goons with a buddy. Besides, its visuals and music will give you all of the 8-bit feels.
This should be an ideal co-op game on the upcoming system, just try not to break the controllers when the platforming sections come along.