Game Review

Double Dragon II: The Revenge Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Now actually living up to its name

As one of the first scrolling beat 'em ups ever made, the original Double Dragon became a smash hit when it was released way back in 1987, and like most arcade games at the time quickly received a port to the NES. A single year later, Double Dragon II was released in arcades and, as was to be expected, it was also swiftly brought to home consoles.

The plot of Double Dragon II is pretty much exactly the same as its predecessor. Once again, Billy Lee's girlfriend Marian has been the target of the Black Warriors gang, and of course Billy and Jimmy's response is to fight their way to the gang's hideout to take down their leader — the only difference is that since the Black Warriors are quite upset about their previous defeat, Marian gets a face full of lead instead of simply being kidnapped!

Once you gain control, you'll quickly discover that this is indeed the sequel to Double Dragon. The objective is still to traverse each stage, repeatedly getting locked on a screen with a few enemies that you must defeat before being allowed to progress, including some old favourites like Abobo. The stages don't just consist of linear paths, as you'll often have to do a little bit of platforming to reach your destination as well.

While the arcade version of Double Dragon II only featured four stages, just like the first game, this port actually includes nine, although this is a clear example of quantity over quality — most of them are quite short, and some of them even consist of a single screen. Annoyingly, you can't actually make it to the end of the game unless you play on the hardest difficulty setting — if you play on anything lower, you'll eventually get a message saying you should try again on a higher difficulty, before abruptly being kicked back to the title screen.

Double Dragon veterans will most likely be confused when starting out, as the controls have inexplicably been changed; they're now similar to those of Renegade, also from Technos, in that the A button will always make you attack towards the right and the B button will always make you attack towards the left, meaning that either button could be a forwards punch or a backwards kick depending on what direction you're facing. If you're used to the first game's controls this change is quite confusing and can take a bit to get used to.

The original game also had an experience system, where you learned additional moves as you performed others, which was quite interesting, but this unfortunately has been done away with, resulting in a much less varied arsenal of attacks. However, you probably won't need most of the moves you still have anyway - you'll most likely quickly notice that enemies always duck and do nothing when you jump, which can be heavily abused by landing right in front of them and performing an uppercut, over and over. This will waste every single enemy in the game in seconds, and as most bosses will otherwise hit you with unblockable and almost unavoidable attacks, doing this will almost be a requirement — you have to fight cheap moves with cheap moves!

Due to system limitations, it's only possible to have one type of enemy, and no more than two enemies, on the screen at any one time, meaning that any time you're fighting two enemies they'll be identical. This was already a problem in the previous NES port, so it's disappointing to see that it was not addressed for the sequel. Additionally, some enemies will carry weapons that you can pick up and use, but these are largely pointless — again due to limitations, said weapons will vanish as soon as a new group of enemies comes in, meaning you can only use them against the enemies that were carrying them; even holding them in your hands won't stop them from disappearing.

Despite these annoyances, this port does fix one major flaw from the first game. In the Lee brothers' first NES outing, despite what the game's title might have implied, it was actually impossible to simultaneously play through the main game with a friend, as you were forced to take turns. It was only in the versus mode that you could actually both play at the same time, but this was just a minigame where you had to try and kill each other. In Double Dragon II, however, you can actually get a fairly arcade-like experience, as you can now take on the Black Warriors together.

One other area where Double Dragon II arguably improves upon its forerunner is the difficulty, as it's not nearly as challenging even on the highest difficulty. While some bosses can be cheap, you have a rather large health bar which, coupled with easily abused moves, makes avenging Marian a fairly simple task, all things considered. The only parts that might be troublesome come in the form of platforming sections, because somebody at Technos must've really liked Mega Man games — while the first game already had you jumping over pits that punished missed jumps with death, this game ups the ante by adding disappearing and reappearing platforms, making things even harder to time. In other words, these are the perfect locations to use the 3DS Virtual Console's save state feature.

The game's graphics are mostly similar to the first NES title, although this time around the characters have been given slightly more realistic proportions — they're still cartoony, but a bit less so. In terms of music there's nothing as memorable as the first stage theme from the previous game, but there's still a number of catchy tunes to accompany the large amount of punching and kicking you'll be doing.

Conclusion

While Double Dragon II fixes the biggest flaw from the first NES game — namely the lack of simultaneous co-op — it fails to address some of the other major issues. The enemy limitations mean that pretty much every encounter ends up being the same, and the bosses still attack you with cheap moves that have to be countered with your own cheap moves. Billy and Jimmy's quest is slightly longer this time around, yes, but unless you're playing with a friend you might want to be cautious and look elsewhere for a solid beat 'em up experience.

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User Comments (40)

MAB

#1

MAB said:

Your cash would be better spent on Streets of Rage instead ;)

Andremario

#2

Andremario said:

@MAB:I agree. 3ds streets of rage is the better deal here but Double Dragon II should be purchased too. It's a damn good game just not great. It should've got a 7 or an 8.

outburst

#3

outburst said:

I agree with a mad Australian. I'm still waiting for the WiiU Sega VC to take advantage of the NNP promo instead of getting it on Wii mode

BTW, is this the version where you can spam the flying knee attack or was it DD3?.

unrandomsam

#4

unrandomsam said:

I don't think the first Streets of Rage is that good. (Shinobi 3 with the 6 button controls is great though. I like Streets of Rage 2 as well).

I would probably try the PC Engine version of Double Dragon 2.

The Arcade Double Dragon games one of them was the first pay to win game I know of (Put in more coins to get better weapons to start with).

WaveWarlock

#5

WaveWarlock said:

@MAB

Nah, I'd rather put the toitle coins towards TMNT II: The Arcade game, but as we all know you'd have to take a trip down to eBay for that. ;)

I loved the original Streets of Rage, but Streets of Lame 2? By the time that one came out i was pretty much tired of the beat em' up genre.
SOR on the other hand was trash. The soundtrack alone was an absolute Techno-grinder meltdown.

MAB

#6

MAB said:

@WaveBoy Turtles Arcade was more of a mindless button mash-a-thon... Two Crude Dudes was a better choice for the MABster back in the golden days ;)

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Darknyht

#7

Darknyht said:

Loved this game as a kid, but all you really need to beat the game is the jumping helicopter kick and the special knee attack you can pull off after a jump. It was one of the games that the NES Max really made too easy.

unrandomsam

#9

unrandomsam said:

@DiscoDriver43 I enjoyed it and found the humour pretty good.

Problem is the RPG elements I don't know if I ever really got much better the whole time I was playing it.

Action51

#12

Action51 said:

Double Dragon II is one of those old school NES games that is actually better then the sum of it's parts.

Maybe it's nostalgia, but I always enjoy playing through this game. Much better then the NES port of the original...despite it's limitations as far as enemy encounter variety goes.

MeloMan

#13

MeloMan said:

For it's day, it was as good as it got, just check the catalog of what was out when it was in it's prime. Once the Streets of Rage/Final Fight/etc. days came, of course it was no contest at that point. ;)

DiscoDriver43

#14

DiscoDriver43 said:

@MeloMan honestly, final fight isn't really that good well at least the Snes verison of the first game Streets of rage however, that was awesome as was Comix Zone

Action51

#15

Action51 said:

@DiscoDriver43 - TBH, the SNES version of FInal Fight looked almost as good as the arcade and played much faster with bigger and more detailed sprites then Streets of Rage.

Both Streets of Rage and Final Fight were great for their time, with Final Fight having better graphics and faster gameplay, and Streets of Rage having more moves and weapons and variety.

SparkOfSpirit

#17

SparkOfSpirit said:

@Ryno Not at all, it's one of my favorites.

Can't wait for this to come out here so I can have a portable version of it. DDII NES is the best version of the game and one of my favorite NES games.

SparkOfSpirit

#19

SparkOfSpirit said:

@unrandomsam The arcade version is a pale imitation of the first game. The PC Engine version is better, but doesn't have the variety of the NES version.

Sorry, I still think it's the best.

Vriess

#21

Vriess said:

" The bosses still attack you with cheap moves that have to be countered with your own cheap moves."

You still have to time those "cheap moves" well, otherwise you're toast! This game brings back so many good memories about my childhood. I love this game! I want it on the Wii U though...

Thats-what-shy

#22

Thats-what-shy said:

Nice review. Played this game to death on my NES.

Video Tip: To eliminate glare and reflections, turn-off room lights (if able) when capturing footage of a back-lit screen/monitor/display/etc.

Tasuki

#24

Tasuki said:

Still one of my favorite beat em ups on the NES. I can be a bit difficult at times but I always used the seven man trick when I played the single player game.

bigbangbabyalex

#25

bigbangbabyalex said:

Easily one of my faves of all time. I can play this game pretty much anytime and it is always bunches of fun and yet can still be a bit of a challenge. Multiplayer of course makes it even more fun. This would be perfect for download play, if its not there already ?

micronean

#26

micronean said:

This is a great game. One of my favourite games ever! Too bad it's not on the Wii U (especially since DD 1 is in the Wii U eshop).

khululy

#27

khululy said:

Just a 6...? It's 7 material atleast, sure it might not have the impact the first Double Dragon had but it's still a solid brawler
Stating your moves are limited is not right at all you just get them all from the get go. And using cheap tactics to win the game over and over is not a fault of the game itself it's just a matter of how the players chooses the moveset. Personally i like headgrabbing much more then just power knee all the foes
that said I am a huge fan of side scrolling beat em ups. Double Dragon, Final fight (arcade/GBA version) Streets of rage games and loads of Capcom Cps1/2 games and ofcourse the TMNT arcade brawlers are all up there in my "must plays for fans of the genre" I can't say X is better then Y because I had great fun with all of them.
(Batman returns on the SNES gets an honorable mention because well... Batman!)

Dreamz

#29

Dreamz said:

While I enjoyed playing all the Double Dragon games with my older brother on the NES back in the day, my favorite NES beat 'em up still goes to:

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orravan85

#30

orravan85 said:

Gotta buy it. Will buy it. As a kid, my brother and I would play this for days. Great memories. Now I will relive that fun with my kids.

shonenjump86

#31

shonenjump86 said:

I guess that Double Dragon 3 will be coming to the VC soon. Both the arcade and Nes port of DD3 sucked IMO.

SparkOfSpirit

#32

SparkOfSpirit said:

@shonenjump86 Be sure to never play the Game Boy version. Even with it's problems, NES DD3 is the only decent version of the game.

I'm honestly hoping we get Super Double Dragon and Double Dragon Advance sooner than later.

Hikingguy

#33

Hikingguy said:

I remember buying Double Dragon games on the NES and being totally disappointed. Double Dragon was such a huge thing in the late 80's and the NES versions were such a let down for me as a kid. That kind of disappointment is not forgotten. My hopes of saving quarters while playing Double Dragon at home were quickly squashed. In my opinion, a 6 is being generous. Sorry, but there are better beat'em ups to spend your money on.

Urbanhispanic

#34

Urbanhispanic said:

While I tend to feel the reviewer of this game was a bit harsh, DD2 did have is fair share of problems. Am I the only one that remembered there is a code for DD2 where if you entered it at the "game over" screen, it granted you an extra continue?? The only catch was you had to enter it quick with the code being fairly long and it only worked on the hard mode AND after you pass Stage 6 (the one with the infamous disappearing series of platforms over spikes.)

Nintendo needs to release this on the Wii U so we can get through the crap that is DD3 so they can release the awesome Super Double Dragon :)

Urbanhispanic

#35

Urbanhispanic said:

@Roadkill409

Well to be fair, the NES version was better than the short, arcade version. It extended the stages, added new sections, made you work for the stronger moves via the heart upgrade system and included a 2 player VS mode using all the characters in the game (though I'm pretty sure the majority of gamers ignored it totally.) But yeah, the taking turns 2 player part sucked and you only got 3 lives to beat such an incredibly, difficult game :(

Hikingguy

#36

Hikingguy said:

@Urbanhispanic When I was a kid, the arcade version was fun and I had high hopes for the home version. The NES version of both games took the fun out of the game and replaced it with a laborious march to what felt like something less than fun. There is difficult and fun, Castlevania or Contra (I could name many more), then there is difficult and not fun, Bayou Billy or Double Dragon (I could name many more). These were games that had all the elements to be fun and I really wanted to like it but it fell short. This was one of those games that I so badly wanted to like as a kid (the 1st and 2nd game) but I was so disappointed by the NES versions I lost all interest in the series. I did get the new version Neon (for free) and played it for a little, I liked all the 80's references. But I did not care for the art style and I stopped playing. I guess we can't like them all. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

ThreadShadow

#37

ThreadShadow said:

One of the best Double Dragons ever made. Every Double Dragon was made better when it arrived on the NES, yes even the first one, lack of two-players aside.

I'm not sure I agree with the idea of retro reviews any more. Reviewing it in it's day is one thing, but 20-30 years later after so much water has passed under the bridge...could be unfair and/or biased. I don't know...just thinking out loud here.

SparkOfSpirit

#38

SparkOfSpirit said:

@ThreadShadow I agree. Scoring games like this doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

I'm still not sure why anyone thinks arcade DD2 is better. It apes the first arcade game, has far more slowdown, and is nowhere near as tight as the NES game. If you give the NES one a chance, it will surprise you with variety and a good challenge.

OnionOverlord

#39

OnionOverlord said:

Yeah I never really agree with Nintendolife when it comes to their reviews of oldschool games, because they reek of bias, especially with beat-em-ups. I'm convinced this site hates old school beat-em-ups. Double Dragon II is perhaps the best beat-em-up on the NES. It surpass the previous game in almost every possible way and in my opinion is superior to the arcade version.

Magrane

#40

Magrane said:

Best Double Dragon (and overall) beat-em-up on the NES. Every time my old school friends remember Double Dragon, they remember this sequel and not the torrid first one (for it's time, when we were so tempted with the multi-player on the arcade). I remember the hours I played this game and how excited I got finally reaching the last boss. Definite download once it hits the States.

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