Game Review

Double Dragon II: The Revenge Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jake Shapiro

Double draggin'

There was a period from the late-'80s to the early-'90s when side-scrolling beat 'em up games were all the (streets of?) rage – from Double Dragon to Final Fight to Streets of Rage, we just couldn't get enough of punching hooligans in the face down long straight paths. Perhaps the most fun aspect of these titles was the multiplayer cooperative gameplay, so we weren't just kicking mobsters in the stomach... we were kicking mobsters in the stomach together. These arcade classics were ported to home consoles with varying degrees of success, often heavily modified to fit into measly game cartridges.

The original 1987 Double Dragon is one of the early casualties of arcade-to-home conversion, losing its integral two-player mode entirely in its transition to NES. When the 1988 sequel Double Dragon II: The Revenge was ported to NES, home-bound fans rejoiced; the multiplayer mode would arrive fully intact for buddy-night shenanigans. Little did we know, multiplayer doesn't mean squat if the game is still terrible.

It begins promisingly enough, with a title screen featuring large Japanese characters and an up-tempo soundtrack to get you in the mood, along with some fairly novel cutscenes by NES standards. The developers immediately double up on the misogynist story tropes, however, as the Damsel in Distress from the last game has now been shot to death, and our heroes Billy and Jimmy (or Bimmy and Jimmy?) must avenge their mutual love interest's murder by smacking dudes in the neck along a series of corridors.

The exciting title screen music gives way to a generic NES action game soundtrack with sound effects so loud you can't hear the music anyway, and the visuals sport the boring 8-bit colour spectrum of many grimdark third-party games of the era. Billy and Jimmy are palette swaps of one another, as are most of the enemies in the game; you never get more than two enemies onscreen at a time, and they're usually clones of each other coming in pairs. Perhaps this is to reinforce the "Double" theme of the game's title, but more likely it's the result of system limitations. As so many of the characters look alike, it can often be easy to confuse which sprite you're controlling, especially in multiplayer.

There are three modes in Double Dragon II: single-player, two-player with friendly fire off, and two-player with friendly fire on. In addition you've got three difficulties to choose from – beware if you actually want to complete the game, because Double Dragon II's final level can only be reached on the "Supreme Master" difficulty setting. Otherwise, you finish the eighth level and are unceremoniously dropped right back out to the main menu without so much as a credits sequence.

Although two-player mode makes Double Dragon more fun, the controls are downright horrifying: rather than using one button to jump and the other to attack, "A" attacks to your right and "B" attacks to the left; to jump you must press both buttons at the same time. The ability to attack in a different direction than you're facing is great in theory – it was ahead of its time in a way – but with a control set-up as limited as what the NES could offer it becomes a hassle. You almost never need to attack backward, and to attack forward you constantly need to pay attention to which direction you're facing so you can change which attack button you use accordingly.

The game features a surprisingly deep move set of various punches and kicks, although for some reason there's no front kick whatsoever; you can only kick behind you. There are no enemy health bars to let you know how much damage you're doing, and bad guys don't even flash when you hit them, so you must blindly punch in hopes that your moves are connecting. Hit detection is all over the place, with many of your battles against enemies taking place on the edge of the screen where you can't even see your opponent.

Double Dragon II is clearly meant to be a beat 'em up, with the jump ability relegated to a combination of button presses. The first few levels work fine, although they're so easy you'll fly through them in only a couple minutes each. You simply walk your way through a series of warehouses beating people up – that's what we all came for, right? After the first three or four levels, though, the developers try to keep things interesting by adding platformer elements; keep in mind Double Dragon II was released at the height of Super Mario Bros. craze on the NES. But like many action games that haphazardly implement out-of-place platforming sequences, Double Dragon II becomes frustratingly difficult with cheap deaths galore. The vast majority of your deaths will come not from losing all your health, but from falling off platforms with the nearly-broken jump mechanic. There was one disappearing-platform segment that took this reviewer 45 minutes to clear... and that was with the benefit of Wii U suspend points.

The complex move set is completely unwarranted, as all you really need to do is spam your attacks until your opponent falls over. Boss battles would be the combat system's time to shine, but Double Dragon II presents players with a lacklustre set of four or five boss characters that are recycled over and over; each time you defeat a boss, they respawn so you must inexplicably fight them a second time. It's not like Castlevania where they respawn in an even more powerful form than they were before – you simply fight the exact same boss twice in a row, with nearly every boss in the game. It all comes back to the "Double" theme.


Many NES classics suffer the test of time, but even when viewing this one through a contextual lens of its place in gaming history, Double Dragon II is still no fun to play. It's wonderful to see cooperative multiplayer return for the sequel, but unless your eyes are clouded by copious cataracts of childhood nostalgia, there are virtually no redeeming qualities to playing Double Dragon on NES in 2014. If you want some Bimmy and Jimmy action, you're better off tracking down the far superior arcade version.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (84)



BJQ1972 said:

Sounds like it hasn't aged well - it has lost two points off its rating since it was given a 6/10 in May!



millarrp said:

Since I already had the Wii VC version I decided to pick it up. I figured between the club Nintendo points, digital deluxe points, and save states it was worth the $1 upgrade fee.



outburst said:

LOL. I've played the Famicom version back then and DD2 was an improvement over its predecessor. I'm shocked it got a 4, I was expecting at least a 6. I don't see a problem with the controls at all especially the jump keys. It's been 2 decades since the last time I've played it so I couldn't agree nor disagree with the reviewer. This game was very very easy. You just need to spam the knee kick.

Here is a video how to do it.



hYdeks said:

This guys review is sillydilly!!! This is one of the best games for the NES, easily deserves a 7/10. Probably the worst review I've seen on this site....sorry.



chiptoon said:

I played this endlessly as a kid, I'm not sure what I'd think of it today. I'll choose not to ruin fond memories, but my 8 year old self is raging at the injustice!



Le_Gazman said:

Disagree, I think the NES version is great. I like te controls too, nice break from the norm. Love dishing out the odd knee to the skull.



Darknyht said:

The controls were pioneered in Renegade I believe, but work better in this game. As others have said, there are two moves needed for most enemies (really, just one): The overpowered knee kick and the helicopter kick. I don't think I ever used the other attacks once I learned those two.

It seems like the reviewer is being a little harsh and punishing the game that handled the limitations of the system fairly well. This is also a home console version of a game that had the primary purpose of getting quarters fed into it. It wouldn't be a true port if it did not keep the cheap deaths (platforming or otherwise) in it. Not a great design now, but back then it was acceptable.



River3636 said:

This game is horrendous, The bad play control and stale gameplay Makes this game cheesy in a bad way. It's predecessor is better. I rate this 4/10 also.



River3636 said:

You all are getting the nostalgia of the double Dragon series get in the way of the actual gameplay. This game stinks. Blahk,Yuk, Phooey! This game belongs in a landfill.



Hyawatta said:

Double Dragon II is one of my favorite games of all time. The only thing missing from the Virtual Console versions is the ability to share my save file between the Wii U and 3DS versions. Also, I wish I could use the NES Max on the Virtual Console.



micronean said:

I don't think it deserves a 4/10. The jump mechanic of pressing A and B at the same time is what makes it challenging, not frustrating. This is the type of challenge that makes the "old school" gamers look down at the new gamers--and I'm including the NL reviewer for complaining--because every NES player could do it. Back in the day, platformers were popular BECAUSE it was challenging to get to the next platform. The music in this game is not as complex as other later NES games like Kirby, but the composition is top-notch! Those games that came out in 1989-1990 had great composers who really did masterpieces with the limitations of the sound (The first Ninja Turtles also comes to mind). Of course, games have evolved considerably from 1990 and DD II feels very primitive now in every aspect (except the music). There are more complex/robust games that had since replaced it. It's pretty easy for anyone nowadays to get to the 3/4 mark of the game in 20 minutes, but it's a very enjoyable way to spend them and I think it's perfect for 5 bucks. Remember: this game is $5!! kinda harsh 4 out of 10 for a game that costs so cheap.



micronean said:

PS: another platformer game that came out around the same time--and everyone seems to like--is Ducktales. The platforming aspect is 100x more difficult than Double Dragon 2. in the NES you had to press A + B + down at the same time, and then direct scrooge to the left and right as well. You had to press 4 buttons at the same time and still get to the next platform!!

Reviewers don't seem to complain about that, or that it's just as short a game as a DD II.



Tasuki said:

This game was good for its time and unless you played it back then there is no reason to play this game now . There are better Double Dragon games now like Double Dragon Neon.



8BitSamurai said:

Wow, I've been playing the original cart recently and this score surprised me. I never played this back in the day, but I'd definitely give it a 7/10 for the $5.

The jumping controls definitely aren't up to the task for some of the levels, and not to defend them, they really are bad and can be frustrating, but I only really had a few segments where they'd get me stuck.

But then again, I'm not the one reviewing it, so carry on.



SparkOfSpirit said:

The arcade version of this game is not good. Has anybody ever played it other than me? It's loaded with slowdown and the level design is copy-pasted from the first arcade game. What, pray-tell, does it actually do better than this game except have a more dated art-style? Seriously, I've never heard a proper reason from people who keep propping up the overrated arcade game.

Will never understand the hate this version receives. It does everything better than the arcade version except have flashier graphics. Or are we still in the mentality that the arcade version was always better than the console version? I would have thought Jackal, Trojan, and Bionic Commando would show people that superior gameplay and level design beats graphics every time.

Glad to see everyone here except @River3636 and his over-dramatic hate agrees. It's still a fun game nowadays.



micronean said:

Back in the NES days, a player was considered "baddonkey" when he could get through those platforms without losing a life. The way the buttons and the platforms were designed, it was next to impossible for the average joe to have the dexterity and reflexes to do it. It took a lot of dedication, and thus, those that could do it were looked upon with great admiration. That part of gaming has since gone away, or at least shifted to other aspects of gameplay, which may be why traditional platformers don't seem to be so popular in the overall world of gaming.



Ryno said:

Ever since @Corbs left Nintendolife, I can hardly take the retro/VC reviews seriously.

@SparkOfSpirit: Yeah I laughed out loud when I read "If you want some Bimmy and Jimmy action, you're better off tracking down the far superior arcade version." The arcade version far superior??? Sure, if all you care about is graphics. The NES version has double the content.

@hydeks: Nice, you made the reviewers twitter!



River3636 said:

Look I remember when my older brother mowed the lawn every week for a month to get this atrocious game.We loved The original and would play vs all the time. When he put that cartridge in the NES expecting the greatest game in the world and got that Monkey Vomit instead it was an utter disappointment. I was glad the next month when I choose to mow the lawn I got Ultima: the quest of the Avatar. Am I being overly mean and dramatic
probably not, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Me and my brother still hate that game to this day. Do not waste your money on this garbage



Airola said:

This game is a solid 9/10 in my book.

One of the best two-player beat-em-ups ever made. Worked as well the last time I played some years ago as it worked back in the early 90's. The controls work great and it's really fun to play.



Airola said:

Yeah, we did.

I think Double Dragon 2 is the best of the NES-trilogy, and one of the best NES-games ever made.
DD3 comes as a close second.
DD1 is average at best.



SparkOfSpirit said:

@Ryno Yeah, I always liked @Corbs reviews the best.

I still don't understand some of the hate this game gets compared to the arcade version. Graphics aside, it does everything worse than this version.



killer7 said:

This game is actually easy and a lot of fun.

The reviewer must not be very good at it.



River3636 said:

Someone please explain how this game holds up to 2014. The games challenge 5, graphics 2, controls 2 , music 2, replay value 4. I think this guy who reviewed this game was being quite generous.



Airola said:

It's challenging enough to keep the players on their toes. It might even be really hard at first, but when the player learns to play it, it becomes kinda easy, but not too easy. I've beaten this game many times and even though I can quite probably beat the game if I start playing it, I still feel constant challenge near the end of the game, so each play.through feels like an accomplishment.

I can't understand what's wrong with the graphics. They do their job very well. It's easy to look at. You see everything you need to see.

Like I wrote earlier, the controls are fine. The characters follow your commands flawlessly as long as you press the buttons the way they were meant to be pressed. Jumping might keep the player on the edge and nervous at some points but it's always a matter of the player giving the jumping commands right.

Music is good at worst, amazing at best. The music at the second part of the final boss is one of the best NES tunes ever.

As for the replay value I can only say that this is one of those NES games I love to play again from time to time. The level design is great. It offers much diversity and isn't boring in any of the levels.



River3636 said:

I didn't have fun playing it in 1990 what makes you think I'm gonna have fun with it 24 years later



Airola said:

@River3636 Has someone said you would have fun with it?

Obviously if you don't like it you don't like it. Of course that doesn't mean that those who like it are delusional though.



Turbo857 said:

OHHHH MAAANN! My comments on here are always respectfully civil. Everybody's gotta right to have an opinion. That said: What is this reviewer smoking?!? This is Double Dragon II. The hyper knee, super uppercut? This is easily one of the top 10 NES games of all time. A 4/10, no fun to play? This game is awesome! When the New River City Ransom is released and they pay homage to the super knee, you'll understand this game's legacy. One of the first great co-op beat'em up experiences. They need to get a reviewer that enjoys beat-em ups and understands what this game's all about. I played this a few months ago and still surprised how the punches and moves have more kick to them than a lot of modern day brawlers. Really sucks how this genre still pumps out quality games but the industry never gives it the credit it deserves.



micronean said:

I had a great time playing it in 1990. I remember the helicopter level when I learned you could get sucked out whenever the door opened. I had a blast drawing all the enemies to the door and seeing them get sucked out. Those are the little details that make a game memorable.



ogo79 said:

whats the deal with dd2?
everyone knows this is a classic game, whats goin on here?



Ryno said:

@ogo79: The inmates are running the asylum! Anyway, well I'm glad he finds a little bit of time, I should read that review.



ogo79 said:

i will sit here and wait until this rating changes to at least a 7. ive got eternity



8BitSamurai said:

I have lawnchairs if anybody needs to borrow them if they get tired of standing waiting for the score to change, and "rare downloads" at -5% off.



SSBMarioFan said:

Why is it that the Wii U VC games get lower scores then their 3DS version? Oh well, guess we'll never get a good version of Double Dragon.



OneBagTravel said:

Shame on you Jake. I'm not hating because you gave the game a low score. I'm just annoyed that you failed the fine the game fun. It takes 4 enemies to get used to the controls and once they are mastered the game becomes the best NES beat 'em up. Varying environments, challenging bosses, tons of "hidden" moves. It's great and challenging at the same time. You ding fit for way too much.



River3636 said:

WARNING ! Do not buy this game unless you're a diehard fan. if you are you are bias an your score is skewed.



Rezalack said:

I was considering buying this, now I feel that I have too. I never played Double Dragon 2, but I played the first one and loved it. I also got the urge to play the first one again recently because I found an aluminum Double Dragon sign from 1988 at an Antique store, lol. Pretty cool sign if you're into collecting retro Nintendo stuff.



River3636 said:

The first one was great a classic. I just don't know what happen to this one. I have never disliked a game so much before ( don't hold it against me)



SparkOfSpirit said:

@Mitsuko_Chan You might as well just read the old Wii VC reviews instead. They were frequently much more on the nose. The newer ones haven't been as strong as those.



outburst said:

"Hey, don't buy this game because my brother and I did have a bad memory about it. I am hellbent in discouraging you to buy this total crap game because it's my opinion and I can't let go. You should not like what I hate."

-Bimmy & Jilly



River3636 said:

You right, but at least I stick by my guns and Jake did give it a 4. ( he made me mad with the Lolo review too). I would get over it . The wait and anticipation for this game when I was a kid was great and I still can't believe it has a fan base I didn't even play the third cuz I was so disappointed with the second. If I were to save just one person from playing this elephant dong of game my work is done.



Jazzer94 said:

This is coming from someone who wasn't even alive when the game originally released and I think it is awesome how this got a 4/10 I just can't understand, terrible review.



speedyboris said:

The only part of the game that sucks is the disappearing platform jumping in level 6, which requires extremely precise timing and distance judging to get right. It was nice to finally be able to pass that part due to save states.




I disagree with this review. This is was and still is one of the greatest NES titles ever.
That was all you had to say. Please watch the profanity — TBD



cheetahman91 said:

Meh, I'll pass. Most NES beatemups haven't aged particularly well anyways. I'll just wait until River City Ransom eventually releases.



SparkOfSpirit said:

@speedyboris Yeah, that part was really difficult. Supreme difficulty is incredibly difficult as it is, but those instant death pits are tough on any difficulty.



khululy said:

@BJQ1972 I think it does fare better on a handheld then it would on the big screen.

I have much nostalgia for the 1st NES Double Dragon as it was one of the first games I ever played.
I never played the 2nd installment until the NES was an old console from years past (N64 era) while it's a lot different in ways it was a fun game and recently I bought it on the 3DS and still think this game is a good side scrolling beat em up and I have played some in my time.



TingLz said:

It's one thing to disagree with the review. It's another to resort to name-calling. Let's not resort to the latter here.



MrL1193 said:

I didn't think the game was that bad. Yes, the platforming sections can be annoying (especially in Stages 6 and 7), but the combat is pretty fun. Even with the unorthodox controls, I much prefer this game over Double Dragon III.



EJzelda said:

I always liked the Double Dragon games, no matter which one. The most fun I had with the franchise though was probably Super Double Dragon with a old buddy. We'd clear that one over and over, along with Streets of Rage games.



WaveBoy said:

I've put in maybe about an hour into DDII, and I gotta say I'm with you, the first DD on the NES is the better game. it just feels a little more polished, the moves are easier to pull off, it's visually more pleasing and has a better soundtrack too!

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...