Double Dragon II


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 7

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 4

Creating a true gaming classic isn't as difficult as you would think. You simply do what you do well to the best of your ability and hope millions can enjoy the final product. Creating the sequel, that's where pressure comes in. Right from the start, you need to think if you want to keep it the same, radically change it, or just add some improvements. "Double Dragon II" does none of that. It's actually the same game under a new coat of gloss and nothing else.

They even kept the opening cinema the same, only this time Marion is gunned down instead of knocked out. Again, the garage door opens, allowing Billy and Jimmy to go on a rampage. Enemies attack in roughly the same order, background sprites are reused, and the stage design follows the patterns set by the original. In all honestly, ignore the backgrounds and you can plainly see everything here is nothing more than a straight repeat.

The only thing separating this sequel is the confusing control scheme that likely threw everyone off the first time they stepped up to the cabinet. Punching left while facing left requires the player to press whichever button is on the left. Obviously, the opposite is true when turned right. Pressing the button opposite of the direction you're facing results in a back kick. All the old moves return, from the head butt to the elbow, while the only new attack is the hurricane kick that would become a staple of the industry in a few years.

Obviously running on the same hardware, "Double Dragon II" slows down quite a bit. This isn't a shooter, so it doesn't actually help the player. As things grind to halt (whenever three or more sprites are on the screen at once), it registers every button press. Countless times you'll be swinging at air while the enemy circles to land a blow. It's cheap, frustrating, and there is absolutely no excuse for it.

Barring some minor tweaks here and there, the graphics engine is, of course, reused. Sprites are reused, the character count is roughly the same, and only a new weapon (the shovel) breaks things up. It still looks great considering less than a year passed from original to sequel, but if this is the cause for the slowdown, it's not worth it.

About the only thing distinct here is the soundtrack, even if it falls flat. In "Double Dragon," each stage had a distinct and memorable theme. Not so here. Music tracks are cut in half for this edition and are nowhere near the quality of the original. These mundane mixes in no way excite the player for the action on screen. As a final blow, the sound effects are almost all, yes, reused.

This is a game that falls victim to itself. New locales and sprite tweaks are acceptable; giving the player the same exact game in disguise is not. This game is such a disappointment; it's amazing a third game was even produced (which would take the series even further into the gutter). Each home console port would have a unique take on this one, adding in plenty of levels and better music. Track down the Turbo Duo version if possible, though most people would be content on the NES, an 8-bit version of an arcade game that's light years ahead of the game it's trying to emulate. Scary.


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Last updated: Friday, February 25, 2005 06:46 AM