Review by ZephYrWingZ

"Eat backward kicks, Shadow Master!"

Although Double Dragon 2 is one of the few decent beat em up games on the NES, it only achieves this status because… well… there aren't that many beat em up games on the NES in the first place. Regardless, Double Dragon 2 is probably the worst game in the entire series due to its so-so story line, uninspiring music, clunky controls, and god-awful gameplay.

Story – 5/10

Remember in the beginning of the first Double Dragon when that one gangster punched Marien in the stomach, heaved her over his shoulder, and then carried her off the screen? Even though no explanation was given, that opening scene was powerful enough to burn itself into your memory and create a self-explaining storyline – and a legendary one, at that.

Double Dragon 2 has no such powerful opening scene. Nor did it achieve a legendary status. But it does improve over its predecessor by having an actual text story inside the game as you progress. That alone, sadly, is its only improvement.

The story itself is 1980ish and typical - Marien gets killed, and the Lee brothers seek revenge. I won't spoil the game for you by revealing the ending, but let me warn you that it's pretty lame and cheesy. I mean, after you finish pounding a hundred thousand bad guys and avenge your girlfriend's death, you'd expect to have a spectacular ending – but noooo. You're left with this feeling of, “Why the hell did I play this game?”

Controls – 3/10

The controls are one of Double Dragon 2's big downfalls.

When you're facing one direction, one button punches forward, and the other button kicks backwards. But when you face the other direction, the button roles reverse – the button that punches forward now kicks backwards, and the button that kicks backwards, now punches forward.

Although it was quite innovative, it's also quite confusing and frustrating at times. It'll take you the first five minutes to get used to as you accidentally kick backwards in defense as people smack you in the face. Even at the end when you think you've perfected the controls, you'll be walking up to the Shadow Master, facing him, and then delivering a backwards kick to the air.

Graphics – 7/10

The graphics improved greatly compared to the first game. Although the game isn't as crisp and colorful as some games, it's not as stale and dry as others either. Overall, the game has pretty good graphics for the NES, and they do adequate justice for a beat em up.

Sound – 5/10

The sound effects and music are bare bones average. They aren't bad, but they aren't good, either. The sound effects are probably carried over from the first game – I didn't hear any new sounds, or at least, I didn't hear anything that stood out.

And another reason why the first Double Dragon became so legendary was definitely because of its opening song. Its fast paced, adrenaline rushing rhythm set the mood perfectly for the game. Disappointingly, Double Dragon 2's soundtrack just doesn't have the same feel as the first. It's just… average.

Gameplay – 3/10

The gameplay, along with the controls, is another letdown for Double Dragon 2.

Basically your Dragon can do three moves: you can punch forward, kick backwards, and jump kick in the air.

You can also pick up the enemy's weapons, such as baseball bats, knives, and dynamite sticks, and use them against them. It sounds like fun, right?

And it is… at first… until you run into the bigger, tougher enemies, like Abobo, whose massive arms can outreach your legs. And if he gets close enough, he can deliver back body drops that hurl you halfway across the screen. It's hilarious to watch Billy and Jimmy get tossed around, but the fun stops when you start getting tossed off rooftops… and onto spiked pits… and out the door of helicopters… and yeah.

There's another big guy in the game, and I swear, he looks just like a digitized version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold's huge arms will whip out at you and chop you down to the ground, and if you get unlucky enough, he can trap you onto the edge of the screen and knock you down over and over until you finally curl up and die. Your only hope of defeating him is to stand in place, face backwards, and deliver repeated backward kicks (since your kicks reach farther than your punches and are more powerful), until he's stupid enough to walk into them.

The sadness doesn't end there. While enemies can cartwheel across the screen and foot sweep the ground knocking you off your feet, you can counterattack them by… uh… punching forward and kicking backwards. In the game, you also face a pair of ninjas who flip around, leap into the air and throw ninja stars at you, while you retaliate by… eh… punching forward and kicking backwards. However you look at it, the bad guys' moves are so much cooler than yours– and that's not cool. The good guys are supposed to have all the cool moves – not the bad guys. Near the end of the game, you also fight a shadow version of yourself, and this shadow version not only has all of your moves, but he can also kick forward! Something you can't do! He can also immaterialize, possess your body and beat you up, and then pop up out of nowhere and throw freaking HADUKENS at you – while you'll be walking up to him and then turning away so you can try to kick him backwards.

Sure, you can do a few other moves, like delivering a jumping knee smash. Or even leaping up into the air and doing a hurricane kick. But these two moves are done completely at random. There's just no possible way to do these twice in a row, and there's no way to predict when they'll happen again, making them virtually useless.

Maybe I'm being too harsh because the original Double Dragon had such a nice system of gaining new moves and delivering them, while the second Double D simply lacks in moves. You can't even headbutt anymore, for crying out loud!

But the most frustrating part of the entire gameplay has to be the jumping sequences. Think, disappearing blocks in Mega Man. Instead of being blessed with the speed and agility of Spider-Man, your Double Dragon has been cursed with the proportional agility of a hippopotamus. Basically, when you jump forward, you're incapable of changing distance or directions in mid air. This hippo-like movement ensures a lot of falls into bottomless pits, a lot of impalement upon a bunch of spikes, and a lot of cursing and screaming from rage.

Overall – 5/10

If you're looking to play a good Double Dragon game, play the first. And if you're looking for a good beat em up game, play the third. Double Dragon 2 just feels clunky and out of place. The graphics are average. The story and sound effects/music are alright. But the controls and the gameplay (the lack of moves) really brings the game down.

The only thing that could have really saved this game would have been the difficulty levels and the replayability factor. But after playing the game three times – once through Practice, Warrior, and Supreme Master – I discovered that there isn't a change of difficulty at all. The bad guys don't get harder, they take the same amount of damage, and you don't lose any difference in life. Playing it on Supreme Master is just as easy as playing it on Practice, and in the end, that sucks a lot of fun out of the game.

Also, the game overall is too easy where it should be difficult – you can just stand there and let the baddies beat you to the ground 4-5 times before you lose a bar of life – and the game is too difficult where it should be easy – the hardest parts of the game are the jumping sequences. Both of those combined make an overall unsatisfactory beat em up game.

You just know a game is bad when your most powerful move is a backwards kick.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 06/12/06

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