Review by antseezee

"Prepare to beat down on opponents like no other game before."

One of the most memorable beat-em-up fighting games that came into the existence of the gaming world has been the Double Dragon series. Ever since its early introduction into the arcades and the NES, it was noted for its uncanny gameplay and breathtaking action. Whether you'd perform a jump kick, launch a devastating uppercut, or knee your opponent's face - it all provided a thrilling experience. Double Dragon II was by far the best out of the three games on the NES, and it showed in nearly all departments. The basic storyline of DD2 continues as the streets of modern cities are being filled with gangs. An attack by the notorious Shadow Warriors ends up killing Marian, Billy's Girlfriend, and thus, they decide to get revenge. Of course, don't expect any friendly welcome. This is one of the best beat-em-up genre fighting games you'll play for the NES. The ease of controls, numerous enemies, and multiple levels will provide for a path to greatness.

Graphics [8/10]
As with any side scrolling platform action game, there needs to be some decency amongst the graphics in order to give the player a sense of realism. Double Dragon 2 does just that as many levels and stages have extremely well colored backgrounds. Cities are so detailed that you can nearly see a woman showering in an apartment window. Forests have trees with slight grooves and impressions. There are sewer grates on cement roads, or conveyor belts in a factory. Most of the beautiful backgrounds that DD have been noted for are quite visible in its sequel. Billy and Jimmy still look like tough guys, complete with their blocking stances and smooth animations. You can tell the difference from a left or right punch simply by the way his body twists. Enemies have different styles of attacking, and flips/jumps look more realistic rather than a balloon lofting in the air.

Sprites still flash when multiple enemies get on screen, and this can be a nuisance when you're trying to punch someone in the face. Sometimes you'll sort of glitch into the side of something, which can be both strange and unusual. Details on most enemies is noticeable, but it seems like faces tend to get shaded out so there's no real facial expression. However, framerate is very smooth and you don't have to worry about tear n' jerk fighting animations. For the most part, Double Dragon II brings back the memorable and colorful graphics we look for in most Nintendo games.

Sound/Music [8/10]
For quite some time, the Double Dragon series has always been referred to as one of the few fighting games with some decent music. Ever since the first game was released, it had an extremely addictive theme song that really boosted the gamer's attitude during gameplay. The Double Dragon song not only featured a somewhat epic beat to it, but it was perfect in firing the gamer up for some butt kicking action. DD2 did exactly that, taking the same theme song, but tried to remix it a bit. While it still holds a resilient effect, Double Dragon II probably has the worst music out of the entire trilogy. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, songs interchange each level. Whether you'd be in a helicopter, or on an ocean rig, the music fits quite appropriately.

Sound effects are are mainly above average since they match every graphic on the screen quite well. Grenades make an explosion like crumpling paper, and knives sound like two soda cans being thrown against a wall. But this was a good thing since the hardware of the NES was so primitive. Acclaim did an amazing job in both departments, and truly gives this beat-em-up game a name to stand by.

Gameplay [10/10]
As with any fighting game, you need moves and a guy who can kick butt. Using the same formula from the original Double Dragon, Acclaim included nearly all the same elements except for a different control system. The game is similar to any side scrolling platformer where your character can walk, move, and attack other enemies on screen. Controls are simple. They're actually based on the proximity of enemies surrounding you, rather than the previous game where one button punched, and the other kicked. So if an enemy is behind you, and you press the button corresponding to that direction (A or B), Billy will then perform a back kick. So basically, you press the button that's closest to the enemy, and it will allow you to attack either left or right. This was such an innovative control system at the time because it allowed gamers to get out of jams a lot easier, rather than getting sandwiched by two Japanese thugs. Plus, controls are very responsive. You don't have to worry about a delay on your jump kick, or some type of mismatch with your karate punch. This is contact to contact reactive controls.

The game continues with the same idea of levels. You start out on the streets, and eventually trail the Shadow Gang until the final level. Each stage contains a boss at the end who is ''usually'' tougher than the regular enemies on the stage. Sometimes certain opponents will be carrying weapons like whips, chains, knives, and grenades which you can use if they fall on the ground. Being able to jump is a necessity since some levels have tricky conveyor belts or platforms that you have to percept right in order to successfully complete the jump. For the most part, there is a good balance of difficulty in the game mainly because you actually have a chance of beating the game. Bosses are somewhat easy to defeat, and timing your moves can be a decision of life or death.

Some innovative ways of restricting certain moves is by placing obstacles. Acclaim became creative when they made one boss fight where you couldn't jump at all, or else you'd go straight into a ceiling of spikes. While this would be annoying to the gamer, it inspired him to think in other ways such as using a normal kick or punch. Gamers get challenged mentally when playing Double Dragon II, unlike some games where all it involves is the same ''cheap'' move (cough, Mortal Kombat, cough). Billy also has some creative moves like a hurricane kick, various counter moves from the ground (rising uppercut, rising knee bash), and of course his brother, Jimmy. There are also additional game modes such as 2 Player Co-Op, where you can have it set so that you hurt each other, or you don't. There are three different difficulties - although the ''Practice'' difficulty will only let you play a few levels. For the most part, Double Dragon II is one of the best fighting experiences you will have on your NES.

Fun [9/10]
Wait till you start punching and kicking your way through the filth and crime of the Shadow Warriors. Double Dragon II provides tons of fun, whether you beat it once, or play it again. The biggest factor is that the game is not impossible. Many players have a good, solid chance of beating it, and finally being able to see a legit Double Dragon ending. While Marian is dead, and your mission is more of revenge, yield the power wisely. The constant action and adrenaline-pumped scenes is what made this game a favorite in many gamers' hearts. There are even cut scenes in between each level to clue the player in on what's going on in the story. Rather than just roaming from one place to another, you at least have some basis as to where and why you're going there.

Replayability [10/10]
There is so much replay value in Double Dragon II. Levels never become a bore thanks to changes in scenery and new types of enemy. The game progressively gets harder, with more unique obstacles along the way. Even if you do defeat the game, there's always additional difficulties to try it on. The two player co-operative mode is what really sets this game apart. There is way more than just single player action, and acting as a team cleaning the streets of filth is always an enjoyable experience. Quite frankly, Double Dragon II is a game that holds replay value. Billy has so many variations and different animations of karate moves that similarity is a rarity in DD2. This game has more replay value than the stripes you could count on a zebra.

Difficulty [6/10]
No worries here, DD2 provides an above average challenge to the gamer. Most average players should be able to make it five or so levels in the game, and enemy AI is challenging enough to force the gamer to rely on more than one certain move. There are three different difficulties, increasingly harder enemies as you move on, and challenging levels to keep you ready for anything. Obstacles such as helicopters, crushing pillars, and holes will make their appearance here and there. Gamers are forced to fight their way out of situations with surrounding enemies, and limited maneuvers. While DD2 is the easiest game out of the trilogy, it has just enough to keep you from thinking that this is a breeze.

Final Factor [9/10]
If you look back at the history of many beat-em-up games, most of them spawned from the initial release of Double Dragon. However, Double Dragon II took that same gameplay system, and enhanced it with a much more balanced fighting system. Every element from the graphics (excluding sound) to the difficulty was all enhanced/altered in one way or another. You can get so much satisfaction in beating the pulp out of enemies who killed your girlfriend. Either way, Double Dragon 2 is a must have fighting game in anyone's collection. Whether you spot it at a yard sale, or just need another game for your collection, get it. It's not too often that we meet games so well designed that have tons of replay value such as DD2 has. Remember the Dragons.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/24/03, Updated 07/24/03

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