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Arcade Archives: Double Dragon II - The Revenge (PlayStation 4) artwork

Arcade Archives: Double Dragon II - The Revenge (PlayStation 4) review

"Refurbished Dragon"

With the leader of the Black Warriors defeated, Marian freed, the player character kissed, and the words "May you live happily forever" displayed on screen, Double Dragon concluded with a nice fairy tail ending; actually quite fitting for a beat 'em up that didn't take itself too seriously, despite its violent premise. However, the Feel Goods didn't last very long, as Technos, a year later, gave players a shocking "treat" in Double Dragon II: Marian is killed within the first five seconds. Adding insult to injury, the murderer, leader of the Black Warriors, doesn't stick around, allowing his minions to take care of the Lee brothers while he hangs out in yet another ridiculously-designed lair.

The subversion continues as Billy and Jimmy Lee, martial arts experts, emerge yet again from a garage. However, instead of a housed Firebird, the storage area now contains a compact helicopter, and instead of fighting enemies in the streets, stage one commences on a rooftop. As enemies literally cartwheel their way into the frame, you, as one of the brothers, must unleash a flurry of punches to a goon coming from the right with, well, the right button. After knocking him to the ground, let's say you turn your attention to an identical character sprite coming from the left; you strike using the same button... but your protagonist continues attacking to the right. Confused? The devs have taken it upon themselves to modify the controls. The left and right buttons do what their names imply, and you even get different kick or punch animations depending on where you're facing when one is pressed!

Odd, but your brain adjusts quickly to the changes.

Also unlike its predecessor, there's no overpowered elbow move that can be exploited easily throughout the game. The sequel still has the elbow attack, but more times than not, there's a chance it won't connect, either because opponents are ducking or countering before it does any harm. One maneuver that comes close to being strong is the spinning air kick, but it's tricky to pull off*, not to mention, again, there's a chance enemies dodge. So what does all this dodging entail? It means players are actually required to perform feats resembling skill when engaged in combat; try different kick, punch, and grab combos to see what works best, as well as carefully dodging enemies when you're getting crowded.

Another interesting change is how the Black Warriors, whether it be red-headed mohawk dominatrices, burly, bearded foes with eye patches, or towering, wavy-haired Abobos, are a tad more aggressive this time. Not by much, but it is noticeable how quickly they swarm and break your combos more commonly. It's not on the level of Renegade's absurd crowd pressure, thankfully. However, the speed can be a bit too cruel when you're trying to stand after being knocked down, especially since there's no invincibility frames. Quite frequently, an enemy will hover above your character, ready to swing once you're back up. You know what's really messed up? When you die, lose a life, and respawn, you have invincibility frames... but enemies are immune to your attacks during this period. Why? To be fair to the AI??

While the overall issue of invincibility frames isn't that big a problem when compared to the refinements, Double Dragon II does something very unfortunate: it shamelessly remade sections of the first game. The journey starts promising with the opening rooftop stage, fighting against Mad Max-style enemies, and having to learn a different control configuration. But then the second stage begins, you move a few inches to the right... and it's the second stage from the first game. It literally has the weird fence you can climb that goes nowhere, an enemy wielding an explosive weapon, and the task of "platform jumping" upwards until you reach an area with an assembly line belt.

What really blows my mind is the fact that the devs remodeled these reused locations. Usually when devs recycle something, it's to save time and money... but... but effort was put into transforming these assets. So what's the point? Why not just make completely new areas for the sequel? Considering the team had an entire year to finish this sequel, it really makes you wonder; was using a modified control scheme from Renegade, "borrowing" assets from the first Double Dragon, and going with the whole subversion angle an interesting idea, or was it more to do with them having trouble coming up with actual new ideas? Regardless of the reason, Double Dragon II unfortunately fails to be anything greater than a slightly-better version of Double Dragon, because it's too busy having an identity crisis.

*Unless you adjusted the difficulty in the options.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 15, 2019)

Total Recall NES was actually a birthday present I got a few weeks back. Yup, this is how I start 2020.


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Masters posted January 18, 2019:

Nice review, and not just because I agree with you on all counts. DDII was always essentially just DD1.5. Like the devs just said, "here, more levels!" That being said, it has some unique and cool enemies, like the Terminator guy (I loved the sneeze sound he made when swatting you away), and the pair of green/blue ninja guys with sticks -- they were awesome (not to fight, mind you).

I loved this part:

"You know what's really messed up? When you die, lose a life, and respawn, you have invincibility frames... but enemies are immune to your attacks during this period. Why? To be fair to the AI??"

I don't remember that, but it's hilarious. Did the enemies at least fall down when you reappear? That seemed to have been the norm for beat-em-ups of the time.
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pickhut posted January 18, 2019:

Nah, didn't have anything like that, which makes the whole invincibility frame thing even more weird.

Thanks for reading and enjoying the review! For the longest time, I just viewed arcade DDII as a clone of the first, but it wasn't until recently when I played them back to back, that I realized there's a lot of subtle changes with the mechanics. Still see it as Double Dragon+, but at least it doesn't have an exploitable move you can use from beginning to end.

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