Double Dragon II (Game Boy) review
"So each one of these guys requires the same strategy. Lure them up or down to your level, hit the uppercut, hit the knee drop, run away before they recover and do the same thing over and over until the chap's down for the count. That's it. There are no variations to this formula and no tricks to dissuade you from using it."
In my youth, my best friend and I had our share of fun pounding on assorted thugs (and each other) on the NES' Double Dragon II. In recent times, I've felt the occasional urge to pick that game up again to see if I still found it even remotely as fun, but the fear that it would turn out to be another one of yesteryear's relics that had lost its luster has always stopped me. If my experiences with the Game Boy's version of that title mean anything, I'm very happy I haven't put that hypothesis to the test.
However, the words "if my experiences with the Game Boy's version of that title mean anything" do carry a great deal of weight, as this Double Dragon II is a completely different game bearing little resemblance to the NES one besides the inclusion of Billy and Jimmy Lee. While the NES game concerns the brothers' attempts to get revenge for the killing of Billy's girl, Marion, this version has nothing to do with that. Actually, it's a localization of one of the games in Technos Japan's Kunio-kun series with a handful of Double Dragon characters. And, sadly, it comes off as inept on multiple levels.
First, let's look at the plot. Billy and Jimmy join a martial arts school run by a dude named Gordon, quickly rise through the ranks and become instructors. This makes some other dude named Anderson jealous, so he kills someone and frames Billy for the murder. Gordon instructs Anderson to bring Billy to him, assumably to personally mete out Mr. Lee's punishment. So, whether you play the game in one-player or two-player mode, you'll have to work your way through thugs in three different cities until you reach Gordon on the top floor of the school.
Here, Billy professes his innocence. Gordon tells him that all the evidence points to him being the killer. Billy insists someone must have framed him. Gordon responds by asking who would do such a thing. And then the shit hits the fan as Anderson suddenly leaps onto the screen, spin-kicks Gordon into oblivion and says that since he's been found out, he'll have to kill you and Gordon and run the school himself. Never mind the fact that no one pointed the finger at Anderson and Gordon still seemed skeptical of Billy's innocence, Anderson felt the jig was up and it was time for ACTION!
Which ordinarily wouldn't have been a problem. Most of these brawlers tend to have stories that range from comical to downright stupid, but in the case of Double Dragon II, it's just one example of how shoddy this game is. Much more damning is the simplistic and repetitive gameplay.
You only can perform a tiny handful of moves. One button punches, the other kicks. Press both at the same time and you'll crouch for a second. Press either button while crouching and you'll unleash a powerful uppercut capable of flooring anyone. If you press either button while near a fallen foe, you'll leap up into the air and slam your knees into their chest. I believe you also can throw enemies, but I never utilized that move. Fortunately, that limited moveset is more than enough to handle your opponents, none of whom (including Anderson) seem like they've spent any time in Gordon's prestigious fighting school (and if they have, they should demand a refund).
Simple punches and kicks followed by a lethal knee slam is enough to kill many of these foes. Ones carrying various weapons do require a bit of caution, as they have more range to their attacks and can take a bit more damage, but are still easily bested. Since the foreground has depth, all you have to do is move up and down on the screen and lure them to amble over to your level, jack 'em with an uppercut and then drop the knee. In fact, that's a great strategy to keep in mind, as every single boss in this game can easily be dispatched this way.....while standing toe-to-toe with them is suicide due to their long reach.
So each one of these guys requires the same strategy. Lure them up or down to your level, hit the uppercut, hit the knee drop, run away before they recover and do the same thing over and over until the chap's down for the count. That's it. There are no variations to this formula and no tricks to dissuade you from using it. Some bosses have a nasty trick, like the gunman who can shoot you or the fat guy who can butt-splash you after knocking you down, but you'll only fall victim to those attacks if you whiff on an uppercut or make some other timing mistake.
And it's not just the fighting that's repetitive, it's also the graphics. The first two cities include long treks around and on a subway train, while the first and third have long walks down city streets that are fairly similar in appearance. It's hard for me to stop thinking about the repetitive combat when I feel like I'm also walking through the same places over and over. Double Dragon meets Groundhog Day!
The feeling of deja vu peaks during the final level, when you have to handle a boss gauntlet on the third floor of the school -- only you're in a somewhat narrow hallway, so you have less room to maneuver to set up those uppercuts. By this point, I was thoroughly bored with Double Dragon II and more than ready for it to be over. Fortunately, my wish soon came true, as Anderson was only different from any other boss in that he could throw a spin kick and take more punishment. A thoroughly anticlimactic end to a bland, repetitive game. Regardless of how badly the NES Double Dragon II has aged, I know it still has to be better than this!
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 26, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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