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Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons (Xbox 360) artwork

Based on Technos' Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Gravity and/or Barunson Creative's Wander of the Dragons is a 2013 remake that takes several liberties while loosely using the original game's enemies, themes, and concepts across 15 stages. Now in 3D, you'll see recognizable foes such as the wifebeater thugs and bearded eyepatch goons, the heliport and wheat field in bigger backdrops, and can even play as Marian a bit prior to her death. Surprisingly, one of the more unique aspects of the original game, the control set-up where the left and right buttons literally attack in their respective directions, have been removed. In its place is a basic set-up with modern mechanics, like mash-combos and filling meters to perform special attacks. That, along with the new visuals and lengthier journey, is enough to view this as an entirely different experience.

Enough to justify a purchase?

Well... Let's put it this way: Double Dragon died in the 1990s, WayForward Technologies brought it back to life in 2012, and Barunson Creative murdered it in 2013.

There have been quite a few Double Dragon titles with a shocking display of ineptitude, but Wander of the Dragons is outrageous even for the franchise's "standards." The first few minutes alone showcase just how incompetent everything is. As the prologue tutorial is underway with a controllable Marian, in an outfit that defies the laws of physics, you realize the voice acting doesn't match the subtitles. Questionable, but nothing disgusting. Then you're finally at the controls... and everything feels stiff; whether it be your character awkwardly moving about and fighting because the animations need to finish, your special attacks failing to hit because enemies are already falling to the ground, or, more times than not, your guard break not working despite doing it correctly.

As if that wasn't enough, the tutorial ends in embarrassing fashion as Marion dies to sad music... which segues into dramatic techno music... then back to sad music.

Remember: this is the prologue. The 15 stages haven't started yet... and it doesn't get any better from here.

As you're trying to pound enemies with fists and kicks, the combat becomes downright frustrating. The rigid movement when walking is something you can kinda work around, but not when fighting, due to any and all animations causing delays. Suffice it to say, even when you land a successful combo on someone, there's going to be another opponent beside you, ready to beat you down. You're helpless in these situations, and this is made even worse when you find out there's no invincibility frames as you're getting up from the ground. Whoever did the AI should be smacked, because when you're knocked to the pavement, the enemy moves away for a nanosecond, immediately turns around, hovers over your body, and then hits you as you're getting up.

This becomes an absolute nightmare when you're either up against tougher, specialized enemies who do more damage or bosses surrounded by normal opponents. I have been in several fisticuffs where one, the other, or a combination of both literally had me stuck in a knock-down loop for up to five subsequent lost lives. Know how they were defeated? It had nothing to do with me. Whenever a life is lost, a character comes back with an "explosion" attack that tosses enemies to the ground. That's how they died. Can you imagine if this attack wasn't in WotD? I wouldn't be surprised if the devs included this attack purely because the knock-down issue was noticed by game testers.

But let's say, for some crazy reason, someone wanted to keep playing, wanted to see if there was a speck of redeeming value to be had in this game. Would they find one? No. For one, there's really no spark of creativity to be had, which immediately becomes apparent when progressing through a couple "stages." The first three stages take place at the heliport, and all you'll witness here are locations that are visually repugnant; behold repetitive, washed-out grey and brown textures adorning warehouses and the landing areas, hovering between Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast graphics. I was actually hesitant to make that comparison, because it's insulting to the visually-fantastic games for those systems... And just when you thought the game was done with helicopters and warehouses, stage five literally crashes your helicopter ride into another ugly warehouse.

I'm convinced the devs couldn't make a creative stage even if they tried their best. Case in point: stage four's brawl inside a moving helicopter. Unlike the short, impressionable helicopter segment in the NES port, which force players to fight enemies while being sucked out the aircraft's door, Wander of the Dragons makes it redundant and weird. Separated into two segments, one has you just fighting enemies with no hazardous background threat, and the other has you button-mash during turbulence. These segments repeat for several minutes, back and forth, and they're boring as all hell. A later stage takes place on a moving logging truck in the desert. A surprising change of scenery... ruined by the same, unchanging, repetitive combat. Really? No falling logs? No freeway signs or overpasses to dodge? Just ten tortuous minutes of the same kind of fighting? Really?

Wander of the Dragons doesn't do anyone any favors. In one fell swoop, the game shoved the franchise back into the grave after all the work Neon did pulling it out a year prior, ensured the devs won't be allowed anywhere near the IP again, and further stigmatized the genre as a collection of mindless, button-mashing titles. Feels like I said something similar in another review... On a completely unrelated note, players would have to wait another four years before a new official release in the form of Double Dragon IV. And... well... yeah.

Was Double Dragon Neon a freak accident?

dementedhut's avatar
Featured community review by dementedhut (January 17, 2019)

Happy New Year.


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hastypixels posted January 19, 2019:

Wayforward is one of those development houses lousy with talent: We're talking Jake Kaufmann at the audio helm, and then the super cute artist ic stylings that put Shantae on the map... their inventory of published titles is remarkable. Disney entrusted them with Duck Tales Remastered, and it is a worthy, if imperfect, remake of a classic.

Capcom's treatment of their legacy IPs is totally mystifying. I remember seeing some YouTube footage of this game, and I was disgusted. How does a house brand property get such poor treatment? From what I gathered in Jason's review of Double Dragon 4, this game would get laughed out of the boxing ring with its overbearing, amateur performance.

Good review, pickhut. :)
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dementedhut posted January 19, 2019:

Personally, WayForward has been kinda hit and miss with me from the titles I've tried. Alien Infestation felt disappointing, Contra 4 was very awkward to play, but Neon was definitely unique. Been meaning to review their Shantae titles, but I haven't gotten around to them yet; I own all the games, ready to be played.

Also, Double Dragon isn't owned by Capcom, if that's what you meant. If not, I'm confused.

Regardless, thanks for reading and liking the review!
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hastypixels posted January 19, 2019:

Oh crap, you're right - it's Konami. My statement still stands... and I've played a fair share of the Shantae games... they're er, cute, even if their target demographic seems ... confused.
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honestgamer posted January 20, 2019:

Double Dragon games have come from all sorts of publishers over the years, but I'm unaware of any ever coming from Capcom. Or from Konami. Neither of those companies ever has owned the IP. Technos Japan developed the original titles (with a very small crew) and generally partnered with companies like Tradewest and Acclaim to publish them in the US, but ownership of the IP was taken over by Million when Technos finally went bankrupt. Ownership of all Technos Japan properties seems to have passed from Million to Arc System Works around 4 years ago, where it resides today. Hamster works with a lot of Japanese publishers to bring their legacy arcade content to home consoles, so sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of who owns what unless you're really into such things...
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CptRetroBlue posted January 27, 2019:

I've heard bad things about this game and after seeing footage on the likes of youtube I simply facepalmed at how they got everything wrong about being a Double Dragon game, much less one that was supposed to be an "update" to the greatest beat'em up sequel of all. The footage alone is enough to make me Hulk out and go on a rampage truly.

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