[Double Dragon II Logo]


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System: NES
Publisher: Acclaim
Designer: Technos
Release Date: January 1990
Genre: Action/Beat 'em Up
Players: 1 or 2
Save Feature? Does a Flying Knee Kick help to alleviate chest pain? (uh...NO)

Double Dragon II: The Revenge is still widely regarded as the best game in the series and for good reason! The controls and gameplay were significantly improved over the original Double Dragon mega-hit and the inclusion of a two player co-op mode makes this game ten times as fun! I wouldn't consider this game an all-time classic but it is certainly one of the best beat 'em ups on the NES.

Overview: I can't speak for everyone but Double Dragon II just seems like one of those games that everyone played at some point during the NES era. Whenever I reminisce with fellow old-school gamers, there are 5-10 games that I tend to bring up on a regular basis because they seem like games that we all have in common. Contra, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and Tecmo Super Bowl are a few games on that list (I can see many heads nodding as they read this.) along with Double Dragon II. Many gamers played the first Double Dragon game with only a handful giving the third game a try but everyone seemingly ate up DD2. Perhaps it was the timing of Double Dragon II's release (January 1990 was right in the thick of the NES' prime.) or simply the fact that the first Double Dragon game had made the series a household name. Whatever the reason, Double Dragon II was a highly anticipated sequel and beat 'em up fans truly salivated over this one.

Double Dragon II did not disappoint its fans either. DD2 is a great example of how to make a video game sequel because this game improved on the original game in many respects. The controls and gameplay are much more intuitive and fun and, unlike the first game, DD2 has a real two-player co-op mode! Sure, the versus battles in the original game were somewhat enjoyable but being able to play the game together was so special back when DD2 was first released. And heck, if you really wanted to beat up your partner, you could select the two player "B" option and fight each other to your heart's content!

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Graphics: For an early 1990 NES release, the graphics in Double Dragon II are above average. Nothing strikes me as truly jaw-dropping or eye-popping but the visuals in this game certainly get the job done. Each stage has a different atmosphere/feel and the various color schemes along with the attention to detail was quite good.

I think that where this game impressed me the most aesthetically was in the character animations. Especially as a kid, watching the Lee brothers unleash their Spinning Cyclone, Hyper Uppercut, and Jumping Knee attacks was truly a sight to behold. The enemy animations are quite impressive too! Each set of enemies seem to attack differently and some of them are quite fearsome thanks to the game's graphics.

Music: While nothing really stands out like the legendary Stage 1 theme from the original Double Dragon hit, the music in Double Dragon II is at least serviceable with a few decent tunes scattered about. This is definitely a soundtrack that relies more on atmosphere than catchy, memorable melodies. The subdued, almost sentimental Stage 1 theme seems to say "You have a long road ahead of you." while the somewhat catchy Stage 2 tune fits the helicopter level nicely. Granted, some of the music is very simple and is downright average (the Stage 3 and 6 tracks come to mind) but I wouldn't say that they are bad necessarily.

In some ways, the best music in Double Dragon II could very well be the boss themes. The main boss track just feels somewhat edgy and matches the mood nicely since many of the bosses do look quite fearsome. The Illusion fight is a dandy too with its mysterious vibe. Lastly, the final battle against the Shadow Boss contains some good music too. The music at the beginning of the fight consists mostly of sounds/noises but once you deliver enough damage, the tune transforms into a more epic melody. I thought that was a nice touch for the game's finale.

The sound effects in DD2 are much improved over the first game's more passive background sounds. When you punch or kick an enemy in Double Dragon II, you can almost feel it! The "critical hit" sound you hear when you execute a difficult move like the Jumping Knee Kick is perfect too. Even the sound of an enemy dropping his/her weapon (particularly knives) was pretty remarkable for an 8-bit game.

Play Control: The best aspect of Double Dragon II could very well be its controls/gameplay. Especially when compared to the original game, Double Dragon II rocks! Instead of being limited to simple punches, kicks, and a jump kick, you have a plethora of new moves to master in DD2. Granted, there is a bit of a learning curve but once you get the moves down, there is no stopping you!

For starters, the A button executes attacks to your right while the B button attacks to the left. Whichever way you are facing, the corresponding button will allow you to punch your foes while the opposite button enables you to kick behind you. This takes some getting used to but it is nice in that you can protect your backside in case the enemy tries to surround you (which they will).

The special moves are what it is at, however. The Spinning Cyclone is a blast to use and can be pulled off by jumping (you can jump by holding down the A and B buttons simultaneously) then pressing either the A or B button at the peak of your jump. Nothing will clear space better than this move so master it and use it often! The Hyper Uppercut is another handy move in your repertoire and can be used by pressing the punch button just as you land. The most difficult move to master, however, is without a doubt the Jumping Knee Kick. Like the uppercut, this move requires pinpoint precision. You have to jump in the air (either a simple jump or a jump kick will do), land, and at the perfect moment, hold the control pad in the direction you wish to attack while pressing both the A and B buttons together. When executed correctly, this move is absolutely devastating and will send your enemies flying! If you get really good, you can even unleash a barrage of these attacks one after the other. All of the moves in Double Dragon II are a lot of fun to use but this is the one that will put you over the top.

Now to be fair, while the fighting controls are top-notch, having to execute perfectly timed jumps is difficult in this game...particularly in some of the later stages where you need Mega Man-like reflexes and timing. Jumping between disappearing platforms and dealing with those nasty conveyor belt/cog rooms would be a lot easier if the jumping controls were just slightly better.

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Challenge: Double Dragon II is probably moderate in difficulty although the final three to four stages make me question this statement. While fighting enemies along with some of the beastly bosses can be quite intimidating, Double Dragon II is absolutely chock-full of the dreaded one hit kills. Chasms, pits littered with spikes, water hazards, and disappearing platforms are simply all over the place in this game which can be quite frustrating at times. You can be having an exceptional game until one jump or one obstacle completely wrecks it. With practice, you can manage to get through these areas unscathed but even so, I find it frustrating that a fighting game's greatest challenge is getting through an obstacle course (versus...you know; fighting enemies!) Yes, I might sound like I am complaining but this is a valid point in my opinion.

Anyway, regarding the actual enemies, there are some tough dudes (and dudettes!) that you will have to fight in DD2. A few of the boss battles will really test your mettle and might require multiple playthroughs before you discover how to beat them. I still remember getting completely owned the first time I faced the twins at the end of Stage 2 and the Illusion boss along with the Shadow Boss are incredibly tough to beat if you haven't mastered the special moves I touched on earlier. Make no mistake about it...beating this game is an impressive achievement!

Storyline: For a classic NES game, the story is actually somewhat dark in Double Dragon II. There are no damsels in distress or princesses to rescue here; the woman of your dreams has already been gunned down by the mysterious Shadow Gang. :( Yes, Marion...the same woman you risked life and limb for in the first Double Dragon game...is dead. Especially for a kid, this was quite the curve ball in terms of a game's story and gives the subtitle ("The Revenge") true meaning.

What's interesting is that Billy's twin brother, Jimmy, has no problem teaming up with Billy despite the bad blood between the two brothers in the first Double Dragon game. With Marion gone, the Lee Brothers are able to unite under the banner of revenge and take on this mysterious gang without a second thought. That and we needed someone to be the second player, right?

Funfactor: As far as classic beat 'em ups go, Double Dragon II is still one of the most enjoyable ones out there. This game is one of the better two-player co-op experiences and is arguably the best game in the Double Dragon series. Personally, I prefer the third game but DD2 is definitely a popular choice. The controls and gameplay are fantastic and this game really has some depth which is seriously lacking in most of the Double Dragon "copycats" on the NES. This is the perfect game to play when you are angry too. I still remember one legendary performance after getting royally screwed during my high school basketball years (see my Glory Days excerpt for the whole story). I literally played the game of my life that day. Thank goodness for Double Dragon II!

Negatives: The only real issue I ever had with this game was in regards to the prevalence of cheap instant kills. You can learn the patterns and successfully make it past these traps but it just felt like the controls made this more difficult than it needed to be. This game has great play control in terms of fighting enemies but it would have been nice to have the jumping abilities of Mario or Mega Man in these instances. Perhaps I am being a bit whiny but I can't even begin to tell you how many amazing playthroughs of mine were thoroughly wrecked by instant deaths. Nothing is more cheap in all of video games so rest assured that this is not simply a Double Dragon II rant. :)

And lastly, while it isn't a major issue, I would have loved to have heard some truly memorable, epic music in Double Dragon II like in the original game. The music in DD2 is good but not great and I would have loved to have heard just one or two truly great tracks in this game.

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Ratings: Graphics: 3.7 Music: 3.6 Play Control: 4.2 Challenge: 4.0 Storyline: 4.2 Funfactor: 4.0 Overall Score: 23.7 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Unsung Hero

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Last Updated: March 25, 2015
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