In another odd move, the NES Classic Edition gets the second game in a series, but not the first. That’s okay! This is probably the best of the three Double Dragon games on the system. The first one is cool, but is missing some stuff like co-op. The third one is absurdly difficult and has ridiculous fantasy elements, but at least you get some companions who join you along the way. This one is pretty good though.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
(Technos Japan, published by Acclaim, 1989)
Director and Designer: Hiroyuki Sekimoto (co-director of River City Ransom) and Yoshihisa Kishimoto
Composer: Kazunaka Yamane
Double Dragon; the weird sister series to River City Ransom.
Double Dragon II is a classic beat’em up game, and one of those weird NES games that ended up way better than its arcade counterpart. It’s obviously the sequel to the first Double Dragon, but interestingly, it’s kind of related to River City Ransom. Technos made a game called Renegade for arcades and later the NES. It’s pretty terrible, but it serves as the roots to both series. Somehow, out of Renegade we got Double Dragon, and the even better River City Ransom. Both are beat’em ups, but are unique enough to be their own games. Oddly enough, Double Dragon II on the Game Boy is actually just a River City game with the sprites replaced with Double Dragon characters.
The original Japanese Renegade’s title was “Hot Blooded Tough Guy Kunio Kun”, and you played as the titular Kunio beating up other gang members. When they brought it to America, they redesigned all the sprites to look as much like the characters from the cult classic movie “The Warriors” as possible. While that movie is fantastic, the game is still bad. Oddly enough, even though Renegade gave birth to two different series, it still had it’s own sequels that feature more and more “double dragon-esque” looking graphics. Still not very good, however.
While the first NES Double Dragon was a good game, it didn’t feature the co-op option that was available in the arcade and on the Master System version. Double Dragon II did, and thank goodness, because the game is tough. The arcade only had four levels, but the NES version has nine, but you can only reach the last level by playing on the hardest difficulty. There are some strange things about this game you might notice, such as there can be two enemies on screen, but they are always the same type. No mix and matching enemies.
Sometimes you’ll beat up an enemy and take their weapon, such as a knife or a whip, only to have it disappear from your hand after you beat them and move onto the next screen. That’s due to the intense censorship rules Nintendo laid out for all games. Random, gratuitous, and/or excessive violence is banned. Sword and knife play are allowed, but only against an equally armed opponent. This is why your weapon disappears when you advance, as you might run into an unarmed enemy. Nintendo says you’re not allowed to throw knives at anybody who isn’t actively trying to stab you in the face, whip you, or throw a grenade at you.
Double Dragon II features controls that can be confusing at first. A and B serve as a left and right attack. Attacking in front of you results in a punch, while attacking behind you will perform a back kick. Pressing both buttons makes you jump. If you press kick while midair, you do a jump kick. If you hit both buttons at the peak of your jump, you do a spin kick. When you land from a jump, or when you get up after being knocked down, you kneel for just a moment. While kneeling, pressing punch makes you uppercut, but hitting both buttons makes you do a flying knee attack. Honestly, when I was a kid, this was about the most badass thing I had ever seen in a game. You can kill bosses with a few well placed knee attacks, and landing it makes your opponent fly across the screen and it makes an awesome noise.
Unfortunately, there are some platforming elements in this game, and the controls are too clunky to deal with them gracefully. Ninja Gaiden it ain’t. Other than a few really frustrating jumps you are forced to do, some of which will result in your death if not done perfectly.
After the first two games, its record is a little spotty. Double Dragon III is an overly difficult, ridiculous mess that has some neat elements. You unlock two new characters as you go along. Then there was Battletoads and Double Dragon, which I believe acts as the fourth game in the series. It’s silly, but it fits in with Battletoads and is one of the prettiest NES games. Then it gets really bad. It spawned a Saturday morning cartoon series and a live action movie that are both beyond embarrassing. The movie starred teenage soap opera star Scott Wolf, Charmed star Alyssa Milano, and current Iron Chef America host Mark Dacascos. Then followed it up with a 2D Street Fighter clone based on the cartoon. Later, there was an SNK fighting game called Rage of the Dragons that was actually quite good.
It’s a lot of fun, and just like the first one, has the best theme song pretty much ever. The storyline is a little crazy, as it starts with your girlfriend being murdered. Killing the incredibly goofy last boss brings her back to life for no real reason.The original three Double Dragon games in the arcade might look okay, but in my opinion, are far too clumsy to be any real fun. Fortunately, they improved greatly when they were ported to the NES. Double Dragon II might not be as good as River City Ransom, but the game is definitely worth playing. I think it’s the best of the three Double Dragon games on the NES.