Double Dragon II - The Revenge Review by: bsnowotterbest coop beatemup on NES (as far as I know)
Double Dragon 2 is the first Double Dragon game on the NES to feature cooperative play and is arguably the best. Oh I take back my review title River City Ransom is sort of its own kind of thing, but I'll call that an action RPG. Yay for symantically reconciling my claims in my review!
In order to avenge the death of their special ladyfriend, Billy and Jimmy Lee team up to beat up the shadow warriors, who are aptly-named since not only do they disappear when they get pummeled but their weapons do as well, at least when their immediate group of friends is beaten. Unlike the first game in the series, all martial arts maneuvers are unlocked at the beginning of the game, and unlike the third game there are no new playable characters to unlock or finite, overpowered weapons to take all the fun and challenge out of the boss fights. What remains is a pure, fist of fury violent adventure that despite some annoying jumping areas later on is pretty purely based on the challenge of facing a variety of foes in varied locations.
Graphics = 8
The graphics in this game are quite good and stylistically-consistent. The fighters are pretty large and detailed for a NES game, and there are graphical flourishes throughout the game such as large helicopters, well-animated splashes when you or an opponent crashes into water (instant death for anyone, of course, no swim lessons for these people apparently). There are also creatively-animated foes with a wide variety of moves to use against the heroes, and with the varied and interesting locales the mayhem is set against it all adds up to a very pleasing graphical presentation.
Sound = 8
The sound effects in this game are quite effective and interesting (some moves feel almost supernaturally powerful aided in large part by the swooshing explosive sound effects combined with the exaggerated animations in game, such as a knee kick that knocks the foes across the screen as is accentuated with a suitable sound effect). The music in the game is memorable, well-composed and varied and perfectly accompanies the adventure but the tunes aren't life-changing or revolutionary in the way some gaming music can be.
Addictiveness = 9
Due to the strong coop mode, this game is very addictive. It even has two different coop modes, one where the players are able to hurt each other and another where they can't. At times in this game the Lee brothers fight in close quarters and sometimes are confined to a 2d plane, so the option of being invulnerable to each other is a very smart addition, though it may not have annoyed anyone if this was simply the default setting. Suffice to say, the solid beatemup gameplay with coop on top leads to a great experience that will bring gamers back for more.
Story = 7
The story in Double Dragon 2 is quite good, the over-arching plotline of their special lady-friend dying is very interesting and on top of that there are some very effective cutscenes to move the story along between the levels (though some of the cutscenes are less interesting than others. I graded the story down a bit because some of the cutscenes are too minimalistic/lackluster/pointless and sometimes there doesnt seem to be a logical reason for going from place to place. Also apart from the final boss there is very little storytelling in the game, for example boss characters are often recycled, giving the feeling that they are just a thug army and not a distinct personality.
Depth = 6 Difficulty = 7
There is a pretty decent depth to the fighting system of the game, there is an uppercut, a knee move and a hurricane kick that are all dependent on somewhat precise timing, which is a little out of the ordinary for a game of this era. Additionally, there is a wide variety of options when the opponent is locked in the hair-pull kick, and these options actually have a significant tactical advantage over each other in the game's many diverse, hazardous areas, so you may often have the option of drop-kicking or shoulder-throwing a foe into a bottomless pit or bed of spikes or other such grisly fate. Battle system aside, however, the game is very linear and once you get the hang of the battles, the game resorts to unfair platforming areas to drain your supply of extra lives, which is sort of disappointing in a game without unlimited lives like the arcade.
Overall, this game is great, and if you request it (or start a session yourself) in Vizzed Netplay lobby you are bound to find some takers.