"Psycho" Steve Halfpenny
Whereas Double Dragon on the Spectrum was hailed as an overall disappointment and actually quite pathetic, one year later this somewhat fairly straight arcade conversion of Double Dragon II received good reviews from the critics but they all seemed to agree that it still wasn’t really the best fighting game on the Spectrum. The extra memory that came with the 128K Spectrum was never utilized in the first game so it came as somewhat of a relief when it was announced that this time round, it would be. However, little did we know just how much the game would suffer when ran on your usual bog-standard 48K Spectrum. For the sake of this review, I’ve given scores for how the game runs on both the 128K and the 48K machines, because in all fairness, they are different versions.
Graphics (128K): C-
they move at quite the pace, these graphics are just plain ugly.
two look anything like the Billy or Jimmy Lee we’ve come to love and have
a cheap 1960s cartoon feel to them.
Enemies are little better.
The amount of
sprites used is simply not enough.
The first DD was criticized for its
“squashed potato heads” but I prefer those characters over extras from Rocky
and Bullwinkle. Also unlike the original DD on the Speccy, the game is
completely black and white, blatantly done so that the game can keep a
consistent speed and not slow down too much like the first one did.
doesn’t; there are occasions where a lot of enemies are on screen at one time
and the game doesn’t slow down at all.
Problem is, it’s just too fast now.
There is no weight behind these sprites either and they just fly all over the
screen in a frantic jerky manner.
Whilst this might make the Spectrum version a
unique and fun experience in itself, it just doesn’t work, especially since
the level design is so close to the arcade game.
One minute into the game
you’ll have finished a mission or died, which ever comes first, so whilst the
action never lets up it almost feels like you’re playing an LCD game (okay, I
exaggerate, but something is drastically wrong here).
Scrolling is at least
consistent with the character movement this time round but much like the C64
version, these graphics have little in common with the arcade machine.
the backdrops, I’m told that they were scanned straight from the coin op and
thrown onto the Speccy, but it’s obvious that nobody has taken any amount of
time to clean them up. Messy.
Graphics (48K): D+
On the 48K Spectrum, things are even worse because half of the play area is gone and the game is shortened drastically. The screen size is probably this way so that there is never any slowdown, but it still sucks. (The first screenshot on the left is from the game running on a 48K Spectrum, all of the rest come from the 128K Spectrum. Notice how the background colors of black and white switch places. There could be numerous reasons for this, i.e. it could be because I was working with a cracked version, it’s due to emulation or it could be just a bug.)
Sound (128K): C-
sound, the first Double Dragon was a major disappointment. With DD
II, it’s not
all bad but it should be better. In the C64 version of
the Revenge, we got a
fairly recognizable version of the
Mission 1 tune (you have to listen more
carefully, people! I don’t blame Cloudmann for not noticing).
On the Amstrad
we got a rehash of the tune that appeared on that computer’s port of the first
DD. Here on the Speccy, we once again get no in-game music and sound effects
seem to be just what was available at the time.
instance, the whip sounds more like the wind blowing.
owners also get a bit of a bonus in a fairly good intro screen tune also, which
incidentally is an exact replica from the in game tune on the good version of DD
I (and II) on the Amstrad CPC. That
mystery is getting more bizarre all the time. Oh,
and you get a nice little tune at the end of the game.
no unintentionally funny attempts at grunts this time.
Sound (48K): D-
Taking into account that the 48K Speccy’s sound was more like an Atari 2600, I’m almost forgiving the missing title screen music. The in game noise is practically non-existent however.
Enemies (128K): D+
the hell happened here? In
a very dumb and throwaway
manner, Burnov is no longer the boss of
Instead he appears halfway through and
all of the enemies die after
being knocked down twice with just a kic. Furthermore, whilst being quite
tough, all of the enemies die immediately after you hit them with the whirlwind
kick. And since there is no regular flying kick you’ll be doing this a lot.
wasn’t expecting Willy to die straight away after my first attack. Also, and
this is the major blow, there is no long haired Abobo, Jeff, Oharra, Chin Taimei and no
Lee ghosts at the end. Like all home computer conversions, it was rushed to no
doubt meet the deadline to hit the shops before Christmas, but here it really
shows. The positive
side with all this however is that the difficulty has been
radically changed to perhaps compensate for the ease of enemy disposal; enemies
can be tough once they gang up and you only get
two credits so at least the
balance in this game hasn’t been totally screwed. I’ve actually found it
tough to get to Mission 3, which is a good thing.
Enemies (48K): D-
See above and remove Burnov and Abore. So that means, all you have left are Williams, Roper, Linda and Willy in the shortest Double Dragon game ever.
Weapons (128K): B+
all of the seven weapons from the coin op
version have made it.
Sorely missed the last
time was the dynamite, so I was happy to see the grenades in there.
It must be
said that I had some trouble picking up weapons now and again; you have to stand to
the left or right of them before pressing fire.
This can be somewhat annoying as
you can imagine.
Weapons (48K): D
Oh dear. Boxes, whips and knives only and only the knife is of any use. Just keep flying kicking everyone.
Controls and Moves (128K): C+
believe all the moves except one from the arcade are in there but control is
slightly painful. There are some major problems with the background and
foreground getting in the way when you want to move back especially.
last play, Billy became ‘stuck’ on more than one occasion and this was due
to the scrolling not moving forwards or backwards with him in unison. Also, the
spin kick completely replaces the normal flying kick, which was a ridiculous
idea indeed since it polishes off all of your enemies straight away.
still, the normal kick destroys your opponent after two knockdowns. I think that
overall the kicks have been made too powerful (you don’t need to even bother
with the hair grab plus knees to the stomach), the game runs too fast as well, and
with an infinite lives cheat on, I completed the game in what felt like ten
Controls and Moves (48K): D-
Okay, get this: The spin kick is gone and the normal flying kick is back. However, because this is so much easier to pull off and hit than the spin kick, you can run through the entire game in around five minutes (probably counting loading times also) by just hitting everyone with this one move. Dumb!
I was lead to believe that Virgin had included the option to use more than one button so that you could recreate the coin-op feel with the left and right attacks, but it doesn’t appear so (Note to Cloudmann: In the C64 version you can use two buttons!). Oh yeah, and the two player mode is retained but I wouldn’t really have expected anything less.
Conclusion/Overall (128K): C-
was good of Virgin to eliminate the multiload for 128K users so that the full
game requires just one. It
was also good of Virgin to speed up the action,
talk about overdoing it. The speed at which you’ll get through this game is
just stupid (if you can), especially when there isn’t that much
is a bit south of reasonable and it doesn’t help that these visuals are ugly
as hell with so little color to speak of.
These graphics look nothing like the
coin op and are overall worse than the original Speccy game, despite not being
at all sluggish. Not much can be said about the sound either.
It’s there, but
only just. Overall, Double Dragon II received positive reviews at the time of its
release and is fairly playable because of the challenge it offers, especially
when you compare this factor to the Speccy’s version of DD I.
was not impressed then, nor am
Throw it on the pile.
Conclusion/Overall (48K): D-
It’s awful on the 48K and can be completed in five minutes tops, as
What I haven’t mentioned is that all of the obstacles
are missing (the combine harvester and the stuff in the Willy’s lair) and some
stages are split in two, which means lots of loading (actually, the loading time
takes longer than the playing time).
Worst bit – you load in the final
confrontation with Willy… he stands alone (unlike on a 128K)… you flying
kick him once… well done!
You’ve completed the game.
By the way, whilst I’ve never seen them in action, I believe that the MSX versions of DD I and II are pretty much identical to the Spectrum forms (the latter ran on a 48K too). I’m not sure if DD 3 ever made it on that machine but if it did it’s probably a safe bet to say that it would have been a port of the Speccy game.