As a child I can't recall hearing much about Double Dragon II at my local arcade. It came out only a year after the original smash hit and most people hadn't even had time to completely absorb the first one, let alone even give a second one fair evaluation. I can't say I remember playing it more than once or twice back in the day, and those memories are now blurred by the time fog so to say it may have went overlooked is being fair. When the average arcade buff finally got around to giving the second installment a good look, it was called only a "mediocre sequel," that it was really just an extension of the first one, not a new game entirely. Well that's what I heard anyways. But you know me... I have to form my own opinion based only on the possibility that it might be different. Was it?
Before you read on I'd like to first thank Buapo for first inspiring me to do this article with his arcade knowledge and wit, and then helping me to get MAME working with those same two tools. I'd also like to thank Linque for helping me get a few of the factual facets down pat. Thanks! Now, the comparison...
|Right from the get-go you'll notice huge similarities between this and the original Double Dragon Arcade game. In contrast, aside from the environment itself, you'll notice very few things similar between it and the NES port. It starts out with the scene pictured here… a scene very reminiscent of the first installment in the series. Marian's fate is in the hands of the gangsters again, except instead of just slugging her in the stomach and kidnapping her like last time, Machine Gun Willy (with the spectation c/o Chin Tamei and Burnov) caps her ass with his tommy gun. That's it for Marian… she's Swiss cheese now. So the whole idea of "save the girl" is thrown out in favor of a more enticing plot… REVENGE!|
The plot of revenge doesn't change in the NES conversion however; you just don't see the deed happen right in front of your eyes. Now the game begins. The tune you are hearing is… yes, the music to Level 2 (The Roof) on the NES game… interesting ehh? Billy, who is wearing a darker shade of blue this time, steps out of the garage in the background, a non-animate object in the NES game, mind you. With him is Jimmy (if you're playing with a buddy,) who now wears white. A bit about the controls before I get into the action: They use the Renegade style "Left, A punch, B kick; Right, B punch A kick" system, like the NES game, with a separate button for jumping rather than having to push both buttons together. Jumps are made in DD1 crouched-style rather than the vertical base jump featured on the NES. I personally like the NES version better, because the crouch jump offers very little conventional use (ie: moving from platform to platform.) It has more of a "Get the hell out of Abobo's way" use in the arcade game. Other control notables include the ability to pull off the devastating Cyclone Kick, but the absence of the Hyper Uppercut and the Hyper Knee Raise.
|Now, the action and movements of the enemies reflect Double Dragon 1 greatly, so any skills or combos you have developed playing the NES game will not help you at all. If you have practiced with the first NES installment or the first arcade game, you shouldn't have much trouble with it. You will begin with 2 Williams cart wheeling at you, a scene familiar to almost every DD gamer. Williams' hair looks to be a bit longer and he doesn't appear to be as scruffy as before. Moving right you will notice a rather well drawn chopper placed in the background. As you may have guess, this is where most comparable similarities between the two games end. You are attacked by Ropers in red. Where as Williams looks to have been cleaner in the original, Roper is a scruffy, pirate looking fellow. It may have just been me, but he seemed like he went down a lot easier than he does in the NES game. You are also attacked by Linda, mohawk and all.|
|Further right you are greeted by a big, big man, and more Ropers. The big guy looks most like Abore, but I know for a fact he's not. Who is he? Maybe someone reading this can answer that… Contrary to most big guys in the game, he's rather easy to silence, especially if you nabbed Linda's chain whip or if you are carrying a knife she dropped (if you remember, Linda is unable to carry knives in the NES installment.) Moving right again you'll be met by more Williams, more Ropers, and another helicopter. There's a Williams over here that is carrying a shovel, a weapon that does not appear on the NES. If you're playing and reading this at the same time you probably just got hit with it from across the screen. Moving right, you see a door and a high ledge.|
|A pair of legs begin to walk across the ledge. Who's that chuckling? Why that's Burnov, the boss of the first stage, much like on the NES. As he makes his way down, the music you are hearing is not the standard boss music you are used to hearing… no, it's the music from Level 7 (The Trap Room). Interesting how the songs were all reversed when the game was ported to the NES, isn't it? Back to Burnov though, who seems to find something hilarious as he begins to pummel you. You'll notice that he's considerable fatter and more slovenly and sloppy… but he's easier to hit from the front. Every time he grabs you from the front he utters that diabolical laugh… the kind of laugh that someone who has 43 bodies hidden in his attic has. He still pummels you unrelentlessly. When you finally manage to beat him into submission, he makes no wheezing sound as he disappears… no, he shout a loud, nasty, "Lahhhhhh" and disappears not only from his mask but all of his clothes. Let's hope he doesn't reappear somewhere else… Fortunately, this particular Burnov doesn't reappear for more, but rest assured, you'll encounter one that does.|
|That does it for Stage 1 as you enter the elevator and move down to the ground level. The music in-between levels is the same in the arcade as it is in the NES version. When you reach the bottom, the wall cracks at the left and you are met with a laughable site. Breaking through the wall is clearly Abobo's sprite, but he's got a new pair of jeans and a black wig that seems to be crooked. It's disputed whether or not he is Abobo or Bolo, but he is considerably easier than Abobo in the previous game. Next you are met by some Lindas, nothing impressive here except for the introduction of the incendiary bomb and the striking similarity to the second level of the first game…|
|Moving on, you find something that was missing from the NES conversion… a big, giant steel ball to throw at people. And will you ever. Enemies in this area include ghoulish Williams, green Ropers and Lindas. The scenes here are almost directly taken from the first arcade game leading one to believe that the developers didn't really take the time to make a new game… they just changed a few things in the original and called it new. Luckily, this is not the case with the NES version. Moving to the top level of the area you are met with a doorfull of Lindas, Williams and Ropers. Then more come out of the door when you dispose of the first batch.|
|Like in the first, while you're fighting this second set of chronies, a rather large person will come up on the elevator at the bottom. This time however, it is a new person, a giant… sort of… well, he looks like an idiot, but it's Abore. Pictured here, he looks anything but tough, as he could be mistaken for the Hamburgler… Tough he is though, and you probably will have to resort to kicks to score hits, or knock him onto the conveyer belt for the quick kill. After you've beaten Abore, you move to the elevator and enter level 3.|
|The music here is that of Mission 5 (Forest of Death) on the NES. Arriving on the ground you are met by another one of those mysterious big guys and a batch of Williams. My theory on the big guys as pertains to the NES version: It looks to me like the Abore in the NES version is actually a hybrid of the Abore from the arcade and this guy. Reason being, the NES Abore's head is similar and his hair is blond like arcade Abore. He also chops like arcade Abore… yet he looks more like this big guy here. Hmmm… Anyways, moving left you fight some Ropers who are colored more traditionally (blue) and Williams in front of some cabins. This part is actually really well done and to the best of my knowledge, completely original. There are some big logs and the Ropers bust out of the haystacks.|
|Moving right we see a giant piece of farm equipment, something along the lines of a plow or something. It's my guess that this is the equivalent of that bulldozer thing at the end of Mission 5 on the NES, except that this features a front view as opposed to a side view. Here we get our first taste of Jeff in this installment. "Jeff?" you say. Yeah, he doesn't appear in the NES version, but it's my guess that he's the equivalent of Right Arm, who makes no direct appearance in the arcade. They're both scrappers, and they're both no pushovers. Funny thing about Jeff is that he has your body (Jimmy's body actually)… at least Right Arm got an original sprite. Anyways, moving right you battle more Williams, and more Williams and Ropers in front of a field filled with cows that looks more like a billboard with a picture of a field with cows on it.|
|Still in front of the cows, you battle two more Jeffs. After following the path right, you come upon a steel structure. Coming down on the elevator attached will be two Burnovs (yes, two) who are now colored like the ones in the NES version (red). While no Burnov is an easy win, these versions are considerably easier to take out. Once you nail the first one, he's done with, but after defeating the second one, you'll hear him laugh and then he'll reappear. That bastard. When you take him down, you automatically head for the elevator and go up to invade the enemies' base. As an aside: As I was moving up the elevator I got the feeling clear as day that nothing I had played (save the music and some of the sprites) in the last levels was anything like the NES version. It's amazing that these two games are even related.|
|When you reach the top, you walk across a catwalk that sits in front of a well-done night sky background. The graphics were really something for me, but that's more than likely because I play 8-bit games about 85% of the time, and when I'm not playing them it's probably just a step up (16 bits). You move across to solid ground where you are met by three Abobo/Bolos in light jeans. After you take out the first two, Chin will enter with his swords and decked out in blue. He will more than likely cost you at least three credits with his highflying moves and high-pitched voice. He's 10 times better here than he is in the rest of the game so don't worry. The music in this area isn't in the NES version, and it's a shame because it's pretty cool. It sounds like a remix of the Level 8 (Hall of Illusions) theme, but more hard-hitting and with some new parts. Once you have Chin Tamei down, move to the doors.|
As you enter these doors, the next easily comparable Arcade-NES scene comes into view… The Hall of Illusions. The floor is white marble and the music is the same. You are approached by the mystery big guy in blue jeans. After him are a Williams and two Chins in the oh-so-familiar green garb. These threads would be the cause of me calling him "Link" for upwards of 8 years. Heh… After that comes a few rolling steel balls and a giant statue with a poking spear (that uncoincidentally appeared in the first game,) followed by some stones that stick out of the wall. None of this mess was in the NES version, and I continually find myself thanking Technos Japan for weeding it out when transferring it to the console.
|Down the ladder is more madness that was not included. Here you're confronted by some Williams and two Burnovs. It seems that each enemies as 3 or 4 different color schemes in this game, and there's at least one color scheme that makes them look sort of morbid or undead. Well Burnov must have been taping Thriller in the other room before he burst in because he looks zombieish to say the very least. After you defeat the two Burnovs here (the second one reappears again) you move right… to the final scene.|
|First you must take out an Abore wearing a gray shirt. He's still a big goof, so show no remorse. Further right is the showdown scene, similar to the one reconstructed on the NES, but more detailed. Next is mystery big man #6 by my count. After him is… another gray-shirted Abore! What a clown! Following Abore in this show are two green-shirted Chins and a gray-shirted Jeff. While you're battling them, Big Boss Willy may come strolling in from the back room. With his gun. That he fires. At you. When Willy enters the room (hey, at least in this version there is a high and mighty character named Willy) the music changes to that of the second part of Mission 5 on the NES version (the part where the bulldozer pulls in.)|
|After beating Willy, the music changes again, and you must battle your clone, an idea that was thankfully transferred to NES. The arcade clone and the NES clone operate almost exactly alike. Each has a fireball and each can invade your body. The arcade adds some cool effects to the body invasion… The shadow creeps on the floor and laughs a low, evil laugh as it enters you and beats you inside out. Once you beat the clone (a lot tougher than the one on NES, by the way) your character enters the door Willy came out of and you see this screen below...|
|Some ending ehh? How is Marian alive? What events transpired to bring her back to life after we saw her pumped full of lead? There aren't even any credits! We get to hear the ending song that's also used in the NES version (which I think is an excellent tune by the way) long enough to see Marian cry a tear that splashes into the words, "The End" and then it goes back to the title screen. To say this game was rushed out into the market would be an understatement, and this ending is a true affirmation of that.|
Alrighty. That's a run-through of the entire game. I guess I'll give my final thoughts here. This game was disappointing. I say that now, and I knew that going into playing it, but I had to see for myself. I can't call this game bad, because it isn't. It was entertaining, and the audio/visual elements were up to par with the first installment and better than most of the other games that were in the arcades at the time. But two things really pissed me off about this game.
One: the blatant rip-offs and re-uses of both scenery and sprites from the first installment in the series. This is just laziness in my view. Technos Japan saw the success of their first DD game, and instead of going back to the drawing boards and working on a sequel for a year or two, they just changed a few things here and there, added a few new areas and a couple of new sprites and sold it as a new game. It's important that a sequel improves over its predecessor, and this game does that in my opinion, but it does it in a cheap manner. The arcade version of the game will always have strikes against it in my book because of this.
Two: It's not the NES version. Okay, so this may be a little bias to hold against the game (I don't really) but the NES/Famicom version of Double Dragon 2 may be the best fighter ever coded. It's amazing that it came from the same game I just spent the last couple of hours blathering about. It makes you wonder really. DD2 didn't do well in the arcades because gamers aren't stupid; they weren't going to buy a half-assed sequel in the arcades, and they sure as hell weren't going to buy a half-assed sequel to an already half-assed port of the original game. So Technos went back to the drawing board and they really showed what they were capable of doing… coding an excellent fighting game. Double Dragon 2 on the NES is what Double Dragon 2 in the arcades should have been… a great game.CHARACTER COMPARISONS