By Dojo Master
Nintendo's portable platform had incredibly low development costs which made it easy for developers to produce a large number of games compared to home consoles, especially going into the 16-bit era. And the lower price point meant that consumers could purchase more handheld titles for the same amount of money than home console games. As a result, entire game series were released on the Game Boy (e.g., Mega Man, Castlevania, Final Fantasy), even when other systems received only one or two titles from a specific series at most. Double Dragon was no exception. Whereas the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear received only one Double Dragon title each, the Game Boy received three titles, plus Battletoads and Double Dragon, just like the NES. However, while the first and third titles on the Game Boy are essentially ports of previous Double Dragon games, the second one is not. It's something entirely different.
Kunio-kun fans should recognize this game instantly. That's because Double Dragon II on the Game Boy is nothing more than Nekketsu Bangai Rantou Hen with a face lift. Acclaim was probably looking to make some more money by releasing another Game Boy Double Dragon game, and quickly too. So, Technos helped the publisher out by providing the Nekketsu Bangai Rantou Hen engine with a few alterations. An altered storyline was drafted based on a street gang called the Scorpions, and the NES Double Dragon III box art was recycled to finish the packaging. The result is something that doesn't quite feel like Double Dragon - for a good reason.
The graphics are similar to the first Game Boy DD title but still retain some of the goofiness of the Kunio-Kun series, which is explained later in the enemies section. The levels and characters are well polished and make full use of the Game Boy's limited capabilities. Technos put in the time to add minute details to every level including urban backgrounds, graffiti, broken windows, furniture and more. Doors even open for enemies to come out, and during the fight on the subway the background is actually moving. Unfortunately, this title suffers from some rather boring, straightforward levels, just like Super Double Dragon. There are fights in elevators on the last level, but that's about it. The lack of a jump kick also adds to the mundane level design since you're never dealing with any platforms. To make things worse, levels two, three and four are re-used as levels six, seven and eight. Surprisingly though, Technos put in the effort to add little cut scenes to spice up the story line and they even included a quick map to show your progress twice during the game.
The sound can get annoying quick. It's almost as bad as the third title on the system, and it's repeated just like the levels. The music always changes when a boss appears and after you beat a level, which shows some attention to detail on Technos' part. But the music is of an overall lower quality than the previous title. The kicking and punching sounds are of the typical fashion.
This is where the goofiness mentioned earlier kicks in. Since all of the enemies are based on the cartoonish characters from the comical Kunio-kun series, they feel out of place in a Double Dragon title. Even though the bad guys were redrawn to have a fitting appearance for the Lee brothers' universe, they still look ridiculous. Prime example: The Jason Voorhees look-alike displayed below. And as the chainsaw-toting maniac shows, most of the enemies are unfairly armed with powerful weapons such as baseball bats and guns while your own character is left to play by the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. Even though the enemies were created nearly from scratch to assemble the new Scorpions gang, they just have too much of a foreign feel to them. The difficulty isn't set too high, but the fact that you can't use any weapons ruins the balance between the player and the AI.
There are no weapons that can be utilized by the player. Period.
Controls and Moves: C+
The A button punches, and B kicks. The punches are slow, and the kicks are horrible. The kicks are similar to the flawed ones seen in Double Dragon III on the NES, but worse. The second kick in a combo is a lame rising jump kick that enemies usually avoid. Even worse, jump kicks are now gone. Pressing B and A at the same time now makes the Lee brothers crouch, and pressing it again does an aerial uppercut. This move is no substitute for true aerial attacks and leaves me desiring a real arsenal of moves. There are also throws and a ground stomp ability, both of which are more useful than the aerial uppercut.
There are three difficulty settings: easy, normal and hard. There is also a two-player mode that allows the second player to join at any time, which is an amazing feature for an early Game Boy title. There are also unlimited continues.
This title is a sad departure from the decent DD game released a year earlier. Whereas the first handheld title had some noticeable flaws holding it back, it was a somewhat decent port of the NES title. However, this game is not. The Double Dragon series has a strange history with masquerading other titles as its own, such as Battletoads and Double Dragon. Few other series I can think of have used this cheap marketing strategy, which says something about the publishers involved with it. Technos did its best to provide Acclaim with a quick and decent title, but it was a less-than-mediocre attempt, even given the fact that this game is from one of Technos' other series. The lesson here is that there is no substitute for a true Double Dragon title. Strangely, this game is a far better title than the next title, which was based on a real Double Dragon game.