In 1989, small time Japanese electronic gaming company "Palsoft" obtained the exclusive rights to reprogram a port of Double Dragon II for the Sega Mega Drive (Japanese incarnate of the Sega Genesis). This was the first time a Double Dragon game would be produced on a home 16-bit video game console. Early reports from various trade publications such as GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly proclaimed this version of Double Dragon to be the truest to the arcade version. Utilizing the Mega Drive's superior graphics and sound processors, Palsoft's version of the arcade hit was anticipated to be the most impressive street combat game of all time. However, due to the poor hack and slash programming job of the Palsoft staff, this game was confined to the shores of Japan. Sega opted not to produce this title for the American Genesis and European Mega Drive due to poor Japanese sales and harsh reviews. As a result, this title was incredibly difficult to track down in the year 2001. After nearly a year of searching, I was able to find this title in complete, mint condition on a UK videogames website. Next to the PC Engine Super CD ROM2 version of Double Dragon II, the Sega Mega Drive is perhaps the rarest and most collectible of all the Double Dragon titles.
Palsoft's incarnation of Double Dragon II for the Sega Mega Drive is the truest to the arcade version. The structure and look of the levels is just as I remembered it when playing it as a youngster back in the late 80s. All four levels are intact and do a good job of mimicking the grimy, hardcore street look all Double Dragon games personify. However, I do not feel the programmers of this game utilized the Mega Drive's graphics and visual effects capabilities at all. There is limited use of detail in the backgrounds and the characters suffer from a spritey building block look often seen in 8-bit titles. In fact, there are times when this game could pass an 8-bit title. At best the graphics are crisp but very simple.
The musical soundtrack that accompanies this game is some of the best and most memorable gaming music of all time. These tunes are awesome and make you want to kick butt. However, we are only limited to nine different musical selections. This could be due to the small size of the game and its lack of levels. In addition, the sound effects are very poor and are at times laughable. Digitized speech spoken by the head bosses suffers from the "Burger King Drive Thru" distortion effect.
There are not a whole lot of enemies seen throughout this title. Like all Double Dragon games, you will see the same thugs (Willy, Rowper, Linda, etc.) repeatedly throughout your journey dressed in different colored clothes. Unless they are teaming up on you, they don't provide much of a challenge. The bosses on the other hand are some of the coolest thugs you will ever see in a fighting game. Their presence is ominous and is immediately recognized. They are almost twice the size of you and present a challenge to even the most seasoned Double Dragon/fighting game veteran. My personal favorite not seen in any domestic version of Double Dragon II is the level two Arnold Schwarzenegger look alike.
There are tons of cool weapons a Double Dragon enthusiast can pick up throughout the journey in this Palsoft title. Items such as a metallic whip, knife, crate, shovel, giant bowling ball, grenade and redwood log make your butt-kicking session all that more enjoyable. Even cooler is the fact that you pick up these weapons and carry them with you all throughout the level. You can utilize your weaponry until it is knocked from your clutches.
Controls and Moves: D
Unfortunately, this is the area of the game which turns this title from good to very poor. The Palsoft version of Double Dragon II suffers from a horrendous slowdown problem. If there are more than two characters on the screen at one time the action begins to slow down to a pace even a turtle would laugh at. If you are playing with a partner, forget about it. Put the controllers down and go make yourself some food or do some yard work. You are not going to be able to play this game under normal circumstances. The slowdown will make doing complicated maneuvers like the cyclone kick almost impossible. However, if you can time your movements and anticipate the slowdown problem you will be able to do all the moves with relative ease. Nevertheless, you should never compromise solid game play for poor reprogramming.
There is an option screen in this game which doesn't offer much. You can adjust the difficulty of the game, the amount of lives you have and check out the sounds. That's pretty much it. No one-on-one fighting action as seen in the other Double Dragon games. A true disappointment.
Palsoft's version of Double Dragon II for the Sega Mega Drive was truly disappointing. I waited nearly a year in anticipation hunting for this title. Months upon months of web surfing, video game shop browsing and searching on EBay turned up a true turd nugget of a game. Was it worth the money? Not really. It is undoubtedly rare and a collector's item. Very few can boast they own it. The cover art alone makes you want to break out the dusty old Genesis and try this one out. However, there are many, many other fighting games out there that are much better than this title. Common sense would tell you that the 16-bit version would be better than the 8-bit version. Unfortunately, this is not the case for this title. Although the Mega Drive shares almost identical characteristics with the arcade version, the 8-bit NES version stomps all over this one in every facet.