Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: PalSoft Publisher: PalSoft Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
I’m a huge Double Dragon fan, and I must have at least four versions of the original arcade hit, including the MAMEd version on my Xbox. The sequel was really underappreciated in my opinion, and the fact that a true version was never released on consoles in America only reaffirmed this. I always thought that no one ever localized it because they didn’t like it. After playing the abysmal Mega Drive rendition, I’m now convinced that they did it for our own good.
If you’ve played the incredible NES or Turbo Duo versions, then you know just how great this game can be. I have and love both those interpretations, but I wanted an arcade-perfect port. I figured that the series already had a decent base with Accolade’s release of the original, which to me was only lacking in the audio and the accelerated speed of the gameplay. Everything else made for a fun time. The sequel wasn’t a major leap over the original in any sense, so it should have been a relatively easy job for Pal Soft to give us the rendition we deserved. Never has one’s faith been so misplaced.
Pal Soft needs to be congratulated. It’s taken everything I loved about the arcade Double Dragon II: The Revenge and crapped on it from a great height. Nothing has been spared here, from the graphics to the gameplay to even the HUD. Yes friends, Pal Soft even managed to find a way to screw that up. It’s almost as if the company had a checklist of things it wanted to ruin and gleefully went down the list as it raped yet another part of my memories.
Just looking at the game is enough to set off alarm bells. Instead of overlaying the HUD onto the graphics like in the arcade, Pal Soft actually decided it was better to cut off almost a fourth of the play area to accommodate everything at the bottom of the screen. Why on Earth would it do this? The original gave you your score at the top and your life and credit count at the bottom. It was never intrusive or distracting, so I’m baffled at Pal Soft’s decision to wonk it all up. Needless to say, everything looks all squished and small, and it really takes away from what little visual impact this game had to begin with.
The sprites also look weaker and less detailed than even the first game did on the Genesis. The visuals in Double Dragon have never been that good to begin with, so how do you manage to mess that up? Even the small amount of flair there was here is gone. Enemies no longer cartwheel around the screen, and the backgrounds look like cardboard props. Truthfully, there’s only the most basic of similarities between this version and its source material, as if Pal Soft included only that which was needed to reaffirm that it is indeed a port. The whole thing is just so poorly done that it should enrage any Double Dragon fan just by looking at it.
I wasn’t expecting the audio to be decent (just play the first game on the Genesis and you’ll see why), and it wasn’t. Sounds are completely missing, such as the bosses evil laughs, so my attention was turned fully to the broken, broken gameplay. Retaining the dynamic of punching in the direction that you face and kicking to the back, Double Dragon II on the Genesis somehow manages to fumble basic things like collision detection. It’s no fun to be flailing punches at a foe only to have him walk right through them and hit you. You’ll probably land one or two, but that’s not enough to keep him from either jump kicking you (which they do a lot) or just belting you one. It’s highly frustrating to say the least. Technos decision to change to layout of the powerful elbow move to depend on which directions you were facing was a horrible one, and it’s even more worthless in this home release. If you can’t rely on your most lethal weapon, and the enemies can practically waltz right through your blows, how are you supposed to defend yourself? You could argue the old Double Dragon standard of “punch and then give ’em a face full of knee,” but that’s also much to spotty here to be useful. No, it turns out that in this port, your most trusty attack is a stupid back kick. Quite the downgrade indeed.
This is all further enhanced by the enemy A.I.’s new confidence in its ability to whup you like a government mule. Not content to dodge your punches, it also loves to jump kick all the time and most notoriously, it loves to grab you while you’re on the ground. You can conceivably be dragged from one side of the screen to the other by a foe who beats you down and picks you up to repeat the process. Bosses are especially adept at this, and you’ll see your energy whittle down to empty within the space of a few combos. Weapons are almost useless here, and it’s not really worth picking them up anyway, as you’ll be knocked to the ground long before you have a chance to set yourself up to use them.
The few positives that there are include virtually the retention of simultaneous two-player action, almost all the enemies (including the muscle-bound Rick James and all the bosses), and all the stage weapons and obstacles. Even the wheat shredder in stage three joins the fray, flashing lights and all. The final shadow battle is here as well, so there’s at least a little accuracy to be found. It doesn’t compensate for all the shortcomings, but it does at least show that the Genesis was capable of bringing a true port home.
Anyone who counts themselves as a Double Dragon enthusiast already knows what to do here. Find a copy of the NES or Turbo Duo versions, and stay as far away from this turd as possible. Even casual beat-’em-up fans should steer clear, as there’s so much more bad than good with this rendition that it’s not even worth emulating (I assume most with a passing interest would opt to go that route as opposed to paying $35-$50 for an import copy). Pal Soft deserves two elbows and a knee to the head for this dreadful job.
SCORE: 3 out of 10