saw Double Dragon II at a pizza joint in Oregon. It was gray
and pouring outside, but warm and bustling inside. The controls
had parmesan cheese and a bunch of other crap on them, but
it was worth putting my hand in all that gunk to play one
of the hottest games out. The difficulty was ramped-up so
high that I only got to play once; I got destroyed in the
first stage by a teleporting biker. A teleporting...biker?
Yes, but we'll get into the logic of that later. After that,
I was reduced to watching other people play it. The two ridiculous
green sword dudes were awesome! Their movement, their attacks;
I was pulling their moves off on my friends for weeks.
just the game itself that stood out; the artwork was epic,
and still is. It depicts a blood fued that has escalated into
a full-blown war. The brothers, fighting to the death from
the edge of a rooftop; Billy with Marion on one arm and an
enemy whip wrapped around the other, then Jimmy with a crushing
left as the impending doom of a helicopter looms in the background.
There's a lot going on, but Billy stands out in this picture
because we've seen this imagery before throughout history;
the arms of justice.
Of The Truth"
One arm clutching the good of purity, the other clutching
a strangling evil. The imagery is familiar and speaks volumes. It's
likely this one piece of artwork drove sales more than the gameplay
itself, probably superseding its own reputation. Games these days
lack this cover art appeal; new ones have boring covers, and cool
covers of old ones are lost in emulation. Before emulation, though,
DDII was released in its purest form on the Sega Genesis
(in Japan). But you'd never know, since it's either completely unknown,
ignored, or trashed by "fans." The few who actually do
know of its existence slam it in favor of inferior versions (that
are not even close to the arcade version) with no disregard to the
era in which it was released.
It didn't get
a faithful home release for a while, so to true fans who played
the arcade version, the Genesis home release was probably a long
time coming. Back then, there couldn't have been a better way to
play the game at your own convenience without having to worry about
quarters! Unless, of course, you had the money to buy the arcade
unit, shipped it, lugged it in, and found a corner of your home
for it. But, really, of the generation of players that were raised
with the series, who really had the money to get an arcade unit
for home use? Nobody did. That's why it was so awesome when the
Genesis version came out. Just a few bills got you the domestic
Genesis "Core" hardware, imported game, and the import-friendly
Game Genie. Like the Genesis version of the first game, it had all
the awesome gang-fighting action and cool graphics of the arcade...in
DDII could have been cooler in design than
DD, but noticeable oddities only break it even. Billy and
Jimmy look even cooler in white/gray than red/blue, the gang leader
looks even more menacing, and regular enemies look even more brute/rotten
than before. However, metabolic-syndrome IT department nerds, teleporting
bikers, and sweatpant swordsmen are all just too ridiculous to ignore.
The sword dudes in green sweatpants are probably the least odd of
them all, but there's just something that makes me wonder why they
had to wear sweatpants, and why they had to be green. The
metabolic-syndrome IT department nerd isn't just the only character
ever in a game with such a health condition, but he could be the
worst-looking enemy in any game, ever. Of all-time.
biker makes no sense at all, either. And what's with Abobo's emo
hair replacement? These guys are abysmal, and downright painful
to look at. The only thing good that comes out of this is
that they look so bad you really want to destroy them and
move on so that you never have to see them ever again. Serious as
a heart attack; they really do look that bad, and are truly a motley
crew (not to be confused with the "DrXFeelXGoodX" butt-rock
band). The gang stomping grounds are familiar, but I always liked
how DDII seemed more modern. It's still like a tour of underground
brawl locales like construction sites, but overall more of a war
spread across the rooftops of the city. Brawling through DD's
colorful locales was fun, and warring through DDII's rough
battlegrounds is even more raw and thrilling.
Rise Of Brutality"
The brutal gameplay from DD was back, but
new controls made it harder to use the same (elbow smash) tactics.
Enemies in DDII are dirty as hell (literally), and as Richard Pryor
told Gene Wilder in Stir Crazy, "if you're not bad around
here, you're gonna get fucked." Shovels, grenades, and morning
stars are some of the visceral new weapons they've brought to war,
and you can get them if you're bad-enough. It's a rush using a morning
star on some shovel-wielding jerk, or using a shovel to go up against
teleporting bikers. You gotta watch out, though, because when you
turn their weapons against them, they start using stuff like
farming equipment against you. It may sound funny until you
get caught in vicious rotating metal blades. Time them jumps!
Of course, you
have a new Spinning Cyclone Kick and environmental hazards to even
out the odds. You can still dispatch enemies by kicking or throwing
them on conveyor belts and off edges like in the first game, but
it's so much cooler to rocket them off the edge with a Spinning
Cyclone Kick! The werewolf-looking dudes from the first game especially
deserve it to ensure their future absence. This violence is not
unwarranted, though, and is a direct result of tragedy that unfolds
at the start of the game. Marian doesn't just get punched
in the stomach and taken away like in DD; in
DDII, she gets shot in cold blood and left
for dead. Though nothing can bring her back from her untimely departure
at the hands of the gang leader, it's this vendetta that
drives you to burn through the game.
Crushing Sound(s) Of Defeat
The first game had some incredibly heavy music for the early technology
behind it. It wasn't the dynamic CD-quality audio that would be
seen in future video games, but it was abrasive-enough to fit the
fighting going down onscreen. Moreover, the music was actually memorable
and even had hard-core breakdowns! DDII naturally progresses
on the same path and only deviates slightly while staying in the
same direction of the game's theme of loss and revenge. There are
less breakdowns, but the stage clear music has some crazy blast-beats,
and stage three has some of the most memorable music from the 16-bit
generation. The sounds of hand-to-hand combat haven't changed much,
either, except the enemy death metal grunts added to go with their
new and (un)improved crusty looks.
So, then, how could "fans" bash such a great game? Apparently
for being too close to the original (an addictively fun, timeless
classic). But, how could it be a bad thing to deliver more
of something so good? And while some of the backgrounds may
look similar, they are not "recycled." Examples include
how there are no back alley or cave parts, and how the gang hideout
is completely different from the one in the first game. Both
may have rocky entrances, but the marble floors, gold (bronze?)
pillars, and blatantly "Oriental" interior separate the
one in DDII from the stone interior and "Western"
interior of the one in DD. How any "fan" could
miss these differences is baffling, not to mention the "Oriental"
and "Western" spear-wielding statues.
Then there's the
residual emphasis on platforming from the original game (which apparently
wasn't enough for "fans" who enjoy falling repeatedly
into into pits and off cliffs). Speaking of dying, how do we even
know that Marian miraculously comes back to life after being gunned-down?
Sites out there are claiming she lived. Didn't she blink a few times
and then disappear after being gunned-down? Is there any text confirmation
she came out of it all alive? All I gotta say is, how serious can
someone's "humble opinion" of this game be if their favorite
enemy is the metabolic-syndrome IT department computer nerd boss?
My opinion is not humble; it's meant to beat you over the head.
It's not perfect, but DDII is a natural progression of the
original, and one of the best side-scrolling fighters of all-time.
Force Without Ballads
Double Dragon II may not be a new game, but its still appealing
today even to youngsters who weren't around when it was big. It may
look primitive next to anything that came after it, but it's easy
for anyone to jump in and play, and it's a blast with friends! Of
course, there's something to be said about the game's cover art; a
certain intrigue and mystery of what lies ahead of our heroes that
have been torn from the red. The picture portrays a struggle for a
buxom blonde who gets gunned-down right before your eyes, and it is
this tragedy that immerses you into a struggle that isn't just about
Revenge, but all out war.
- BAD -
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