The Double Dragon series can be described as one of the most cherished series of games on the NES. Well, minus the third installment, which defied the laws of practicality and intelligence. The first Double Dragon game went on to be one of the most celebrated 8 bit releases ever. Coming back after a long hiatus still results in encountering the same solid, though not very arcade perfect, beat ‘em up title. The middle game of the NES trilogy, Double Dragon 2: The Revenge, is often considered to be the pinnacle of the series, blending together the best of the first game, as well as adding in omissions and other fresh ideas into the mix. With the first title being an instant classic, is the second really up to its level?
One of the omissions from the first title was multiplayer gameplay. DD2 provides the gamer with just that. In an age before Final Fight became the identity of the beat ‘em genre, there was DD2 on the NES, providing a thrilling two player simultaneous romp. There were so few titles during this period that could match the quality and pound for pound, blow for blow excitement. Tackling the trickier bosses together is a rush and a half, as is the mundane random thug beatings you’ll both dole out. Through there are a few tight quarter spots, or just plain challenging spots that punish you more for having a second player (the conveyor belt sections come to mind). Tortures notwithstanding, co-op play-throughs is the way to go, even for the solitary player.
Accompanying the co-op thrills are some well rounded controls in general. There’s a slight learning curve to them, which takes all but one minute to get acquainted with, although will trip you up every so often. Facing the right, the B button will initiate a kick that attacks behind you, with the A button that punches forward. If you face the left, the buttons swap, occasionally throwing you for a loop. It’s not a major issues, as it is something that can be adjusted to, but it’s a rather peculiar mechanic. All of the moves you can perform, both carried over from the first title, as well as the brand new ones, all come off with little fuss.
The audio has a minor regression to it over the classic tunes from the first title. While they still remain among the upper echelon of the NES soundtracks, they do not reach the level of quality as the first game. There’s a similar feeling to the visuals as well, although there’s a bit more refinement here and there. Some stages are a vast improvement, such as stage four and its jungle backdrop that later changes to the train. Character models look a bit cleaner than the first title, though don’t feel like a vast improvement of any kind. DD2 looks solid, and can be considered as one of the better looking 8 bit titles, but doesn’t really push past the first title enough.
While the first game was a masterpiece in its own right, Double Dragon 2 added some elements that helped to make this one of the premiere co-op games on the system. Although the audio and video do not totally surpass the first installment, they compliment the mechanics and fun factor quite well. With a high difficulty that isn’t overbearing like some games (Battletoads for one) you’ll have plenty of challenge to look forward to and plenty of good times playing alone, and even more so with a friend.