Billy and Jimmy Lee are back again in a two player cooperative beat’em up brawler as they fight against the Shadow Warrior gang to avenge Marian. Double Dragon 2 has brief Ninja Gaiden style cut scenes to show you that Marian is indeed murdered at the start. With her death, you’re both on a fight for vengeance.
Double Dragon 2 is a huge leap up from its predecessor in terms of fun, challenge and diversity.
The entire game just feels fresh and new, even if old enemies like Williams and Linda are back again, their sprites have changed. There are new environments and new moves. Unlike the first game, you start with all of your moves. In a way I prefer unlocking them as I progressed, because it just means I will have to throw more than knees completely through the game.
The new graphics are big and bright compared to the original game. There is nothing wrong with the original, but these stand out more and fill out the screen better. Each character looks different rather than just adding a different head. The sound is also fantastic, even if the previous game was more catchy and memorable.
The first thing that people need to get used to is the new control scheme. Its easy to get a grasp of, to attack left, hit the B button and to attack right its the A button. If you are facing the same direction as the attack button, you’ll throw a short punch. If you’re facing away, you’ll have a longer range kick. Its a good dynamic to have and you still have the control to face different directions. Lindas can carry grenades and knives can be reused. They also aren’t the death sentence they were in the previous game.
This control scheme is beneficial if you ever get pinched between two enemies, because it only takes a button to attack in their direction rather than turning. With all of the 2D brawling, there’s all sorts of pinch potential. Outside of the 2D, you can just walk south to dodge attacks.
To show how deep the combat is, there are other maneuvers depending on how you’re positioned. Crouching will throw an uppercut. You can also grab your opponents and throw them. Its a staple of the Double Dragon series.
To get through the game, you’ll also need to master the jump which you can do by tapping both attack buttons at once. There are a lot of gaps, spike death pits and even a river to leap across. You can also throw a harsh knee when you jump a certain way along with a whirlwind kick. There’s some subtlety and nuance with both maneuvers. The knee can launch an enemy across the screen, but you end in a crouched position that takes a split second to get up from, so if you’re jumping on a convener belt, you might be thrown off the edge in the time it takes you to stand.. The whirlwind kick protects you from both sides.
In terms of enemies, there are new bosses and even the old favorites have new moves. William will come cartwheeling into the screen. Chins can now flip and throw ninja stars. There’s a giant construction worker boss that can lift you up and pummel you. In the fourth level a military strongman is introduced. The game keeps bringing out new foes as bosses that turn into enemies later. Even Abobo feels fresh in his wig with what looks like a mustache. Rowpers throw better dynamite and even spiked bolomats that boomerang back.
There is a diverse array of challenges, more than any other beat’em up brawler out there for the NES. Outside of typical brawling, there is 2D platforming segments that are still challenging, but with your vast array of moves, they feel fair compared to the previous game. Double Dragon 2’s movement feels a bit stiff, but your jumps are so deliberate, that its more a mastery of your skills than a simple ease of doing what you want.
You’ll be climbing up ladders, jumping down cliffs, riding bulldozer tracks, moving across gears and dodging spike pits. I will admit that in the arcade, the fighting gets dull by the end, but the NES version keeps throwing new challenges at you. Flying in a helicopter, the door will open, which pulls enemies and players toward it to suck them out the door to their death. You’ll brawl on rooftops where you and the enemies both can be thrown or knocked off to your doom. One level features a spiked ceiling that prevents you from jumping. To make up for it, you can throw enemies into the ceiling. There are hazards to navigate like falling spikes and conveners that pull you to an abyss.
To face the final boss and complete the game, you’ll need to play it on the highest difficulty. That might seem like a tall task, but playing through it several times, you’ll get used to it. The toughest parts are the platforming elements later in the game. In the game’s defense it does a good job of getting you used to the mechanics before there’s real danger.
The music, the art, the fighting, the deliberate moves and the challenge blend together to make an incredible game that surpasses its predecessor in every respect.