RETRO REBOOT - Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)

The NES port of the first Double Dragon was a decent entry. It may have lacked co-op, and the controls were iffy and a little unresponsive, but the sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, made vast improvements. Yeah, I talk about Double Dragon a lot. At the very least, with this review, I'll be done with the NES trilogy. There are still other versions and sequels to visit. 

Developed by the revered Technos Japan, a lot of aspects of Double Dragon II were changed for the Nintendo port. Many of the stages, enemies, and hazards from mission 2 to about mission 8 are revamped for the NES, and like the first game, the 8-bit counterpart adds obstacles to jump around, which is where most of my life bar gets depleted. 

Taking place immediately after the first, Billy and Jimmy Lee, along with Billy's girlfriend Marian return home, completely not mentioning the heel turn from Jimmy at the end of the first game. However, Marian is later killed by the Shadow Warriors. The NES version, in another retcon, changes the main villain of the game from Willy, who mercilessly guns down the poor woman, to a wacky, show-boating magician who, to my knowledge, is never named. I prefer the NES version as the definitive version of the game, you at least get proper closure and resolution of Marian being revived following the defeat of...let's just call him The Majestic Verrelli for the sake of identification. 

With better sprites, the graphics are an improvement. Co-op is viable this time around, and while only two enemies still can be on the screen, it's still more desirable. The enemy sprites, along with the Lee brothers, are reworked and sport more detail. Bolo, the Abobo variant, looks the same. He has a new attack, a vaulting back body drop that was scrapped for the first game. 

All the stages look different, and I can be rather gripey on the introduction on the obstacles in the NES Double Dragon games, I'm only harsh on half of these. Mission 3, the easiest stage in the history of the franchise, is a cool idea. With the cabin door opening and closing at various intervals, pulling you towards the exit and to your doom, it's simple to lead the A.I. to the general area and boot them out. The pilot must've been in for a surprise when Billy and Jimmy jumped him once the melee was over. Either that, or he didn't inform the fellow Shadow Dragons that he was going to try and dump the Lees out of the helicopter at the expense of their own men. Always funny when the bad guys treat their own warriors as disposable.

The controls, Double Dragon II adopted a new attack scheme that sounds a little clunky on paper. Instead of the punch and kick buttons, they're now mapped to being front attack and back attack. Now, when you change directions, the button orientation changes with it. It sounds cumbersome, but pretty intuitive and doesn't take long to get used to, honestly. This version also does away with the EXP gauge, you now have all your attacks from the start, including some new ones. The Hyper Knee and Hyper Uppercut are executed by rising from a crouching position. The uppercut, I love abusing, it hits hard and it's very fast. The knee, more devastating and probably one of the most famous Double Dragon attacks, but the execution never feels consistent. That being said, The Revenge is the most polished the home ports of the series has ever been up to this point. Hell, probably a little more beyond, as Super Double Dragon can be overly sluggish.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge is my overall favorite Double Dragon game. It sped up the simplistic formula, omitted a lot of the rockiness of the first NES entry, sports great music, and in my opinion is more fun than the arcade version. Some of the stubborn platform jumping can cause blood capillaries to burst, but this remains one of the more entertaining 8-bit beat'em ups. 

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