When the first Double Dragon appeared this time last year, it was received with almost uniformly awful reviews. Readers voted it one of the worst games of the year. Disappointment was evident because expectations were high.
The appearance and subsequent licensing of Double Dragon II gave Virgin another chance to produce a game which does the coin-op justice and this time they have made a better fist of it. The first thing that strikes you about Binary Design's conversion is the full screen image, which helps retain the feel of the arcade original.
There is little to separate the first Double Dragon from its successor. It is another horizontally scrolling beat 'em up much in the same mould with you battling your way through henchmen, with a variety of weapons such as chains and knives.
The game loads in section-by-section, not just between levels, but also midway through. This can catch you unawares, particularly as you begin level two, since the first thing that happens is that you receive a smack in the mouth because you materialise right in front of an extremely large bit of muscle. Nevertheless there is no doubt which game you are playing from the moment you begin as the two characters (instantly recognisable because they dress so badly) begin their cross screen surge.
The action is furious enough, although at many points characters seem to behave peculiarly, mainly because of untidy bits of programming. Some opponents stick on ladders invitingly, allowing you to trash them with lumps of chain without fear of retaliation, others jump off upper levels suicidally, and indeed a whole gang can be induced to hurl themselves from the top of the machinery like lemmings.
Whilst Double Dragon II is good fun, particularly in two player mode, it is the kind of game with which you cannot help picking faults. These faults are particularly glaring once placed next to Ninja Warriors which is polished in comparison. The sound in Double Dragon II is messy with exclamations from battered baddies that sound like hiccups, and the backdrops in some places are extraordinarily flat. Witness the end of the third level where the field full of cows looks like a bad attempt at cubism.
These criticisms are not to suggest DDII is unplayable because it is not, there is still a lot of fun to be had playing this conversion, merely that it is not the game it should have been.
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