Review: Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons, or how to completely screw up a remake
It's weird. Sometimes we get this huge culture clash of a game done right, followed by an example so horrendously awful that you wonder why it exists. Case in point- last year's Double Dragon Neon by WayForward was a stunningly awesome return to form for the series, featuring a memorable soundtrack, classic gameplay and plenty of fun for the sake of the 80's. But then you have Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons, a game that's been in production for God knows how long for Xbox Live Arcade, only to meander onto the service like a dead fish. It's an insult to the franchise – even more so than the lame Double Dragon V fighter that came out years ago.
The game features events similar to the original Double Dragon II, with players controlling the poor Marian for a few minutes before she's killed by a street gang. (Sure, that's a spoiler, but we're saving you the pain of dealing with the game.) Then the Lees, a bad looking Jimmy and his equally ugly Billy, step in to kick some butt, with throngs of ill-moving thugs coming at you. Then the occasional boss shows up with a formula so predictable, even a lab monkey high on heroin could figure it out within seconds. And on you go through the game's horrendous 15 stages. Yep, there are 15 stages of this.
One big problem that Double Dragon II seems to adapt, similar to the misguided Turtles In Time Reshelled reboot that came out a couple of years back, is 8-direction combat. If it worked, we wouldn't mind it so much, but it doesn't. With 8-direction fighting, you tend to miss your opponents quite often, while they can hit you from a multitude of directions. Gravity, the developer behind this mess, would've been better off sticking with the left-to-right style of combat, instead of forcing us to try and turn to every opponent to hit them. What's more, it takes a second to change direction, which can make all the difference between a successful hit and a whiff. It's pathetic.
As for your move arsenal, it's equally weak. You can punch, kick, throw a defensive elbow (surprisingly the most capable move in the game) or perform the most clumsy jump kick conceived in a game, or even roll out of the way, hilariously and badly, to avoid an incoming strike. There are power moves as well, but they look awful and have only so much effect in terms of range. It just doesn't work.
Along with the regular mode (which is suffer-inducing enough as it is), you also have survival and versus modes, but they're quite limited – and don't feature online play. Yep, while the far more advanced Double Dragon Neon has built-in online options, all you can do here is compare best scores on leaderboards. Because that's what Double Dragon is all about, right?
But let's get to the worst part of the game – the presentation. Double Dragon II contains some of the baddest graphics you'll see in a downloadable game. Between shoddy game speed, crappy animations (when a boss comes flipping onto the scene and crashing down on barrels, it borderlines on MST 3K-style hilarity -- see above screenshot) and backgrounds with very little motivation, it resembles something you would've seen as a first-generation release on the PlayStation 2…or even the PS1 for that matter. Audio isn't much better, between bland music poorly regenerated from the original game and vocal effects that aren't worth writing home about. And that voice acting? Let's put it this way – it makes Resident Evil sound like Shakespeare.
Really, Double Dragon II should've been shelved – permanently – instead of given a release. Everything about this game is either busted or incomplete, and the lack of online functionality is an insult to the few fans of this game who would dare give it a try. If you want true Double Dragon love, look to Neon and leave these Dragons to Wander by themselves. What a waste.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]