Note 1: Like PC Engine games? Check out my reviews of Operation Wolf, Nekketsu Soccer Hen, and Batman! Interested in other Beat ‘Em Ups? Check out my reviews of Bare Knuckle III, D & D, Crows: The Battle Action, Mighty Final Fight, Final Fight 2, Final Fight Guy, Nekketsu Oyako, and Warriors of Fate!
Note 2: This game was played on a PC Engine Super CD-ROM attached to a Core-Graphx II Hu-Card console. The output was AV (red, yellow, white) and connected to a 32 inch HD tv.
Quick History and Game Story: Released only in Japan in 1993, this version of Double Dragon II sees the Lee brothers, Billy and Jimmy, taking on the Gen-Satsu-Ken (Shadow Warriors) in a pseudo post-apocalyptic New York in the year 2000. Following some type of nuclear attack, crime ravages NYC, and what innocent citizens remain are being terrorized and murdered by the Gen-Satsu-Ken. Eventually, Billy’s girlfriend, Marion, is murdered, causing the ‘Double Dragons’ to plan their revenge on the Shadow Warriors. This game is similiar to the more well-known NES version of Double Dragon II, yet is by no means exactly the same, as it partly incorporates portions from the arcade version of DDII. It is a hybrid of both games, making for a unique game and, as with most Double Dragon games, fun experience.
Gameplay: PC Engine controllers are quite similiar to NES controllers, with a control pad and 4 buttons: Select, Run (Start), II, and I. There are also built-in turbo switches, which come in handy in games like DDII. Your character has a variety of attacks at his disposal as he fights his way through 9 missions of Beat ‘Em Up glory. The basic attack functions are original. If your character is facing an enemy, he will throw punches by hitting either button I or II, depending on which way you’re facing. If an enemy is behind your character, hitting button I or II throws a kick. It takes a minute to adjust to this scheme, but only a minute. Hitting buttons I and II together causes your character to jump, and hitting one of the buttons again at the height of the jump (if you have jumped vertically, NOT while jumping left or right) causes an enemy clearing ‘tornado kick,’ crucial (and easy) to learn if you want to beat this game. Enemy grabs and throws are executed by getting in close to enemies and hitting the attack button, and the facecrushing flying knee or super uppercut are executed by hitting toward + attack or simply attack (respectively) when your character is in a crouching position following a jump or after getting up from being knocked down. If you’ve ever played the NES Double Dragon II, the control scheme is essentially the same. All of the moves are easy to pull off, unlike other games in the series, so rarely will you get frustrated by your character not doing what you want him to do.
Sound and Music: The music is great, making use of the Redbook Audio that PC Engine Super CD-ROM games uses. While the quality of the music is excellent, however, it is not as memorable as more familiar versions, such as the NES DDII. You won’t recognize any of these in-game songs, unfortunately. The popular Double Dragon Theme oddly only plays during the opening cut-scenes and the end credits, but never during actual gameplay. The only exception is the fight with the final boss, where a re-mixed version of a recognizable Double Dragon boss song plays -THAT song is great, and really adds to the atmosphere. The sound effects are good, but could have used some improvement. Punches and kicks sound great, but some moves, like the tornado kick, lack that hard-hitting, smashing sound effect that game players enjoy in Beat ‘Em Ups. Also, there is no sound effect whatsoever when you bash an enemy with the shovel, one of many weapons you pick up in the game. There’s nothing more unsatisfying than clocking a Shadow Warrior as hard as you can in the chest with a flat head shovel and hearing absolutely nothing. Overall, though, the sound effects work well, with only these few exceptions.
Graphics: If you’ve never seen a PC Engine Super CD-ROM game, or a regular PC Engine Hu-Card game for that matter, I would describe the graphics as a cross between a NES and SNES game, leaning more towards SNES. Everything is quite colorful and serves its purpose well. If you enjoy these types of games, you won’t be disappointed with the graphics.
Options: On the options menu, you have the choice to set the difficulty. While you can play through the entire game on any difficulty, the ending you get varies based on what setting you have chosen. You can also set your number of continues and lives (maximum of 5), and turn off the between-mission animated cutscenes (called ‘Demo’) in the Options menu. You select ‘2 player’ from the Options menu, but a second player can also join in the game at any time by pressing Run on a 2nd controller during gameplay. Keep in mind that during 2 player games, both players share the credits, meaning your partner better not suck if you want to beat the game. Also, you can hit each other during 2 player campaigns, but fortunately, the screen is large enough that you shouldn’t have to fight in close quarters most of the time, reducing the amount of chances you’ll have to send a flying knee into the face of your partner.
Weapons: Knives, shovels, morning stars, and giant steel balls can all be taken from enemies and used against them. What makes this better than the NES version is the ability to actually carry the weapons through the level for repeated use, instead of having them disappear after certain enemies have been defeated.
Enemies: There are a set number of enemies in the game, and depending on the difficulty you’ve selected, you will face more or less in each mission. On Easy, their attacks won’t take much off your energy bar, but on Difficult, expect your life bar to drop quickly following attacks. Generally, you will face the same enemies throughout the game, as in many games like this, with color-palette swapping of various sprites being the norm.
Language Barrier? No. During the animated cutscenes, a narrator tells you what’s going on in Japanese, but it’s easy enough to piece together without the narrator. The Options are in English, and there isn’t any other in-game dialogue that you need to read anyway.
Where can I find this game? Since it was only released in Japan, that’s where you’ll find most copies of the game today if you hunt on ebay. In addition to the PC Engine Super CD-ROM, if you own a Turbo-Graphx CD (U.S. version), you can play this game on it because it’s region free. Aside from that, I don’t believe the game has been made avaliable for download on PS Network, XBOX Live, or Wii Virtual Console (not in the U.S., at least). You can always play it on an emulator on your computer, I suppose.
Conclusion: This game is different enough from the NES version to warrant a playthrough. It is at least as good as the NES version, if not better in many respects, such as graphics and control. If you’re a fan of games in the Beat ‘Em Up genre, you won’t be disappointed.
The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: Recommended if you have the patience to order everything you need to play from Japan, system and all. B+