Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

For those of us who fell in love with the original 1989 NES game Double Dragon II: The Revenge, it’s hard not to get excited and throw your money at a completely modernized remake. Gamers everywhere will see this game, jump for joy, and move over to the purchase button with lightning-fast reflexes for Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons, developed by GRAVITY. But let’s stop and put down the controller for a moment so we can take a deeper look at the content, before thrusting ourselves into a game based solely on nostalgia.

The storyline seems the same as the original game, though if you are new to Double Dragon II you will not have a clue about what’s going on. The reason for this is that the narration during the tutorial only  has a picture of a statue, and a voice actor saying things like “vice meets virtue”,  while a text box is up on the right hand side of the screen, telling you to press X three times. After this confusing message, you’ll then be thrown into a scenario where you are at what looks like a dojo, playing as Marian Kelly (from the original series) with thugs to beat on. You repeat this process several times until you start the game. The campaign actually begins after the last tutorial phase, when Marian gets shot and dies by one of your attackers, setting up the premise for the game.  Marian’s lovers (Bill and Jimmy Lee) are on the hunt for her murderer, and they are punching in every face along the way until they find the person responsible. While the original Double Dragon II had very little storyline, this game has even less.

The cutscenes (the term is being used lightly here) will entail flashes of random pictures, which leaves a lot to be desired. To explain what is meant by this, let’s take a look at the first big boss battle you have. Once defeated, you’ll see a necklace from around the boss’s neck being thrust into the air. From there, you get a cutscene where you see pictures of an angry Bill and Jimmy Lee, images of a scared and then dead Marian,  and images of the necklace, blood, and flashing muscles broken up in there to try and help you figure out what is going on. It is not only disjointed in its logic, but it is not even artistic or aesthetically pleasing. It’s almost as if you are seeing a bunch of sketches someone decided to throw at a computer screen and record in hopes someone will consider it a new form of anime art and be the next big trend. Even the basic content is trying to be a more serious version of a cartoon, but this makes it hard to take the game as a darker version than its predecessor. The characters are trying to look badass, while you get close-ups of their raging, steroid-induced and pulsating muscles – disproportionate to their tiny heads or even their bodies. These concepts just did not translate well, and will leave people more confused than entertained as they journey through.

You can choose to play by yourself or locally with a friend. If you are playing locally, you can choose to play cooperatively or against each other. In Versus mode, you play through the game together, but the other player is susceptible to your attacks. There is also a Survival mode that is just an endless supply of enemies that head your way, and you fight until you die.

Unfortunately, you won’t find much has changed with the Lee twins, as the game mechanics have not only continued with the old issues, but added some new ones – a decision that is sure to make a few players want to throw their controllers at the television. You’ll be using a mixture of X, B, and RT to hit thugs, while LT will block and RB/LB will throw elbows backwards. Seems simple, right? It really isn’t.

GRAVITY has taken the side-scrolling adventure and added to the movement, so now enemies can attack you from all eight directions.  The problem with this idea is the disjointed nature of the movement, and the lack of reaction your character has. You can only attack someone when you are facing that direction (aside from using your elbow to hit someone directly behind you), and the enemies can maneuver more easily than you. The reason your enemies are faster is that you can’t just switch directions smoothly; you will have to step forward while not pressing any other buttons, and then turn in the direction you wish to move. Also, when blocking, you’ll be unable to move either and will have to leave yourself open to attack to even turn around. The only exception is by holding the analog stick in the opposite direction of the block, you can hop backwards sometimes. I say sometimes as it was intermittently working for both myself and the person I was playing with.

In fact, many of the controls were delayed at times (even when running through the tutorial), or it didn’t pick up when you were hitting someone whatsoever – which can severely impair gameplay where timing your punches is how you beat your enemy (as they can also block). While you have the ability to hit things in front of or behind you, being unable to easily switch the direction you are facing means that when you have mobs surrounding you, no amount of skill will help your evasion as the controls are simply unable to keep up with the game.

The boss fights mimic The Revenge in Wander of the Dragons. Each boss fight plays exactly the same, and they are very easy to beat. In fact, thanks to the new mechanics, bosses are even easier to beat than the mobs, because they all tend to walk very slowly and block – so if you want to beat them, quickly hit them once then run away, wait a few seconds, then repeat this process until they are down.

There are some interesting moments that will cause the playing field to be leveled, such as pulling a lever to have a crane knock down all your enemies, but they are few and far between. You’ll also notice a returning issue where the enemies aren’t on the screen, but are still able to hit you. Since you cannot move the view unless you are into the next phase (after beating up a pre-determined number of enemies), you’ll find yourself trying to lead your enemies away from the sides of the screens just to punch them. If the enemies go off screen, they can hit you, but you’ll be unable to hit them properly, especially since you can no longer see them. You’ll also still have the ability to pick up objects (like a wooden plank, for instance) by pressing Y, but it is usually not worth it. The reason for this is your character is very slow to pick up items, and when you get knocked down you’ll be unable to get up because the enemies will continue hitting you back down as you get back up, over and over again. This usually continues until you die. Many of these issues existed in Double Dragon II: The Revenge and were simply not changed for the remake, which was a little disappointing to say the least.

Revisiting the voice acting, it is unfortunately hard to understand what is being said. I’ve gone back and replayed the tutorial just to hear what he is trying to say and re-read the text box that accompanies it, but it still doesn’t seem to match up. There are moments when the actor is speaking English (and matching what the dialog text is saying), and then there are moments when he is speaking something else (determining the language would be a very uneducated guess on my part). There is no pattern between when he switches from English to the other language, and it is not like the actor is trying to accent the work – it simply seems out of place, confusing, and poorly written. The music itself is very quiet in comparison to the rest of the games, and while ‘thuds’ and ‘oomphs’ are fun during fights, the game sound overall is fairly lackluster and generic. After the first three or so levels, the droning, repetitive nature of the electronic beeping music and the same sound effects may  make you want to break free and put on some of your own music.

If you are in this strictly to remember your arcade-loving, friend-tripping days, Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons may just be a great playthrough for you. For everyone else, this Double Dragon remake is almost like a double date with Awkward Penguin and Bad Luck Brian – at least you’ll have great stories to tell.

Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons receives a 2.5/5.0

Our Rating
out of 5.0

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