Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons Review: I’d Rather Watch the Movie
Did you know that Double Dragon is not just an awesome cartoon? I sure didn’t, as far as I was concerned Double Dragon was a movie, and later a cartoon with a great theme song. So imagine my surprise when Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons showed up on Xbox Live in all its old-school glory.
The story is pretty simply, you control Marian, the girlfriend of one of the brothers (who you really shouldn’t and won’t get attached to) and after that two minutes the stars of our game step in. Enter Jimmy and Billy Lee who now face off against the throngs of thugs coming towards you. They beat up the worst looking bumbling thugs that I’ve ever seen, maybe fight a boss, and go to the next level and do the same thing over again. Its 15 stages of the most mind numbing, basic, we’re not even trying arcade like play.
Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons uses 8-direction combat, something that can be tricky. When handled well 8-direction combat can help to refresh an older game but in this case it’s not handled well. You’ll end up missing most of your enemies as they come at you from multiple directions. It would have been better if they stuck with the original left-to-right formula instead of this misguided change. Add to this the fact that it takes the characters a second to change their direction you’ll end up taking a lot of damage before you actually accomplish anything.
If Jimmy and Billy Lee had good moves then you might be able to look past this, but their arsenal isn’t as good as it should be. Yes you can punch, kick, throw an elbow or perform the worst jump kick ever but why would you want to? None of the moves are as strong as they could be and Jimmy and Billy don’t feel effective. You’ve got power moves as well, but they also look bad when performed and the range isn’t that great, nor is the effect when they by some miracle hit your enemies. You could try to dodge by performing a roll that even a first year gymnastic student would scoff at, but knowing Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons you’ll end up rolling into the strike. It’s not that the enemies are that much stronger than Jimmy and Billy, it’s that the combat is so broken it stops being funny and certainly never becomes fun.
There are other modes like survival and versus. But they are shallow at best and don’t have any online play. This is unforgivable really in 2013 when most games are expected to feature some kind of online option. Actually forgive me, you can compare scores with leaderboards but why would you want to?
Now let’s talk about the presentation- the worst part of the game. Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons has some pretty terrible graphics even for a downloadable game. The animations are laughably bad (a boss came flipping onto my screen and crashed into barrels), backgrounds that are slightly less lazy then the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon (not the one with Princess Sally), and pretty bad game speed that it felt like I had somehow traveled back in to early 2000 with my first PS1. The audio isn’t any better, it’s just ported over original game music and vocal effects. The problem is that the porting was badly done so at times you can’t even hear the voices and the music is bland at best. There’s also voice acting which brings you right back to the early days when it was easier to mute your screen and wish that text hadn’t gone away.
Everything about Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons is broken and without online play there is nothing really redeemable about the game unless you’re in it for nostalgia. Yes it’s a remake but one done without any knowledge of any obvious love of the original. Hopefully these Dragons Wander away and never darken our consoles again.
(Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons was reviewed after 10 hours of gameplay on the Xbox 360. This copy was purchased by the reviewer).