Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons touts itself as being an enhanced remake of a classic 1988 arcade title. After playing it though, I can say that there’s nothing about this that can claim to be enhanced other than the fact that the graphics are three-dimensional now. This is an extremely basic, boring, and unappealing game, that I imagine few will find any real value out of.
The story starts with a basic tutorial as players control not series stalwarts Billy and Jimmy Lee, but Marian, the damsel in distress from the very first Double Dragon. After practicing some moves and taking out some generic thugs, Marion gets gunned down by a gangster for some reason. From there, the boys set out for revenge.
I only know this because I looked up the plot of the original game. The cinematics here are extremely sparse and real in-game dialog is non-existent. The game completely lacks any sense of personality, from the muddy color scheme to all the basic, plain fonts that make up the HUD and menus.
This might be more forgivable if the game was fun to play, but there’s nothing else to fall back on in this case. This is one of the most basic and repetitive brawlers I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing. You can punch and kick, jump, block, and earn powerups to pull off special moves, along with picking up the occasional item. Yet, the controls feel stiff and clunky, with other annoyances such as jumps being delayed a bit after each button press due to an unnecessary animation.
The enemies are also incredibly dull, with what looks like the same template for each male’s body shape being applied across the board. Furthermore, environments are repetitive and bland and don’t even get me started on the music. While what’s there sounds all right, each track is extremely short and loops endlessly, to the point where you’ll probably just mute the TV if for some odd reason you still want to keep playing.
Enemy AI ranges from frustratingly cheap, such as moments where they rush you en masse and keep you on the ground, to laughable, where I saw several drones standing still as I approached or running endlessly into the game’s numerous invisible walls. The occasional boss fight doesn’t do anything to make the game more exciting, either.
Comparisons are doubtlessly going to be drawn between this and the previous game in the franchise, that being last year’s Double Dragon Neon. While I personally found that game to be frustrating at points, I still found it to be at least decent and serviceable for those looking for an old-school arcade brawler. Even ignoring that, there’s no contest between the two titles. Neon easily trumps this in appeal alone due to its more lively visual style and soundtrack.
Though the game supports two players in its three modes (Story, a halfhearted VS. mode, and a wave-based survival mode), there’s no online support to speak of. It’s probably for the best, though, because I can’t see people playing this long enough to actually try multiplayer out.
Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons is a total trainwreck in so many ways, and possibly the worst game I’ve yet reviewed for this site. From the tedious gameplay to the bland and ugly graphics, as well as the endlessly looping soundtrack and stiff controls, there’s just nothing fun about it. The only positive thing I can say about the final product is that it technically does function as a game – but not an enjoyable one. Longtime Double Dragon fans are better off either playing Neon instead or digging up the originals, because this won’t cut it for anyone.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version, which we received for review purposes.