I have made it a point to review as many Arcade Archives titles as possible because the only thing better than reliving the gaming glory days of my childhood is being able to actually complete the games through the assistance of a much more convenient PS4 interface that allows me unlimited continues without the need for more quarters. There was no way I was gonna give up the chance to finally actually complete a Double Dragon game. That’s why I chose to review Arcade Archives: Double Dragon II – The Revenge. This game was originally released for the arcade in 1989 by Technos Japan and was finally ported to the PS4 by HAMSTER February 26th of this year. If you aren’t familiar with the Double Dragon franchise, then you have missed out on probably the most influential beat ‘em up series in the history of video game development. One could argue that all current button mash and brawler games originated from this very series which continues to be honored for its contributions to gaming even to this day.
As with all Arcade Archives titles, this is a true port of the original arcade game and graphics with just a bit of touching up and finishing added. The purpose and goal of this collection has always been to recreate the original experience while making it much more convenient to play. Visually you will not be wowed. It’s classic 2D pixels with the same few enemies redone in different colors a few times over. The graphics have been perfectly exported from the original version. They run smoother than ever and will give you no lag or framerate issues. But it still looks like it was made in 1989 and that’s how it should be. Just like with all games in this collection, the only thing that has been added to the graphics are very simple, yet extremely helpful menus that allow you to alter things about the gameplay and experience such as screen size, difficulty, sound, and controls. I have always liked HAMSTER’s bare bones menus because it shows that they have done their best to keep the experience authentic while still making the necessary improvements to make the games more marketable for a modern audience. This is not a game you buy for the graphics, but the authenticity of the graphics will not disappoint you.
The gameplay is exactly how I remember it when I was a kid in the 90’s. By which I mean it’s extremely difficult, totally unforgiving, and way unbalanced. This game was made for the arcade in the era or sucking up quarters to make a profit. The computer has the clear advantage and you will feel that very quickly. That is to say that this is a perfect port. Even if you switch the game to easy, you will still feel the burn. The controls are very simple. You can move with the left stick or d-pad, punch left or right with circle and square, and jump with ex. You can also do air attacks by combining jump and attack buttons. All buttons can be remapped. The computer will mercilessly beat you down even when you have an attack item such as a whip or shovel and you will be frustrated the whole way through. The computer has a much better reach than you and can get and hold combos easier and longer than you as well. Levels are timed, but you can alter the time in the menus. Even on the PS4, the experience is exactly the way it was meant to be. The one nice thing about the gameplay is that as hard as it is, you will improve by a noticeable margin if you put the time in.
You can play local co-op or single player in three different game modes. “Original” mode is the classic arcade plot version where the girl gets murdered or kidnapped depending on how you read the story and then you, being a vengeful or heroic martial arts master, go after the culprit through five or six stages/missions of minions to then have to face the extremely unbalanced boss fight where you have to deal with the only enemy in the game with a gun as well as other minions at the same time. And if you can manage to topple this fight, for some reason you will be forced to fight a ghost version of yourself or possibly your brother depending on how you read the plot. The game tracks your high score, awarding points for each landed attack. Every time you get a game over, you can continue but your score resets to 0. As with all Arcade Archives games, you can use interrupt save states to play the game, but these won’t work with the other two game modes.
“High Score” mode has you play through the campaign with the basic three lives and get as far as possible. You cannot continue once you die and pausing the game will force you to restart. This score, if it’s high enough, can be uploaded to the online leaderboard. I found this leaderboard uploading system to be a bit inconsistent and buggy with basically every Arcade Archives title I’ve played. “Caravan” mode is basically just High Score mode but with a five-minute time limit. These five minutes includes cinematics and stage changes so really it’s more like getting four minutes depending on how far you actually get. For me, Original mode is the only thing I really cared about, but High Score mode is the most important for trophies.
The sound in this game is good. It’s clean, but still the same stuff from the original version. The music and effects sound very good for a port and you will experience no lag or other problems. The menus also allow you to customize the sound in a number of ways as you see fit. Since it is an old beat ‘em up, there’s basically one song and punch effects along with the occasional evil laugh or defeated growl/moan. The sound is not great for today, but for a game from 1989 I have nothing but good things to say.
There is a plot, which is lightly expounded upon in the menus. “In order to avenge a lover, Double Dragon masters Billy and Jimmy take on mysterious armed forces.” That’s literally all you get. The game starts with a guy shooting a girl, causing her to vaporize, and then you fight through a bunch of guys to ultimately kill said guy. But then at the end, you see a picture of the two brothers and the girl smiling, so unless it was a flashback moment maybe she lives? Gotta love the 80’s plots. The menus though are extremely well written and quite short. You go into the game having no questions about what to do other than, again, how to upload high scores to the online leaderboards.
The campaign is quite short. You can complete the whole thing in about 30 minutes with several continues, sometimes needing multiple for a single boss fight. But the replay value comes from the trophies and online leaderboards. There are only six trophies, but this is the first game I’ve seen from Arcade Archives that is actually hard to 100%. You don’t get trophies just for doing actions like reading the menus and changing settings like in the other ones. All six trophies are focused on high score with the easiest being score 10,000 points and the hardest being score 50,000 points. Again, you must accomplish these tasks in only three lives. While this game is priced at £5/$8, like all the other Arcade Archives titles, I don’t know if I can endorse that price here. It’s fun but it’s not the best Double Dragon experience you can get today for near the same price or less. If you are a collector and you already have the first Double Dragon from Arcade Archives then I don’t see why you wouldn’t buy this one for the same price. But honestly I think Double Dragon Neon, which sadly is only available on PS3 and PC, is the much better buy for only $2 more. It’s the same great combat, but with modern graphics, item drops such as health, special moves, better music, and hilarious voice acting. Yes it is in many ways a bastardization of the original games, but it’s a lot longer and more worthy of the price. $10 is high for that one as well, but you can get it on sale on Steam or GOG all the time.
Arcade Archives: Double Dragon II – The Revenge is certainly fun, for people like me who grew up in the 80’s/90’s. This port stays true to the original arcade release and if you want that experience, it’s a must buy. I was very happy to finally be able to finish a Double Dragon game, because even Neon’s final boss has haunted me for so long. But it’s not even my favorite Arcade Archives title thus far. Honestly it’s not worth your £5/$8 both for its genre and as my choice for which Arcade Archives title you should buy if you can only buy one. This is by no means a criticism of HAMSTER’s work/performance on the game. They did a great job and should be commended. It’s just not the best game from that era or even that series.
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