As Double Dragon aficionados likely know, there were two completely different versions of the game made by two different teams: the arcade version was a forgettable effort that followed directly in the footsteps of the first game, while a different team built something entirely new from the ground up and more optimized for consoles with the NES version. The NES version is generally regarded as the superior game, and this is an enhanced port of it, giving it arcade-caliber graphics and sound; effectively making it the Double Dragon 2 that should have hit arcades in the first place.

It looks and sound really nice, and has one of the nicer-feeling gameplay engines in the whole series to boot. It's basically like an early version of what we would see in Super Double Dragon; minus the ability to block/catch attacks, but with bigger sprites and a faster feel more in line with the style of the original arcade game. A new soundtrack was also done up in Redbook Audio, a mix of remixes of the NES game's music and entirely new pieces that is generally quite good. There's even animated cut scenes between levels reminiscent of the ones seen in the TMNT arcade game, accompanied by voice acting.

That doesn't mean it's total perfection, unfortunately. Technos handed this one off to Naxat to port, and while they did a good job in many aspects, they didn't quite get there when it comes to enemy design and placement. The entire game is the same repeating pattern; two guys come out, and one always tries to walk around behind you, no matter what. Then they just pincer you endlessly. There are differing enemy types, but they all seem to follow the exact same script; get into Pincer Position first, run and jumpkick your face if far enough away. You're still seeing the same BJ Honeycutt Gone Bad enemies popping out right before the final boss doing the same old thing. Most beat em ups throw more than two enemies at you at a time, and have more variety in how they approach you.

The cyclone kick is also much more iffy to pull off in this one, and while that isn't really necessary (I didn't use it once in beating the game), jumping is also more of a struggle here than it is on the NES. I really hope you're playing in a format where you can save-scum, because it's basically necessary to get past the disappearing platforms, gears and conveyor belts in the final two levels.

The structure is mostly faithful to the original NES version, though it does chop a bit of its length, and inserts a couple small new scenes like a boss battle in the cockpit of the airship. Machine Gun Willy also appears as a sub-boss before the final battle, which doesn't happen on the NES. And in this one, you can play the full game even on Easy mode, but you won't get Happy End unless you beat it on Hard.

What holds this game back from true greatness is purely mechanics and enemy variety. Naxat did a solid basic job of tuning up the arcade game's engine, and it's almost one of the best in the series, but little nuances like jumping and enemy AI seemed to elude them. Probably worth a play anyway just for the boss piano rendition of the Double Dragon theme that plays over the credits, though.
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