Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Sniper)
Format: Super CD-ROMĀ²
Genre: Brawler
Developer: Naxat Soft
Publisher: Naxat Soft

This port of Technos's "Double Dragon II" was developed by Naxat Soft, of "Alien Crush" and "Devil's Crush" PC Engine pinball fame. They decided to adapt most of the artwork-- the protagonists, the HUD, most of the enemies, the weapons, and quite a bit of stage art-- from the arcade original. And like that arcade title, this PC Engine version has massive sprites compared to the NES port. Why mention the Famicom rendition? Because the rest of this title, right down to most of the stage layouts, were adapted from that version of the game, versus the arcade title. The graphics aren't as good as competing 16-bit brawlers like "Final Fight" or "Streets of Rage", but they are colorful and oftentimes surpass that of the arcade original.

Like so many PC Engine games, this title makes use of the "Super CD ROM ROM" format, and so features a full Red Book audio soundtrack. The first stage opens with a song using enemy laughs and female scream samples. Some of the other songs include a jungle tune, dramatic 80s saxophone music, and some moody traditional Japanese work. Also like many PC Engine "Super CD-ROMĀ²" titles, this release has well-animated anime-style cut-scenes, with huge characters and vibrant settings. The hyperactive ever-sprinting protagonists are fully-voice acted, and the over-the-top performances and corny music as they chase helicopters and escape from being drowned are absolutely marvelous. Let's never forget: "Hot hot hot hot wild!"

Where the arcade original and the famous NES port feel a bit sloppy compared to classic genre entries like "Streets of Rage 2", this PC Engine port is much tighter and precise, rivaling the better games of this style. Grabbing enemies is still annoyingly inconsistent, but the basic punches and kicks connect in a predictable and satisfying way. One oddity is that enemies permanently go into "surround" mode in this version of the game, which means the spinning air kick can and must be used heavily throughout the gameplay. Some of the annoying platforming from the NES version made its way here, so be forewarned.

The entire "Double Dragon" series, from the arcade originals to the various home ports, are thoroughly B-tier compared to the genre giants: they have sloppy controls, iffy level design principles, and simply lack the panache of competing brawlers. But this PC Engine rendition of the second title, with its huge sprites, uncharacteristically sharp gameplay, two-player mode, Red Book soundtrack, comfortable half hour playthrough length, and difficulty-dependent endings is within touching distance of the top drawer. It feels like a true 16-bit brawler in a way nothing else in the series manages.

Sniper's verdict: