Developer: Gravity Corporation / Publisher: Cyberfront Korea Corporation / Played On: Xbox Live Arcade / Price: 800 MSP ($10) / ESRB: Teen [Suggestive Themes, Violence, Use of Tobacco]
Remaking a classic video game is tricky work. Developers have to capture the essence of the title that made it popular many years back, while updating it to fit the norms and requirements of modern video games. No matter how good the remake may be, some fans will inevitably scoff at the blasphemy the developer has bestowed upon their beloved franchise. Some of these remakes are excellent, such as 2012’s Double Dragon: Neon, a wonderful blend of cooperative combat, cheesy humor, and 80’s flair with great appeal to both old fans and new gamers. And then there are games like Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons that has so little in common with the source material and it’s riddled with utterly broken game design that it’s a disgrace to those that enjoyed any previous Double Dragon game.
I bring up Double Dragon: Neon to clarify a few important details. In no way is Wander of the Dragons related to Neon. The two games are made by entirely different developers and have drastically varied gameplay and storylines. Not only that, but Neon is one of the best games I played in 2012, and Wander of the Dragons is one of the worst games I have ever played.
What makes Wander of the Dragons so bad is its total rejection of any semblance that this is a Double Dragon game aside from the title. The game is supposedly a remake of the arcade/NES title Double Dragon II: The Revenge but looks, feels, and plays nothing like the original.
After witnessing the murder of their lover Marian, brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee set out for revenge. The Billy and Jimmy I remember were masters of hand-to-hand combat, but the Billy and Jimmy in this game are masters of monotony. Both brothers play identically, meaning no matter which you choose you’re subjected to mindless button mashing to deliver the same five-hit punch and/or kick combos. The fundamental aspect of a beat-em up is combat, and the fighting in Wander of the Dragons is the most mundane, boring combat I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing.
Unlike the original game, Wander of the Dragons takes place on a 3D plane, thus you can attack enemies in more directions. Unfortunately this works poorly in conjunction with the combat. Billy and Jimmy are often surrounded by enemies from many sides, and an action as simple as turning around becomes a huge ordeal. Before turning completely you take a quick back step and then rotate. I don’t want to back up, I want to turn around! Even lining up in front of your opponent to land a hit becomes a challenge.
Enemies are just as dull as Billy and Jimmy, you have to fight the same three or four enemies the entire game. Thankfully these fodder enemies are incredibly stupid. They run into battle as a group, then huddle around you and attack one at a time. Enemy AI is undoubtedly horrendous, but making matters worse is how unfair the game is. As you try to get back up after getting knocked down a different enemy can whack you again and cause you to fall once more. This gets repeated until you ultimately die. Moreover, some bosses and sub-bosses relentlessly attack you, making it literally impossible to get back up! In these cases your only saving grace is that your enemy will start their attack before you get up, or you get lucky and land a quick blow upon standing.
Wander of the Dragons truly has the worst gameplay I have seen in a long time (For comparison, see: Last Rebellion).
As the title suggests you wander around a few different locales en route to the final showdown at the secret hideout. Backgrounds are a mixed bag, offering some cool set pieces like a Wild West themed town, which are easily the best part of the entire game. For every interesting zone there are two boring stages. The most egregious of these levels is the laboratory, which repeats the same test tube backgrounds over and over again. I was disappointed to see relatively good levels followed more often than not by less inspired ones.
The soundtrack follows suit with the visuals, offering some good elements but mostly bad. The background music is on the low end of passable, with a few tunes fitting the scene (again, the western themed level stands out), but more often than not it’s a terrible mix of beats and sounds. The one exception to the poor soundtrack comes at the very beginning of the game: the theme song that plays while starting is a nice remix of the theme of the original game. Sound effects, like the music, also fall flat, with generic whacks accompanying each hit. Everything about the game looks and sounds subpar, and overall the game suffers.
A two player co-op mode is available for local play, and the only online feature is a leaderboard for high scores. Survival mode has you facing waves of enemies with only one life, which is a complete joke considering how terrible the gameplay is. Rounding out the available modes is a Vs. option that lets you and a friend duke it out against one another. With no online play, no additional features, and absolutely no reason to go back and play the game again, the replayability of Wander of the Dragons is zero. Usually beat-em ups are all about the replay value. The fact that this game has none should tell you a lot about the quality.
I want to stress this point again: Double Dragon: Wander of the Dragons has nothing to do with the excellent Double Dragon: Neon. Wander of the Dragons is a pitiful remake of a classic game and a damn shame for gamers. Double Dragon II on the NES deserves a better remake than this. Broken gameplay, boring combat, and no replay value make this one of the worst games I’ve played.
- Boring, broken, repetitive gameplay
– No replay value
– The only connection to Double Dragon is the title. This is a terrible remake!
2 / 10