You want a lads’ night in? Only if you can build a good fort

Double Dragon II: The Revenge (1989)

There’s a lot of things that a man can do when the missus is away. Living with your missus is great at first, because you know you can come crawling to her for some debasement anytime you want. You’d better be able to offer something in return, though, or you can forget all about it.

My suggestion is to learn a few cooking skills, which will always impress her, and keep you from having to eat takeaway every time she’s not arsed cooking for your sorry self. Your dad will laugh at you and your mother will want you around every day to do her cooking as well, but otherwise, the missus will probably make your initiative worth it.

And in general, if you find that you can live with someone who’s also your best pal, and you get along with them, then great. But every man needs his alone time as well, which blissfully comes whenever the missus is away. Of course, you shouldn’t pay much mind to what she might be doing when she’s “out with the girls”.

Either way, you can make your own fun. You may very well want to have the boys around, but you shouldn’t have to wait until she’s gone to bring Whacker, Concrete, Dento and Nutnut around, right? And anyway, they might all be busy establishing alibis. So what will you do, if you have a night all to yourself?

First and foremost, it will have to be a massively greasy takeaway. No vegan options or small portions here. No, it’s got to be big, it’s got to be far too much food for even two people to handle. And you can double that portion size again if you’re already hungover from the previous night. Or if you’re already drinking heavily that same night, which I’ll get onto in a moment.

You could have a munchy box, which is something that’s grown in popularity quite a lot in recent years. Munchy boxes, would you believe, were birthed in that land which has given us so many unhealthy food and diet options over the years, including the deep-fried Mars Bar. Where else but Scotland?

The munchy box itself tends to be a large pizza box, full of different international cuisines. Sushi and halloumi? Oh please, we’re talking chicken goujons, spring rolls, onion rings, chips, kebab meat. You could have chicken wings, or ribs, or sausages, whatever the restaurant can scrape off the floor and cram into the box.

Alongside this fatty mess, you have plenty of sauces and even some token salad in there. It really is the whole works, and it’s simply a disgusting amount the food. You will hate yourself after it, obviously. But if it’s just one rare night every so often, then why not blow yourself away? You can go to the gym the following day… or perhaps give it another day or two extra before you do anything strenuous.

No use having a wonderful “dinner” without a drink to accompany it. Of course, any off-license or drinks aisle in the supermarket will give you a literal world of choice. You may drink the same thing as your missus, in which case crack into her rosé and just make sure you replace it next time you’re in the shops.

Otherwise, if you want to skull a whole load of beers, then by all means do so. And there’s no point in measuring yourself, either – get those twelve cans swallowed. Yes, your missus may come home drunk and demand a portion, and you’ll have to disappoint her. But what can she expect?

If you really want to get into it, then you can sink a bottle of whiskey, the good stuff that you’d been saving. Or some good gin, although I wouldn’t know what good gin is. Nor would I know if a wine is good wine or bad, but you might as well just get the most expensive stuff you can find. Or failing that, whatever other paint stripper you have lying around the house and go from there.

In the midst of all this you could, if you want to class things up, have yourself what is known in the parlance of our times as a candlelit wank. You know, a bit of self-harm that brings with it some pathos, a hint of emotion. Not just a kind of three-minute-long, one-and-done, fire-and-forget effort.

You could even get some atmospheric music going in the background, using all manner of online options. Might as well break out your wireless headphones also, since no-one’s gonna sneak up on you. Although, could you imagine the fright you’d get if someone did?!

You could build a fort as well, if you’re a bit more infantile. It’s definitely something I like to do, and I tend to build them in my bedroom. You can make a downstairs fort out of your sofas as well, just in case some invader does come around at the eleventh hour and you’re too drunk to properly repel them.

And ultimately, during a night to yourself you can forget about any and all responsibilities you may have, so long as you haven’t made that grave mistake of having kids. It doesn’t matter that the housework is piling up, although you will feel guilty for being just a little bit disappointed when you finally hear her key turning the door.

Still, thank God she’s made it home safely, and what a convenient pity it was that you were too drunk to go and pick her up, you rascal. If only poor Marion had better luck in Double Dragon II: The Revenge, because when the baddies catch her on her own, they do a real number on her.

Let’s just say that she won’t be coming home again, and her fate differs slightly depending on which version of the game you play. On the NES, which we’ll be looking at in a moment, Marion is portrayed by some impossibly chesty gal, who just gets sliced up by a ninja from behind.

On the TurboGrafx-16’s PC Engine, not that I’ll ever play it, they just blow her away with a machine gun right there on the street. Pretty brazen stuff, but that’s exactly what you’ll have come to expect from 80s and 90s action films with wafer-thin plots, the types of films that are incredible to watch either directly before or after that candlelit onanism of yours.

In a way, Double Dragon II emulates those American action or fighting films, the Van Damme and Chuck Norris numbers that are more about beating people up than firing guns. You should definitely keep Chuck Norris, and maybe even Steven Seagal, in your head as you play this.

Double Dragon II probably handles the best out of all the Double Dragons. Well, when I say ‘all’, I’m only referring to the three NES games because you can pretty much forget anything that came after those, once people started expecting a bit more substance to their games.

These side-scrolling beat’em ups always seemed to come in trios, back in the day: Streets of Rage, Final Fight, now Double Dragon. Yeah, we’re on Streets of Rage 4, and I even heard of Final Fight Guy, whatever that meant. But let’s be honest here, these were the classic trilogies, when the genre was at its fighting peak.

As I said, Double Dragon II has the best control out of the three NES games, although it’s a little strange at first: you press B, the button on the left, for any enemies coming at you from the left, and vice-versa with the A button for any enemies coming from the right. That’s definitely something that I hadn’t seen before, or since. But it’s not that difficult to learn. Learning how to pull off some of your other special moves, though, is a bit more cryptic.

My favourite is the wild uppercut your character does, just as he’s getting up from being knocked down. Mash the button and you’ll send anyone nearby into orbit. It’s powerful as hell, exactly the type of punch that the well-hung hero would swing at the villain to defeat him in the movies. Double Dragon II hasn’t got the experience system to learn new moves that the first game had, which I find a bit of a shame, actually. I think both of us realise that the first game is… well, if it were a young child, you’d call it “troubled”.

The first game is always destined to be so much more of a classic than its sequel, even if it’s a lot more glitchy. It’s one of those games that is so broken, it actually becomes charming. Double Dragon II is a lot sturdier, almost as sturdy as the abs and pecs on the enemies you’ll be fighting. It’s got Abobo, making his triumphant return with hair this time, and you’ll also fight against golden or bronzed versions of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And just like any action film of that time, it always seems to come down to ninjas in the end.

There’s a backstory too, that sets the scene in New York, in the year 19XX whatever that means. Looks like they didn’t even get to 2001. But there’s been a nuclear war as well, although the cities are all fine – it just means that street gangs rule the roost. I don’t get it either, but this is exactly what makes Double Dragon II just like those films you only ever get to watch when your missus is out. It’s ridiculously bad for your health, it’s stupid, it won’t teach you anything useful. But when you’re on your own, and you have that blissful bit of time to yourself, this game is exactly what you need.

18 May 2021

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