Double Dragon

Atari 7800

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 6

Sound: 4

Gameplay: 3

Overall: 3

There's hard, and then there's hard described with a bunch of four letter expletives. That's Atari 7800 "Double Dragon" hard. Nearly impossible to play through, this could have been a solid title for the console that could never quite get a hold on market share. Instead, it's a mess, with the only redeeming value being 2-player co-op play.

Things start off fine enough with a fairly well done title screen sporting plenty of detail and the abduction of Billy's girlfriend Marion. Both Billy and Jimmy (assuming you're playing with two players) pop out of the garage door ready to brawl and the action proceeds. Right from there, everything dips down a couple of notches.

If by some chance you're lucky and do manage to get through the first barrage of enemies, you'll meet up with all Double Dragon fans friend, Abobbo. Even if you have managed to avoid the practically unstoppable barrage of punches and jump kicks from Williams and Roper, this hulking mass of flesh will make sure you advance no further.

All of this stems from the fact that the Dragons have suddenly lost their ability to pull off anything even remotely resembling a combo. Throw one punch and the enemy answers back with one of their own. Throw a kick, the enemy answers back with a punch. Try a jump kick and you'll land flat on your back. Throw a head butt and you're in too close for when the opponent snaps back up for the counter-attack.

If everything is times right, you can plow through the game doing only jump kicks. It can happen, but your timing must be beyond impeccable and luck also needs to play a role. Given a meager three lives and absolutely no continues to speak of, making it through all four stages has been rendered impossible.

Making thing even more unimaginably difficult is the control. Playing with the standard 7800 stick is simply a struggling affair. Moves come off a second or two after you hit a button, you'll jump kick when all you really wanted was a kick, and head butts seem more common than they should be. It's a bit more tolerable with something along the lines of a re-wired Genesis pad. Even then, you'll still be pulling off moves you never intended.

At least you'll look pretty good trying. All of the backgrounds have been retained, even the smaller details. There's plenty of color to be tossed around so every backdrop does look like a reasonable facsimile of the arcade game. Characters sprites, on the other hand, do not. Trying to convince someone that the 7800 had more power than the NES won't happen here. Two-player games are awfully complicated since Billy and Jimmy are palette-swapped versions of Williams. In a crowd, things get confusing.

Audio is meager and repetitive, barely qualifying as audio. The first stage theme (for example) has been trimmed to accommodate the cart size causing constant repeating and nausea. The only decent track in this game is on the title screen. It's sad to hear such a classic soundtrack butchered like this. Sound effects are hardly noticeable with a static sounding punch whenever a hit connects.

Just about the only thing you can say that's positive about this arcade port is that this is better than the 2600 version. That's it. It has some potential, but the difficultly makes sure it can never become playable to find out just how much. Only die-hard fans will it find it worthwhile to track this down.


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Last updated: Saturday, January 29, 2005 09:05 AM