Double Dragon


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

It's kind of ironic that both the NES and SNES would have the most memorable (at the time) arcade beat-em-up ported from the arcade and neither of them would include a cooperative mode. The Super would land an almost exact port of "Final Fight" and the NES would receive a solid translation of "Double Dragon," both sans multi-player. It's a sham too because both are simply great translations.

In order to explain the absence of Jimmy Lee, Tradewest has shifted him over to the over side, joining him with the Shadow Warriors. Player's head forward towards their goal taking out the various thugs, earning experience which turns into a larger move set. Yes, experience.

It's probably one of the more debated aspects of the game and an odd design choice. If you play right, you can easily earn all you need with the very first opponent, so it's not exactly difficult to get what you need. Plus, in the end, you'll have far more moves than you did in the arcade. The plusses seem to far outweigh the negatives.

For the first few stages, the game follows the arcade game fairly accurately. All of the characters are present, the backgrounds are spot on, and the gameplay is decent. It finishes with what is almost entirely original level design, tossing in completely unnecessary platforming elements that are far more frustrating than fun. It extends the game (something a home port definitely needed), but in the end, it seems like these sections are there only to suck lives away from the player.

Aside from that annoyance, the other issues are those relentless cheap shots from opponents. Even when dishing out a combo, Williams and the others manage to get a shot or two in before it's all finished. It slowly drains the life meter and dying is never fun, regardless of how generous the game is when sending players back. No continues mean you'll probably have to play through a few times.

While the sprites offer up a surprising amount of detail, the backgrounds really steal the show. All of the small touches from the arcade are present, and those late additions specific to this version are simply spectacular. Billy and his foes are decently animated and feature a wide palette of colors, which keeps things from seeming too repetitive.

The NES brings a unique sound to the music, some of the best fighting music ever written. There's fantastic depth to it. Sound effects are limited as a trade-off. The new music for additional stages blends in just perfectly with the rest of the soundtrack.

Beat-em-ups would come and go on the NES. "River City Ransom" is generally regarded as stealing the crown on the system and there's a strong case for "Mighty Final Fight," but you always come back to "Double Dragon." That says something and it's not just blind nostalgia either. This is a true classic, arguably even better than the arcade game it's based on... if it had a co-op mode that is.


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Last updated: Friday, February 25, 2005 08:04 AM