Return of Double Dragon

Super Famicom

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9.5

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

For the first time, "Double Dragon" would stay at home. There was no arcade version necessary for the fourth game in the series; it would stay exclusively on the SNES and Super Famicom. "Return of Double Dragon" varies a little from the US version titled "Super Double Dragon," mixing around the music and adding a bit to the final stage. That awesome gameplay still remains completely intact.

If a beat-em-up can be realistic, than "RODD" is that game. It's surprising how much it differs from the standard formula. No, you still walk right, taking down various palette swapped characters. However, there are no red barrels or boxes to break, no chicken to restore health, and no pressing of the jump and attack buttons together to perform a super move. It doesn't need any of that.

Co-op is of course available as players control the venerable team of Billy and Jimmy Lee. Their move set has been enhanced significantly, offering up more than any other side-scrolling fighter previous. Figuring out everything is of course part of the fun and once you discover some of these attacks, a smile surely has to cross your face. The first time you block a punch only to smash both sides of the enemies head in with your foot, it instantly becomes one of the best gaming moments of your life.

New to this final "real" sequel to the franchise is the power meter. Holding R (or L) to charge, this allows for three different stages. The first is a stronger punch or kick, the second is the classic hurricane kick the Dragons picked up in "DD II," and the third sends them on a rampage. Their punching and kicking instantly knocks an opponent down and this will last for a little while before fading away. It takes a bit too long to actually get this to its peak and with such a wide array of moves already, you'll find yourself using it sparingly.

Weapons have received a makeover; the new nunchucks are probably the best weapon ever included in a beat-em-up. Its combos are brutal and the same goes for the staff. "Return" allows gamers to switch weapons if they pick up something they don't want, a move that should have been included when the game made it to these shores. Other weapons are entirely of the throwing variety, including the insanely powerful knife, the always classic red barrel, a boomerang (has to be a first), and a small boulder.

What makes "Return" so realistic is the pacing. It's actually quite slow and maneuvers take some time to come out. This lets you not only feel the impact, but see it as well. There's a flawless animation system in place as adversaries do a 360-degree flip when taking a roundhouse to the head, reel back in pain when punched, and scream in frustration when getting back up.

It's not a perfect experience, even if it really is one of the best games this genre has ever seen. A small gripe is that solo-players can't pick which Dragon to play as. Only their colors and punches are different, but there's little reason not to provide a choice. This version adds an extra segment to the final stage and it does begin to drag. Worse, when you finally clear this section, all you get is a credit roll. There's no ending to speak of.

Detail on these somewhat small sprites is great, filled with brilliant shading and color. The opening stage is probably the most impressive from a visual standpoint (those neon lights can't be beat), but that's really selling the rest of the game short. There are a few stages that are basically nods to the original. Check out the Abobbo poster in the slums. He doesn't make an appearance, but it's a small addition that makes a big impact to fans.

Though most of the music remains in place, much of it was shifted when this game came to the US. It works much better in the import. The classic Double Dragon theme should always be at the title screen and be playing during the final battle. That's exactly what happens here. There is one other remixed track as well; the rest of the music is all original. Technos created new classics with this game. The sound effects are equally great, especially the sound of the nunchucks colliding with bone.

Why the series would turn into a sub-par one-on-one fighter based off a sub-par cartoon based off one of the worst movies ever made is baffling. It showed so much promise and there's plenty of wasted potential out there. Double Dragon fans would have to wait far too long for "Double Dragon Advance."


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Last updated: Friday, February 25, 2005 06:47 AM