If you had to start shaving before 1995, then chances are pretty good that you remember a classic side-scrolling beat-‘em-up called Double Dragon. It was released near the end of the ‘80s when Rambo headbands, denim jackets and naïve American misconceptions about martial arts were the coolest things ever.
It was a simple concept – thugs kidnap your girlfriend, so you’ve got to kick their asses – and it was probably the first game that allowed us to beat the snot out of armies of thugs with a variety of martial arts moves and melee weapons. Or it was the first one that did it right, at least.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of this important part of gaming history, Californian developer WayForward Technologies created a reboot of the game for the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade. It was intended to be a simple affair and capture the spirit of the original – but does it succeed?
If you take a look around the Internet, the general consensus seems to be: yes, it does – but I’m afraid I have to play bad cop this time. The story is the first thing. You’re saving your kidnapped girlfriend – okay, classic Double Dragon there – but you’re saving her from a skeletal space lich who flies around in a rocket shaped like an Asian pagoda. Good lord… really? I know this isn’t Shakespearean writing, but this is some really silly shit right here, and it completely undermines the gritty, mean-streets feel Double Dragon is supposed to have.
I also hated the art style at first – but, I must admit, it’s grown on me. The subtitle is “Neon”, after all, and you’ll see that in the visuals. Lots of it. The animation is a bit crap, unfortunately, and it really becomes a problem when you’re trying to use your special dodge move. A lot of enemy attack animations just come bolting out with no wind-up or visual cue to tip you off.
There are also very few combat moves available – and I know we’re going for simple and retro here – but at least give us all the moves we remember. Why can’t we grab enemies by the hair and knee them in the face or elbow them in the back of the head? That was one of the best parts of the originals.
In place of that we have a new system where you collect mix-tapes to learn special magic moves, and other mix-tapes you can equip to buff up your stats by teaching you new “stances” – which, strangely, don’t alter your stance on screen. The melee weapons are still in there, everything from knives, bats, whips and barrels to the surprisingly deadly fans dropped by the space geishas. Yes, space geishas. I wish I were kidding.
But, all my bitching aside, it’s still a fun little game I’d recommend to fans of old-school beat-‘em-ups. I just felt that Double Dragon deserved much more. Now I’m just holding thumbs for a Streets of Rage remake, and I implore you – make it awesome!