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Virtual Spotlight: The Other Double Dragon

A new import for PSN documents just how far the mighty fell.

Review by Jeremy Parish, .

Not so long ago, we looked at the unique NES version of '80s arcade hit Double Dragon and specifically how its "VS. Mode" prefigured the way the walk-and-punch genre that Double Dragon popularized would eventually be overtaken by Street Fighter II and the one-on-one fighting game. And here were are, just a few weeks later, with the final devastating proof of how it all went down.

The Neo-Geo version of Double Dragon -- specifically the PlayStation conversion which has been brought over from Japan unlocalized through a joint effort between Hamster and Monkey Paw Games -- completed the circle by utterly abandoning the franchise's roots and going full-on fighting game. The mere fact that it's simply called "Double Dragon" seems to imply this was meant to be a new start for the series, like 2009's Star Trek or last year's Tomb Raider. It also denotes another facet of the game: Rather than being based on the arcade Double Dragons per se, it's more akin to the video game version of Street Fighter: The Movie. Yes, Double Dragon is based on Double Dragon, the hilariously terrible 1994 movie based (loosely based, it should be said) on the brawlers.

The Marian who appears in this game, it should be noted, looks nothing at all like Alyssa Milano. [Source]

Actually, the game looks nothing at all like the film, taking a sort of grimy, low-rent Hollywood production and processing it back into its original medium as a candy-colored cartoon of a game. The only way you'd know this was meant to be a movie adaptation without being told is from the low-resolution introductory FMV crammed with film clips, and the fact that it features a few movie-specific characters (again, as with Street Fighter: The Movie and Captain Sawada). Otherwise, the design teeters somewhere close to classic Double Dragon, though the massive character sprites lack the charming lopsided look that defined so many Technos games.

No, it's really pretty much just another Street Fighter wannabe, from the visuals to the mechanics. Put this in a police lineup with the likes of World Heroes and Fighters History and you'd honestly have trouble picking it out as a Double Dragon adaptation. Two characters face off against one another and attempt to punch the other into submission, generally using move sets derived from Capcom's games. You've got your fireball motion, your dragon punch motion, the sonic boom-style charge back, and so on and so forth. It makes the occasional effort to do something unique, but on the whole Double Dragon feels like so many other fighting games of the era. Considering Double Dragon inspired Final Fight which helped define Street Fighter II, it's pretty disappointing to see this brand reduced to a pale imitation.

Remember your favorite characters from the original Double Dragon, Eddie and Amon? No? Oh... n-never mind. [Source]

On the other hand, this version of the game does include something called "Tiny 3D Mode," in which the fights are presented as a sort of shadow-box diorama. The background recedes into the distance, with the characters occupying the middle space. It's not very useful -- the PlayStation's low resolution means that the zoomed-out characters become a jumbled mess of pixels, which makes their animations and tells difficult to read -- but it's kind of charming in the way that Back to the Future Part II's vision of the world of 2015 is charming. It's just so goofy you can't help but like it.

Unfortunately, though, Double Dragon isn't particularly memorable. There are a few '90s-era fighters I'm happy to revisit, but this isn't one of them. It's uninspired, derivative, and clumsy... not to mention a terrible eyesore. The fact that this was Technos' final Double Dragon game... well, that's just heartbreaking, you know?

While I appreciate Monkey Paw's bringing Double Dragon West for archival purposes (Japanese text, what little of it there is, still intact), it's definitely more a curiosity than a must-play experience.

2 /5

Virtual Spotlight: The Other Double Dragon Jeremy Parish A new import for PSN documents just how far the mighty fell. 2014-01-16T15:30:00-05:00 2 5

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Comments 14

  • Avatar for cscaskie #1 cscaskie 3 years ago
    Double Dragon's forays into the fighting genre have been really strange. I also recall the 16-bit fighting game licensed after the cartoon show.

    If there's one thing to come out of this game, it's Rage of the Dragons for the Neo Geo. Rage was originally envisioned as a sequel to the 1995 game reviewed here, but SNK and Evoga couldn't get the license. Billy and Jimmy Lee became Billy and Jimmy Lewis - but you totally know who they are. Rage is a fun fighter with some cool technical tricks and a unique sense of rhythm. I highly recommend it.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #2 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @cscaskie I've never played Rage of the Dragons, but it certainly is pretty. And I would certainly assume SNK could craft a better fighter than Technos did!
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #3 cscaskie 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish It's a really fun game. Not a competitive level fighter by any means, but it's colorful, up-beat, and the animation is top notch. What makes it a really cool artifact is that alot of the preliminary design work was handled by Evoga - which is a Mexican company. You can feel alot of that Latin-American influence in some of the characters and the game's overall focus on rhythmic movement.

    When I bought the Phantom-1 converter to play MVS Neo Geo games on my home console, Rage was the first and only game that I bought new. A complete kit with original box and marques. The game holds a special place in my game-hoarder heart. My Skype name is RageofGeo lol.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #4 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    @cscaskie You might be my hero after that story. That's some dedication to get that Neo Geo running right

    Also, Rage of the Dragons is great. I definitely agree with you
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #5 DiscordInc 3 years ago
    Strangely, this isn't the first time Double Dragon had a bad fighting game based on an questionable-faithful media tie-in. A year before that they released Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls, based on the Double Dragon cartoon that featured odd changes like giving the twins swords and armor, to sell toys I guess?

    Also, I finished writing that just before I noticed@cscaskie mentioned it.
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #6 cscaskie 3 years ago
    @kidgorilla Glad you approve. In my early-mid 20's when I had low responsibility and high disposable income, I went nuts with the Geo. My AES is completely modded with a debug bios chip, for arcade-style infinite continues, and has full stereo sound and component video outputs for proper low-end HD. Plus I have the Phantom-1 to play the straight arcade carts. I don't have many games, because Geo collecting is SO expensive, but arcade perfect Shock Troopers 2 is an absolute delight on a nice big TV, on a couch, with 2 joysticks.
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #7 cscaskie 3 years ago
    @DiscordInc It's all good. That cartoon-tie-in game was odd. It didn't play very well at all, but I remember thinking that the sprites were really cool. It really stuck with me when 2D fighting games had a Western aesthetic because it was so different from the norm.

    Edit: I googled some screenshots - please replace the description "really cool" that I used above for the sprites with "chunky and stupid." I was young. Go easy on me. :)Edited January 2014 by cscaskie
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #8 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    @cscaskie I might need a cigarette after reading that. My early-mid 20's collecting went the other way with trying complete certain collections of PS1, Genesis, and NES stuff. Neo Geo collecting is hilariously expensive
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #9 cscaskie 3 years ago
    @kidgorilla More like tragically expensive. I will own a copy of Blazing Star before I die though.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #10 kidgorilla 3 years ago
    @cscaskie That's right, mortgage that house.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #11 DiscordInc 3 years ago
    @cscaskie I think all of us are guilty of thinking something was cool when we were young that we're embarrassed of now. Actually the real tragedy about that game is the fact they put a number in the title. Every time I see it I get excited that there was another Double Dragon sequel I didn't know about, until I see it's that game and remember why I keep trying to forget about it.

    Good luck in getting Blazing Star! You're a braver man than I for collecting Neo Geo games.
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #12 cscaskie 3 years ago
    @DiscordInc Thanks. I'll need it.
    Look. Here's a copy now! Only $370!

    http://tinyurl.com/ljrzl3v

    ::silently weeps into palms::
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #13 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 years ago
    "Monkey Paw" sounds like a fitting publisher here, in a "careful what you wish for" kind of way.
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