The original Double Dragon was an arcade phenomenon that revolutionised the beat-em-up genre. Kids would put in dollar after dollar into the machine to keep playing the story of two brothers trying to save the damsel in distress. Now, Double Dragon Trilogy allows you to relive the excitement of the first three games in the series, on-the-go and with the convenience of only ever having to pay once. Although sadly, the transition from arcade classic to mobile game has not been pretty to this once proud gaming franchise.
Double Dragon tells the story of Billy and Jimmy Lee – twin martial artists who are forced to fight their way through the Black Warriors gang in order to rescue Marian – the love interest of both boys. Player one takes on the role of Billy, while Player 2 plays as Jimmy and either on your own or together, you will punch and kick your way through a tonne of thugs, brutes and bikers on the way to save the girl. The end of Double Dragon has one of the most epic twists in video gaming history, and one that even now would cause new players to gasp. If you don’t know the twist ending of Double Dragon by now, then I for one am not going to spoil it for you.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge takes place after the events of the original, and starts with Marian being gunned down by the Black Warriors. This time, the brothers Billy and Jimmy aren’t out to rescue anybody – now they are out for revenge.
Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone is the weakest of the trilogy, and that extends to its story. On the way home from a training trip, the brothers encounter a fortune teller who informs them that they must scour the world for mystical objects known as the Rosetta Stones so that they can face a mysterious new foe waiting for them in Egypt.
Double Dragon 3’s story is told very briefly through the game (as was typical of arcade games at the time) and most of it is lost in the port over, which omits the opening splash screens that preceded the original games. This isn’t too important as the opening “cut scenes” for the first two games summarise it all quite nicely. However it really creates a sense of disjointedness for DD3, as most of the story was told during those splash screens.
Double Dragon Trilogy takes the original, arcade version of the Double Dragon games and brings them across to the mobile platform for a new generation. However, since they are straight ports of the arcade version, a lot of the enhancements and bug fixes that came from later editions (such as the NES version) are not present, and a few new problems are caused.
The gameplay is exactly how it was back in the late 80s – a straight beat-em-up where you run sideways across the screen, kicking and punching thugs in a very Road House fashion. Several enemy types will carry weapons that you can pick up, like knives, bats and even whips, while other objects lay scattered around the world for you to throw at the leather-clad brutes who stand in your way.
Since this is a mobile game, you are stick with virtual joysticks and buttons. These are great – when they work. A lot of people are against games with virtual buttons and Double Dragon Trilogy goes a long way to give credence to their argument. Button inputs are slopps and delayed, often resulting in you getting the crap beaten out of you because you accidentally hit jump instead of kick. Compounding this matter is the fact that the DD games are notoriously difficult. However, when the buttons and stick work the game flows rather fluidly (with the exception of Double Dragon 3, which is slow, clunky and brings down the whole package).
Being a straight port of the arcade versions of the game means that it frequently asks for you to insert additional coins – a feature that is obviously not applicable in modern gaming. Sadly, this means that being killed results in you having to restart the game from scratch as there is no way of continuing without inserting coins. Double Dragon 3 also features a shop where players could originally purchase in-game bonuses like extra health, lives, weapons etc (this was actually one of the gaming industry’s first examples of in-app purchases – and gamers weren’t too fond of them back then either) that are unavailable for purchase because, well, you can’t insert coins.
For the most part, Double Dragon Trilogy brings back two great games, and an OK game and presents them for a new generation to enjoy. The gameplay mechanics that revolutionised a genre are still here, and if you grew up playing DD in an arcade then you will feel right at home.
Visuals & Audio
The audio and visuals from Double Dragon Trilogy immediately create a sense of nostaligia and fond memories of gaming’s original golden age. 16-bit sprites and pallet swap characters litter the screen in ways that would be considered cheap and lazy by today’s standards. However, DD fans of old will appreciate the fact that the visuals they grew up on have been untouched.
DD was always a game that contained a kick-ass soundtrack, and like the visuals it is awesome to see them untouched. The Midi rock-ballads that play in the background really punctuate the whole down and dirty, wrong side of the tracks game that DD is. Adding to the awesome soundtrack is the fact that the sound of punching or kicking an enemy in the stomach (or anywhere for that matter) is still just as satisfying as it always has been. Furthermore, players also have the option of switching over to an updated/remastered soundtrack to hear all those awesome tunes in much higher quality.
Double Dragon Trilogy brings together the first three Double Dragon games (with the third still being the weakest in the bunch). While age, and the transition to different platform hasn’t been overly kind to the classic series, it is still a good trip down memory lane, and a lesson in where we have come from in gaming. And at the cost of $2.99 may deter some people, but believe you me – anyone who used to play DD at their local arcade would have KILLED to only spend 3 bucks on this game.
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