Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Eurocom Publisher: Flying Edge Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
Double Dragon was all the rave during the long gone heydays of the coin-operated video entertainment industry. I remember spending countless hours on the Master System version when I was about eight. In those days Sega proudly advertised the game as “two-player Double Dragon,” a strategy designed to set their version apart from the NES port which inexplicably lacked a co-op mode. The company would take competitive advertising to a whole new level a couple of years later with their “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” campaign, but that’s a different story altogether.
In Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stones (dubbed The Arcade Game on the Genesis), the third installment in the stellar beat-em-up franchise, Jimmy and Billy (Jimmy and Bimmy according to one of the in-game dialogue screens of the NES version) are back from a two-year hiatus, and this time they’re taking their martial arts act on the road to not-so-Double Dragon odd pockets like Italy and Egypt. While DDII was just a remake of the original with similar backgrounds and slightly revamped graphics, this outing looks, plays, and feels completely different. Our two golden boys now look more like two leathermen from the Meat Packing District and arch nemeses Abobo or Roper are nowhere to be found.
Technos didn’t develop the game itself although they were largely involved in the NES version. This makes the Genesis version the only true arcade port. The arcade version itself was a cheap coin guzzler, desperately and shamelessly trying to cash in on the Double Dragon hysteria and disrespecting its fan base. Players had to buy moves and extra lives by inserting more coins. That’s probably the reason I never saw the cabinet in Belgium. The mediocre graphics and choppy animation were substandard for 1989; bear in mind that Capcom’s Final Fight with its large and smoothly animated sprites, rich color palette, and tons of enemies populating the screen, was released around the same time.
In comparison to the arcade version, the Genesis port fares fairly well. The graphics are up to par yet small segments of levels were cut out here and there. Character sprites are surprisingly somewhat larger than in the arcade game. The music is not bad but is a far cry from the catchy up-beat anthems found in the first two arcade games. Sound effects, on the other hand, are pretty crappy and don’t really sound like kicks and punches. Furthermore, it’s strange an 1989 arcade game lacks voice acting; 1990’s Nam-1975 for instance had lengthy pieces of spoken text.
As for the plot, developers were probably fed up with Bruce Lee flicks and decided to go for Indiana Jones instead with Jimmy and Billy traveling the world in search of a few sacred stones. Cut scenes delve deeper into their wondrous quest so I won’t waste any more of my time on the story.
The combat engine of previous games has been slightly updated. Now you get the chance to dash a la Golden Axe and deliver extra hits to floored opponents, which is pretty cool and was re-used in Double Dragon Advance. Billy and Jimmy must have spent some time with Street Fighter‘s Ryu and Ken in their dojo, since you’ll also pull off hurricane kicks which off course you have to purchase first (sigh). At least not having to sacrifice your savings pig to get more moves is a welcome advantage of playing this on our beloved Genny. Worse, the controls are unresponsive and pulling off special moves is a question of random button mashing. The way our heroes move and attack enemies feels stiff and this is made worse by jerky animation.
The level designs are awfully bland and uninspired. The China stage has huge trees on the screen hindering your view and the first level is a cheap parody of the magical urban wasteland of the first two games. In Italy, you’ll fight creatures that are supposed to conjure images of ancient Rome but look more like partygoers at a Studio 54 bal masque. How this all fits into the Double Dragon universe is a complete mystery to me. Overall, the enemies are generic and dirt cheap. The bald middle-aged men in the China stage are annoying as hell and most surprisingly, they are the ones you can buy as team mates in the shop.
People looking for a decent brawler on Sega’s 16-bitter, should stick to the qualitative Streets of Rage series. This game will only be moderately appreciated by hardcore Double Dragon fanboys.
SCORE: 5 out of 10