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Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls

Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: LeLand Interactive Media Publisher: Tradewest Players: 1-2 Released: 1994

What’s the best way to ruin one of the most legendary names in the beat-’em-up genre and effectively derail an entire series? Six words: Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls.

Now, I had never played this game until a couple of months ago. When I was a kid I loved Double Dragon 1 & 2. I remember one of my birthday parties (ninth, maybe?) when Double Dragon 2 was brand new, and my Dad rented it for us at the good old Acme Video. So many of my favorite video game-related childhood memories are tied to the Double Dragon series. I admit, they kind of lost me when they made Double Dragon 3 one of the hardest games on planet Earth, but seeing a copy of Double Dragon 5 for Genesis in my local used game store a couple months ago, I suddenly had a flicker of hope.

What if, after all these years, after seeing the game in countless pawnshops and display cases, what if this was the greatest Double Dragon game of them all? What if it had just simply slipped under my radar after I had lost interest in the series? What if?

I had flashes of a game akin to Streets of Rage 2, only with my old friends Billy (not Bimmy) and Jimmy Lee under my control. Oh, what the Abobo’s must look like in glorious Sega fried 16-bit glory! The pipes, the chains, the conveyer belts… It was going to be glorious. But alas, it was awful. It was an awful Street Fighter 2 clone.

Yes, in order to revitalize a series that by all accounts didn’t need any revitalization at all, they had jumped on the Street Fighter 2 bandwagon. And by “they” I do mean publisher Tradewest and the subsidiary company to whom they farmed the work out, Leland Interactive Media. Is it any shock that Technos, the developer behind the beloved original Double Dragon arcade game and ports had nothing to do with this debacle?

First things first, if the characters look stupid and goofballish, it’s because they are actually based on the Double Dragon cartoon that was airing at the time. The cartoon was actually canceled a mere four months after this turd was released, so that just goes to show what kind of source material they were working with.

The game has the option of four game play modes: tournament, vs. battle, quest mode, and battle demo. Tournament is your basic fighter game “beat several characters and then face a couple bosses” type of affair. Vs. Battle is where, if you are able to find a friend gullible enough, you can square off against each other. Quest mode is a half-assed attempt to create a cohesive storyline out of fighting your enemies in a rigidly structured, best two out of three rounds scenario. Finally, battle demo encompasses all the excitement of watching two fighters controlled by a hopelessly stupid AI battle to the death.

Also included is a Dossier option, which lets you read the dossiers of all the playable characters. And they are so cheesy I felt embarrassed for who ever wrote them. Did you ever want to know Jimmy Lee’s number one dislike? I’ll ruin the surprise, it’s bad hair days.

In practice, Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls is frightfully similar to Street Fighter 2. One character throws a fireball and causes your character to be set ablaze as he flies through the air. then there’s the very Chun Li-esque character Sekka, who even has an upside down helicopter kick, although her outfit looks as if it were ripped directly from the programming code of Mortal Kombat II. We also have the post fight scene that shows you and your opponent’s battered face with an unbelievably cheesy taunt displayed beneath… the list goes on.

The actual gameplay looks glitchy and is hampered by slowdown, especially if you manage to pull off a special move, and I stress that “if” because the special moves in this game are nearly impossible to pull off. In fact, in the hours I wasted on this crap I only managed to do one, and it was by accident. The controls feel very loose; I kind of got the feeling that I was trying to play the game wearing oven mitts. The difficulty can be adjusted, as was par in fighter games indigenous to the early-mid nineties, but the “normal” difficulty to me seemed a little soft.

I had to go back and turn the game on while I was writing this in order to comment on the audio, and that reminded why: it’s quite forgettable. Gone is the kick ass Double Dragon theme music from games of old, and in its place is just banal slurry techno rock. Speaking of slurry, I think that this game is a contender for all time worst voice audio. I would grade Blades of Steel, a game made six years earlier for an less powerful system, higher than this. I laughed out loud when I heard the first “Round One, Fight!” It’s that bad.

In summation, I have to say that this game is a terrible waste of time and a sucking chest wound on the Double Dragon legacy. If for any reason you have the urge to play this game, do yourself a favor: pop in Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition or Double Dragon 2. Then slap yourself in the mouth.

SCORE: 2 out of 10

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1 Comment

  1. goldenband says:

    The review is pretty much on point, though I’d bump it to 3/10 since the game is fairly playable and might have some redeeming value in 2P mode, and the Double Dragon franchise was so tarnished by this point that I don’t hold that against the game. But the AI is as dumb as a bag of rocks, even on Pro difficulty, and the special moves are useless (detrimental, even, at least when you trigger one by accident). The “Overkill” idea is an interesting twist, but since it only works if your opponent is standing still for that final blow, the satisfaction value is lost.

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