Saturday 25 June 2016

Double Dragon (Atari 7800 review)

Developer: Imagineering
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1989

Double Dragon is a beat-em-up that debuted in the Arcades (1987) and also appeared on Atari 2600 (1989).

Playing as brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee your mission is to rescue Marion who's been kidnapped by the Black Warriors gang. The game consists of four missions (City Slums, Industrial Areas, City Outskirts and The Enemy Base) and it supports either solo play or two players co-operatively. Your attacks include a Punch, Elbow Punch and Jump Kick and each is executed by pressing a face button plus a direction on the joystick; there's also weapons to pick up such as a bat, knife or whip. While this sounds like the makings for a promising beat-em-up, it's anything but. For starters, the majority of your attacks are useless (especially punches and ground kicks) as your opponents are never stunned and immediately strike back; as a result, it's far too easy to take cheap shots as you can't rely on most of your abilities. The only attack that's even remotely effective is the Reverse Jump Kick and continually spamming the same move is the only way to see later missions. This removes all of the fun and makes the action feel more of a chore than an intense battle where you assess each situation and adjust accordingly. Like many ports, enemies also have a tendency to offer you no grace period when your character is knocked down; this means that you'll frequently take extra damage as soon as you reach your feet which is aggravating. In terms of level design, it does a good job of mirroring the Arcade game from a location and scenery standpoint. Graphically, it's a mixed bag; while some backgrounds have nicely shaded textures (e.g. the woodland area in Mission 3) the character sprites are a pixilated mess.
Double Dragon on the Atari 7800 is marginally better than the 2600 version but that's not exactly a compliment. The combat is ultimately unsatisfying and considering that's the most important aspect of any good beat-em-up there's really no reason to play this over the superior NES port (1988).
Random trivia: In 1993, the game was ported to the Atari Lynx handheld by Knight Technologies.

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