Thursday 18 November 2021

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones (NES review)

Developer: Technōs Japan
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Released: 1991

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones is a beat-em-up that's loosely based on the 1990 Arcade title of the same name.

There's five stages and your objective is to rescue your girlfriend Marion by obtaining the three Sacred Stones. On top of the usual punches and kicks, you can also perform a Cyclone Spin Kick (spin in mid-air with your leg extended) and a Mid-Air Somer-Assault (flip and throw your opponent through the air). Considering how well the sequel played it's absolutely perplexing why the developers felt the need to switch things up so drastically. Here, your movement and attacks feel sluggish and button presses are delayed resulting in many cheap hits that quickly diminish your life bar. Weirdly (and annoyingly) picking up a weapon means your Cyclone Spin Kick attack can't be performed until it's out of your possession. Also, arguably the best move in the previous game (the Hyper Uppercut) has been replaced with a cool looking, but finicky Mid-Air Somer-Assault that doesn't always work as expected. Being able to double-tap the d-pad to run is an excellent addition, but its usefulness is dwarfed by the head-scratching difficulty which has been ramped up to 11 thanks to a non-stop swarm of enemies and the fact that you only have one life at the start of each game. The level design is equally as puzzling, as the excellent set-pieces, verticality and diverse locales of the previous game have been replaced by boring cut-scenes, strictly left-to-right gameplay and repetitive scenery / enemy types. On a plus note, I do like the option to play as defeated bosses and switch between them on the fly; it's just a shame that most players won't be able to advance that far into the game to actually see them!

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones could have refined the established formula while making some cool additions, but instead the developers chose to alienate players by spiking the difficulty and making unnecessary changes to the combat. As a result, it's a complete disappointment that even fans of the series likely won't replay.

Random trivia: The game was a commercial flop, leaving Acclaim Entertainment with 500,000 unsold copies.

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