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Double Dragon

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Released: 1995

Genre: Beat-’em-up

Format reviewed: Neo Geo

Publisher: SNK

Developer: Technos

Submitted by: Hereward Proops

When Street Fighter 2 exploded onto the scene in the early nineties, the popularity of one-on-one fighters skyrocketed. The side-scrolling beat ’em up was no longer the game of choice in arcades and this clearly influenced Technos’ decision to reinvent their classic franchise for the Neo Geo.

Whilst there are more popular fighters on the system, Double Dragon is a solid title and well worth a look. Not available on XBLA or Wii’s Virtual Console, your only hope of playing the game is either through MAME or forking out for a copy (provided that the high price of the rather rare cartridge doesn’t put you off). There was a port to the PSX, but this is only available in Japan.

Fans of 2D fighters will know what to expect from the game. Whilst it doesn’t do anything particularly new with the genre, the game is fast paced, good looking and great fun to play. With tight controls and a great “charge” system to execute a range of super attacks, the game is easy enough to pick up and play but also offers enough depth to keep more experienced gamers happy. Many of the moves are lifted straight from Street Fighter 2, Billy and Jimmy Lee are controlled and act exactly the same way as Ryu and Ken.

Colourful graphics, some great animation and destructible backgrounds ensure that the game looks fantastic. The game’s intro shows off the Neo Geo’s capability for FMV, displaying a short clip from the disastrous Double Dragon movie. Fortunately, the links to the film pretty much end there. Although the music and SFX aren’t much to write home about, they do the job well enough.

Where the game falters is the characters. Other Neo Geo titles like Fatal Fury Special have achieved cult status by virtue of a large and well-balanced roster. Unfortunately, Double Dragon does not offer a great range to choose from and a few of the characters are enormously overpowered. Burly beasts like Burnov and Abobo are capable of stunning characters with a few hard blows and after that, it’s game over. However, those who grew up playing as Billy and Jimmy Lee in the original game will relish the opportunity to revisit the ass-kicking brothers.

Double Dragon isn’t the best known fighter on the Neo Geo but it stands head and shoulders above many similar titles. Fans of the original game might balk at the shameless imitation of Street Fighter 2 but those who stick with it will find an enjoyable button masher.