Double Dragon is widely considered to be one of the first side scrolling beat ‘em up games, and it had a huge impact on the video games and entertainment industries. It spawned several sequels in the arcade and ports on home consoles. They had crossover adventures with other video game heroes, such as the Battletoads. There was even an animated series and live action movie about Double Dragon. And only a couple of years ago, there was an 80’s reference-filled remake called Double Dragon Neon (and I even reviewed it). But did you know that at one point, there was a Double Dragon one-on-one fighting game? I didn’t know that, and I thought I knew all there was to know about Double Dragon. Anyway, this game was for the Neo Geo and Japan-only PlayStation. MonkeyPaw Games is releasing several import PSOne games for download on the PS3, and their first one is this Double Dragon title!
While it may seem surprising that this one is a one-on-one fighter, what’s even more surprising is that it is loosely based on the live action Double Dragon movie. The Double Dragon movie is considered to be one of the worst video game based movies ever made. While I will admit it was pretty awful, I didn’t think it was THAT bad. I mean, I couldn’t sit through the entire live action Super Mario Bros. movie, but I made it through this. But then, I was watching the Double Dragon flick with B-movie “MST3K” eyes. Anyway, the intro and credits have grainy footage from the movie in the game, and some of the backgrounds and characters were inspired from the film. For instance, the last boss in the game is the same as the bad guy from the movie, and some of the backgrounds make reference to the film, like the rocket car. But that’s about it. The characters themselves are very cartoony and are more anime-inspired than anything.
Otherwise, this plays like a standard one-on-one fighter from the mid-90’s. Play as Jimmy and Billy Lee, the kidnapped girlfriend Marian, the famous Abobo, among others. There are three different gameplay modes. I couldn’t tell much of a different between Over Drive Mode and Normal Mode, except I think you might get to regain energy over time in Over Drive. Tiny 3-D Mode is really weird. You can move the camera around as you play, but when you do, you discover that everything is flat and characters look like cutouts in a diorama. What’s even weirder is that in any mode, you can press pause and change the size and angle of view of your character. So you can fight as a tiny guy or a flat cutout on the floor! No real purpose to this, other than to create silly challenges. A second player can battle the first at any time during any of the game modes, but there is no dedicated two-player or training modes.
The only problem I had with this game is that since this is an import title, the virtual instruction booklet and options menu are entirely in Japanese. So you may have to do a little guesswork if you want to toggle the options. But even though this title is very loosely based on an awful movie, the game itself really isn’t that bad. The graphics look pretty decent for the mid-90’s, and the gameplay and controls are quick and smooth. The game looks and plays more like a King of Fighters game from the late 90’s (considered to be the better ones in the series) rather than the slower and clunkier brawlers that came out early in the decade. So if you enjoy old-school fighters and Double Dragon lore, you may want to download this one anyway. It certainly turned out better than what I thought it would, at least.
Since Double Dragon is really an import title, I don’t think it was rated by the ESRB. Or at least I couldn’t find a rating anyway. But it is a fighter, so it has a good amount of cartoon violence, but no blood. A couple of the female characters wear somewhat skimpy outfits, but that’s it. I grew up seeing and playing games like this in the arcade, and I think I turned out OK, so I’d be all right with any kid playing this one.