Double Dragon – Retro Rush (Review) Playstation 3

Double Dragon – Retro Rush (Review) Playstation 3
Review Score:

Developer MonkeyPawGames is known for releasing rare, hard to find PSOne games on the Playstation Network. In fact, some of their more recent releases include Arc the Lad III and the critically-acclaimed Tomba! – a 2D platformer that follows the comical exploits of Tomba (known as Tombi in Europe) as he battles a group of evil pigs.

In recent weeks, MonkeyPawGames announced a new campaign called ‘Retro Rush’, where every week a rare PSOne title is released on the PlayStation Network. The first game among the six titles scheduled is an obscure 2D fighter based on the Double Dragon movie from the 1990’s. While the first impression is to immediately shun most movie to game translations (a majority of them are usually quite terrible),  Double Dragon, which was developed by Technos of Japan, is a rock-solid 2D fighter with incredibly responsive controls. It may not be common knowledge among some gamers, but Double Dragon first appeared on SNK’s Neo-Geo MVS system. It was later released on their Neo-Geo AES (Advanced Entertainment System) and their less expensive Neo-Geo CD console.

A majority of SNK’s popular Neo-Geo titles appeared on PSOne, but most of them were quite poor due to the system’s limited video RAM. (The less work RAM a console had back then, the more difficult it was to squeeze in additional frames of animation for each sprite). Double Dragon for PSOne doesn’t suffer from a severe reduction of animation frames like some of SNK’s earlier ports, making it the most playable of the ones released.

The game includes a roster of ten fighters, two being Billy and Jimmy Lee. The other fighters are an eccentric blend of characters that range from a drunken Kung Fu fighter named Cheng Fu to the over sized grappler Abobo, who appeared in the side-scrolling series of the same name. Combat uses a four button configuration just like the Neo-Geo version – both X and Circle are configured as weak and strong punch, while  Square and Triangle are weak and strong kick. Interestingly enough, special attacks that can be performed by using weak and strong punch can also be executed with the kick buttons.

As mentioned earlier, Double Dragon is very playable on PSOne. The action is fast and smooth, and the ability to double jump the height of the stage helps the player to perform air combos and reversals rather easily. The combo system is fairly comprehensive, but it doesn’t require years of playing fighting games to understand it. Simple jabs and strong punches that are strung together count as combos, and mixing in a special attack or two will also increase your ‘max’ combo.

What really makes this underrated fighter so entertaining is the originality of its fighters – instead of rehashing attacks and special moves  between fighters like some fighting games were notorious for in the late 1990’s, Double Dragon’s characters all have a unique selection of combos, standard attacks and special finishers. When Billy or Jimmy Lee’s health bar is almost depleted, the word ‘Charge’ appears on the screen. By pressing and holding all four attack buttons, they will transform into a stronger version of themselves. While in this state, Billy is capable of unleashing large dragon-like projectiles, and Jimmy can throw enormously large fireballs. While the other fighters are not capable of transforming, they can use the ‘Charge’ meter to execute devastating finishing moves.

The gameplay also incorporates a ‘take down’ feature where you can dizzy an opponent to the ground, jump on top of them, and pound them senseless. You are only given a few brief moments to perform this counter move before your foe recovers, so missing a take down will make you vulnerable to attack.

Double Dragon includes three game modes – Over Drive Mode, Normal Mode and Tiny 3D Mode. Normal Mode is the standard arcade mode with relatively easy computer AI; Over Drive Mode, on the other hand, is more challenging as the CPU possesses a much greater challenge; and Tiny 3D Mode scales back the 2D graphics and tries to produce a 3D-like environment for the game, but instead it makes the graphics look blocky and somewhat indistinguishable in parts.

Techno’s Double Dragon was a great choice to kick-off the ‘Retro Rush’ campaign. Despite being released almost 19 years ago, it still looks and plays every bit as good as it did when it first launched back in 1996.

Mike Pittaro
Playstation 3 (Available on PSN / Also Playable on PSP & PSVita)
Developer: Technos Japan / Imperial Entertainment
Publisher: MonkeyPawGames
Price: $5.99

Double Dragon – Retro Rush Campaign’s Official Website

Review Score
Double Dragon looks as good as it did the day it launched.
A memorable soundtrack, hard-hitting sound effects, and the infamous announcer with her annoying voice are all present.
A rock-solid 2D fighter with a comprehensive combo system.
Gamers looking for a classic 2D fighter will enjoy Double Dragon.
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