By: Jeff Cater
Double Dragon is the first in a series of PSOne imports that Sony has started rolling out, and it never saw release outside of Japan until now. The game is directly based on the film of the same name so expect all of your favorite characters from the movie are featured: from Billy to Marian to Abobo. Yep, everyone you used to beat up on your NES has returned.
Being an imported PSOne title, the controls are pretty basic. The face buttons do your various attacks whereas the directional pad moves your character. Although there is little to no documentation in English, the special moves performed by each fighter are all based on the semi- and quarter-circle motions combined with a face button. Thus, it’s easy to figure out while literally being in a foreign language. The controls are ultimately solid and very responsive, with fields of leeway allowing for sloppy execution of specials in a pinch.
This game is a great example of how imaginative 2D environments could be back in the day. Not only are stages fairly lively, but the fighters themselves are found integrated into the levels at the beginning of matches, usually in the form of Eddie being choppered in, or Abobo just kicking down a brick wall.
Taking that into account along with the exceptionally animated sprites, Double Dragon is actually a pretty fun game to look at. While all of the post-match taunting and Options Menu (making any customization nigh impossible for me) are done in Japanese, match announcements and pre-game mode/character selection are written and performed in English.
The BGM also varies stage to stage and represents each stage fairly well, ranging from the militaristic to the whimsical. The lady (or computer) doing the voice over for the match results also hilariously pronounces every single letter in anyone’s name, but that actually turns out to be charmingly entertaining. Also, the intro is full of butt-rock, which… well, I mean really, who can complain about that?
Against the CPU, the difficult tends to ramp up dramatically after the first two matches, so Double Dragon is best (and usually, knowing the franchise) when played with a friend on your favored sitting contraptions. Since the Options are all in Japanese, however, I’m unsure if there is any way to set handicaps, default song or anything like that.
What does matter is that it actually is a pretty fun, if shallow, fighter. Double Dragon comes from the days of sprite based, single-plane 2D combat, and pixel perfect execution of combat is a must in order to dominate. Each character has three special moves, plus an Ultimate move that is activated seemingly by voodoo. I do know that when Billy’s Ultimate has been activated, he glows yellow like a Super Saiyan and some pretty sweet Jazz tunes take over the BGM and inevitably leads to a hilarious victory or defeat.
No one is going to be throwing Double Dragon tournaments, but nostalgic collectors of the franchise or fighting games would do well to pick this up from the PlayStation Store. It’s a game based on a movie that was based on a game, it came out in 1995, it has Alyssa Milano in the opening credits, and it’s a 2D sprite fighter. The damn game is like a time capsule.