Reviewed: June 2, 2007
Released: May 9, 2007
While the Xbox Live Arcade for the original Xbox was sadly overlooked, the Xbox 360 version has been one of the most exciting aspects of the Xbox Live experience over the past 18 months. And while the newly developed pint-sized titles like Geometry Wars and Aegis Wing have captured the eyes of the hardcore gamers, it is the classic arcade remakes that have really caused a stir in the gaming world.
For better or worse, the stand-up cabinets of yore are experiencing a newfound resurgence on Xbox Live Arcade. From Pac-Man to Xevious, these classic games are popping back into the spotlight partially by the old-school nostalgia and fueled by the incredibly addictive Xbox Achievements system. The newest title to hit the Xbox Live Arcade is the seminal favorite Double Dragon.
Double Dragon made its original debut in 1987 and is widely regarded as the first beat’em-up title to feature two-player co-op play, realistic enemy AI (for 1987, mind you), attack combos, and the never-seen-before feature of allowing gamers to wield the weapons of fallen foes.
Twenty years later, the Xbox Live Arcade version is a perfect port of the original – gameplay warts and all. And while this release of Double Dragon won’t wow the kids the same way as it did two decades ago – even with a titch of high-res updating – it definitely is a stroll down memory lane for old timers like myself.
Double Dragon is the very same two-player beat ‘em-up we saw twenty years ago in the arcades – code for code. The story is weak; a band of thugs comes and takes your girl away, and for the next half hour, you fight through throngs of fist-throwing pugilists, whip wielding mammas, Green Lantern-looking ninjas, and a colorful bunch of Mr. T look-alike bosses on your quest to save her.
With a nary two attack buttons – kick and punch – the button mashing combat is quite primitive compared to today’s standards. Still, there are a handful of context-sensitive combos the game will dole out every now and then to aid in the beat-down of the surrounding enemies.
One of the neatest aspects of Double Dragon is the almost uncanny way that the enemies dodge and avoid oncoming attacks, and then gang up together to wage attacks from multiple directions. Again, not much to write about by today’s standards, but in ’87 it was quite a change from the norm.
With unlimited continues, getting through the game from beginning to end takes just shy of a half hour, and the most difficulty that gamers will find is with the environment itself. It doesn’t help that the screen often masks hidden pits and death traps behind the onscreen text – but when the game has required jumps so treacherous that they assign Achievement points their successful completion, it is a sure sign of a late-eighties quarter muncher.
Still, for an old fella like me, the nostalgia factor of this pristine port is enough to warrant a few merit points – and the fact that the game follows a semblance of a story makes it a bit more fun to play than some of the other classic offerings on the Xbox Live Arcade.
The old school sprite-based graphics have held up well, and even seem to have had a bit of touch-up to smooth the edges and make the fill colors appear solid on the higher res screen. There isn’t a whole lot of variety to the half-dozen or so character models, but the trademark Double Dragon look is back and better than ever.
The sound seems to be ported straight from the arcade cabinet – so while it might seem a bit ancient by today’s standards, it gets the job done just fine. As with the character models, the grunts and groans lack much variety – but with less than an hour of gameplay, the game is over long before the repetitive sound clips get under your skin.
The game features the same two-player co-op play, and even lets gamers play over Xbox Live – although it seems like there is some bugginess in synching the two characters over the broadband.
The game can be played in its entirety in less than half an hour – which can be stretched out a bit by masochistic gamers bent on garnering all 200 Achievement Points – and for a mere 400 points (about five bucks), that’s about all one would expect.
While Double Dragon might not turn the heads of today’s youngsters, aging gamers will definitely enjoy the quick stroll down memory lane.