I have to admit I don’t and never did get the cult status of the Double Dragon series. If anything, every single version of the game that I played, save for the most recent Neon reboot, was pretty much an example of how NOT to code a decent game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of these types of games, you just have to go back and read my review of Streets of Rage a or 2 to know that – just make sure you don’t go all the way to Streets of Rage 3 because then you’ll think that I’m lying about my previous statement. However, Double Dragon was always a bit clunky and choppy. It never really grabbed my attention in the same way at the more colourful and evocative Sega franchise which ought to come back but probably never will because THEY HATE THE FANS.
I mean… why else would they give us Sonic 06 and not give us Streets of Rage 4?
But for Double Dragon to have gotten this far by 1994 after 7 years… well… I’m not sure what to tell you. It really shouldn’t have done, let’s put it that way.
Because it’s shit. But you got that, right?
When a gaming series is clearly not as fondly thought of as it should be, you end up with Double Dragon V, a game that MIGHT be the fifth in the series but canonically makes absolutely zero sense in the grand scheme of things. Let’s go back to the start of the series, shall we? Remember the girlfriend who ends up refusing to choose between two brothers? That game? The game where Marian, the love interest, indirectly forces two brothers to FIGHT TO THE DEATH for her love and affection?
Fuck that game. It was shit.
And then in the sequel where Marian DIES AT THE START ANYWAY?
Fuck that game too. It was also shit.
And then in the third gam- Oh, OK. I think you’re going to get the idea of this.
DOUBLE DRAGON IS NOT GOOD. And Double Dragon V doesn’t even follow those games in the first place. This game is based off the TV series…
Yeah. Apparently there was a TV series. Who knew? I watched it. It’s genuinely abhorrent in a ‘so bad it’s actually just kinda sad’ way. And Double Dragon V follows this set-up fairly loosely, explaining absolutely ZERO of what’s happening. Some of the characters in the game appeared in the TV show… and then they threw in a couple of others because apparently having at least 8 base enemy characters… and giving us 5. And then being very generic with a male and female variant of the same character type and another made-up character – DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE ALREADY?
YOU HAVE ENOUGH SOURCE MATERIAL TO GO ON AND YOU MADE A MASSIVE HASH OF IT YOU LAZY FUCKERS.
Now… there is a storyline of sorts. If you can call it that… but it’s very non-descript. It is essentially GOOD vs EVIL in that the Shadow Master, the game’s boss, appears to have finally overtaken the city and everything’s gone to shit… so Billy and Jimmy need to go and do something about it.
DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE? By this point, NOBODY CARES. It’s not even STARTED and NOBODY GIVES A GIANT RAT’S ASS ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING. The Double Dragon universe is such a strange and unlikable one that it’s difficult to get excited for it. You could actually have given us a halfway decent story that went somewhere… but it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference and the developers clearly knew this, cut their losses and gave us the shitty good/evil story. I applaud that. You know it’s going to suck so don’t waste a good story on it. Well done.
Sarcastic, slightly lazy applause may well be following this later.
And lazy is going to definitely be a word of choice for this game because there’s so much that this game doesn’t do due to some really dull decisions. Dare I go through the rigmarole of going through the fighting game rules? Do I? DO I REALLY?
Fuck it. Here we go:
RULE NUMBER ONE: MAKE SURE THE COMBAT SYSTEM ACTUALLY WORKS.
Let’s be very clear here: essentially the game works on a basic level. Characters have the tried-and-tested six button format now of three punches and three kicks, each of varying ferocity. It’s a staple set up long ago by Street Fighter 2 and it DOES work.
But it’s still a bit shit. Mainly because attacks are constantly guarded against and finding ways into attacking opponents feels entirely random at best. You could slog away at trying to slice your opponent in half with your whatever weapon you have… thing… and you’ll find that connecting with the opponent itself is mostly random as well. The range of every character feels way too short and actually hitting them means you’d have to smell their breath or shove your NO NO NO NO NO NO. We’re not going there.
But it’s still true.
Being face to face with the characters gives them the opportunity to attack back and given that they can block without even trying, even on the easiest setting, somehow… you struggle to. Yeah, it feels unfair to feel as though blocking is almost impossible. Your opponents always seem to find a way of getting through your attacks and you end up hammering the buttons hoping for the best. Or worst. Either way. Still shit.
RULE NUMBER TWO: MAKE SURE YOUR CAST OF CHARACTERS IS VARIED AND INTERESTING.
So as previously mentioned, the game could have given us a better selection of characters and instead they give us five villains, two twin characters in the Ryu/Ken mould, only a million times worse, and then generic villain man and generic villain woman, and then made-up character Bones. Because why not?
Well here’s why not: BECAUSE THIS ISN’T DOUBLE FUCKING DRAGON. WHY THE HELL HAVEN’T THEY INCLUDED ANY OF THE OTHER CHARACTERS WHO FIGHT IN THE TV SHOW? WHERE’S ABOBO? WHERE THE FUCK IS ABOBO?!
YOU KNOW. THE BIG MUSTACHIOED GUY WHO LOOKED LIKE TOM SELLECK ON STEROIDS? WHERE THE FUCK IS THIS GUY?
FUUUUUUUUCK THIS GAME ALREADY.
Looking at the generic roster, aside from the two protagonists, the ones actually FEATURED in the TV show are Countdown, Icepick, Trigger Happy, Jawbreaker and Sickle and all of them are very much of a muchness. They show very little personality in their sprites, other than being messy and angry-looking, all of them, and occasionally when they do show a hint of a smile, they just sort of… look really weird. If anything, being faithful to the TV show is actually detrimental to the characters because they were pretty shit in the TV show as it was. They don’t feel very interesting because there’s really nothing more to them than their name. Sickle, unsurprisingly, fights with two sickle blades on his arms (SHOCK ME, SHOCK ME!). Trigger Happy fights with a massive gun barrel on his arm (SHOCK ME, SHOCK ME!) but let’s be clear here: Barret was the only person to make the gun-arm look cool so you’re NOT COOL, Trigger Happy, so fuck you.
Jawbreaker feels like he’s going to be the game’s brawler/grappler character and instead he just lashes out his tongue and bites everything (SHOCK ME, SHOCK ME!) so his name also fits the disappointingly generic bill.
What I’m striving at here is that there’s really nothing to be said for any of the characters in that not a single one of them is interesting in the slightest. Jimmy and Billy Lee, the gaming equivalent of milk and semi-skimmed milk, are dreadfully generic protagonists and offer no differences at all. Even Street Fighter got that bit right when Ryu’s hurricane kick hit once with force and Ken’s hit three or four times with small amounts of damage per hit. And then came the Dragon Punch changes and everything was fine again.
These two are basically the same, although Billy Lee shows off his dragon mark to ‘throw’ his fireball and Jimmy just sort of… er… oh who the fuck cares? They’re both shit. This game is shit. Just get on with the next rule, OK?
RULE NUMBER THREE: MAKE SURE THE GAME LOOKS NICE ENOUGH.
Of course it fucking doesn’t. Have you seen this shit? Look at this godawful mess of a game and tell me that you think this is acceptable. You will find it very hard to consider this an acceptably presented game. What I still can’t figure out is why everything is so frickin’ dark everywhere! Source material: the city was at siege but it was at least DAY TIME most of the time and it was intended to be a kids show. This game is DEFINITELY not for kids, particularly given that the sub-boss before the main boss is called Dominique… and is a dominatrix.
And if you hit her correctly at the end of a bout, she turns into maggots.
Oh yeah… ‘finishing moves’ are present. I say present… but fucking hell, they’re lame as all hell. If Mortal Kombat can do it, maybe you really… really shouldn’t.
And suddenly the argument of “who is this game for?” comes into my head.
“LET US TURN A KID’S SHOW INTO A FIGHTING GAME.”
“WHAT A GOOD IDEA. LET US DO THAT DOUBLE DRAGON TV SHOW.”
“YES. THIS MAKES COMPLETE SENSE.”
“THEN WE’LL LET CHARACTERS KILL EACH OTHER AND MAKE IT REALLY DARK AND INAPPROPRIATE.”
“AND LET’S PUT IN A SEXY S&M LADY.”
“WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE THINGS WORSE?”
Yes, developers, why did you have to make things worse?
The animation is lazy, the game feels cheap and lazy and the sound is a headache inducing mess of buzzsaw sounds that somehow forgets that it’s supposed to have a tune. What we can grasp from this is that the Double Dragon TV show ought to have at least given us a better fighting game than this, even if you just shoved in stills from the TV show for twenty minutes and then pressed a button at the end to deal the final blow. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE ACCEPTABLE THAN THIS PIECE OF SHIT.
And what a sentence to have to write. To think that NOT playing this game is more fun than ACTUALLY playing it is pretty much the most damning indictment you can muster. What Double Dragon V ends up doing is trying to copy so many attributes of Street Fighter, down to the characters showing us their attacks at the character profile screen and all that, that it forgets that it’s supposed to be a game of its own. The source material isn’t… necessarily dreadful. There was enough to glean from. They could have easily chosen a few extra characters and perhaps even given it a light-hearted feel to appeal to the audience of the TV show itself. Instead, it alienated them by making it this dark, brooding mess of a game that doesn’t even know what it wants to be. It wants to be Street Fghter but it also wants to be Mortal Kombat. And given that everyone who TRIED to clone Mortal Kombat in the 90s FAILED MISERABLY, that’s NOT the route to go.
But if you ARE going to try and create some sort of homage to Street Fighter, do at least try and do SOMETHING right.
Like… not making the game in the first place.
This problem solving lark is starting to get a bit too easy with this shitty games, isn’t it?