My first experience with the Kunio-Kun series was with Renegade on the Spectrum. This was a westernised version of a popular Japanese beat-em-up, and only years later did I come to realise that the similarities between this game and Double Dragon were not coincidental. Developed by the same studio, Double Dragon was a spiritual successor to Renegade and the studio would build on the series further by developing the fantastic River City Ransom on NES.
This newest version of Double Dragon, developed by Brizo Interactive, is very different to the version I played in a seedy arcade all those years ago, but the core of the game remains the same. Walk from left to right and defeat a range of brightly dressed thugs to save your girlfriend. Jimmy and Billy (Bimmy) Lee take to the streets once more to beat down the Black Warriors gang and save Marian, but do you want to join them?
First impressions are mixed. For a start this is a new version of Double Dragon, not the arcade or home console versions you remember. It’s not just a re-skinning or HD remix, its a whole other game. Purists looking to replay the classic original should look elsewhere.
That being said its a spiritual successor to the original. You’re still basically doing the same thing: walking from left to right and knocking out dudes with your fists, feet, whips and baseball bats. Much of the combat remains with a jumping attack, punches and kicks and crouching all present, but a whole new layer of combos and special moves has been added too. The result is a fighting system that’s a mix of retro and modern that works well.
The visuals are an issue though. With a look closest to SNES or perhaps Neo Geo classics it looks dated and confused. If they had went for a more stylised retro look or even used more of the original arcades art style it would have looked better. Instead you have a feeling that you’re playing a retro game that you missed first time round. It looses out on visual fidelity and fails to stimulate your sense of nostalgia at the same time.
This is exasperated by the horrible layout of the screen. Across the bottom are the controls. With a D-pad and three or four buttons on screen much of the visual real estate is taken up with controls. Most games would makes these transparent and overlay them on the screen, but in Double Dragon they are located on a broad strip which is also opaque and serves no purpose but to waste screen space. The result is that the game world seems to lack depth and you can only move closer or further away a very small amount, making the game seem more 2D than it should. It’s an issue that you do become accustomed to as you play, but its by some distance the most off-putting part of the game and I spent a long time trying to find an option to change the games display to fix it.
If you can live with the display issues there’s a lot of game to explore in here. You begin with the two main characters (each with their own signature moves) but as you play you unlock more. There’s an experience system, a deep combo system and even achievements to obtain. Two player modes are available over blue tooth and extra game modes like time attack offer incentives to keep playing after the six level campaign has been exhausted.
Overall, Double Dragon is a good game in its own right, but perhaps not the game you expect to get when you click the purchase button on iTunes. If you’re not interested in simply replaying the original, and can adapt to some of the control issues, you’ll find a deep and engrossing side scrolling beat-em up for a great price. If you hate touch screen controls then dropkick a point or two off the score below. If you can stand that onscreen d-pad though get ready; Billy and Jimmy need your help one more time!
7 Bimmy’s out of 10