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Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones (NES) artwork

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones (NES) review


"This third and final “Double Dragon” for the Nintendo is god awful. It is the final, desperate gasp of a franchise that was already growing rapidly dated. When you look back, none of these games were very good. They featured a couple of bland interchangeable characters, an assortment of forgettable baddies, and combat that was skewed to the opposition. When other beat ‘em ups began to emerge with greater personality and more solid fight mechanics, it was natural for “Double Dragon” to be discard..."



This third and final “Double Dragon” for the Nintendo is god awful. It is the final, desperate gasp of a franchise that was already growing rapidly dated. When you look back, none of these games were very good. They featured a couple of bland interchangeable characters, an assortment of forgettable baddies, and combat that was skewed to the opposition. When other beat ‘em ups began to emerge with greater personality and more solid fight mechanics, it was natural for “Double Dragon” to be discarded and forgotten. But there had to be one more, to remind us why these characters went out of style.

Sometimes you’ll hear something described as a “love letter” to its fans, a message of commitment to committed people. “Double Dragon III” is more like a hate letter, underscoring all the things people didn’t realize they hated about the series, right down to that control set-up. Once again, the two Nintendo buttons are mapped to punching and kicking. If you want to jump, you have to push both at the same time. Technos, the developer, has repeated this set-up across all three games. At least in “Double Dragon II,” kicking and punching had their advantages. In that game, a kick would target enemies behind you and punches would target enemies ahead of you. This is long gone in “Double Dragon III.” Punches and kicks are now the same. They don’t score any different, because there is no score. Their reach is about the same, and they inflict about the same damage. This set-up should have been abandoned for the streamlined approach in Capcom, Sega and Konami’s brawlers.

Things get much worse from there.

Remember those wonderful things called “extra lives?” When your little meter ran out, you’d re-emerge and continue the fight. When you ran out of lives, you had continues. The bottom line is, in games such as these where the odds are clearly stacked against you, such elements give you an incentive to continue toughing it out. Well, there are no lives in “Double Dragon III.” There aren’t any continues either. Failure sends you packing to the title screen. You have to start over, beating up that same first punk and listening to those same (slow) dying words from “Brett” or “Brad” or whoever.

The fighting, by the way, is terrible. You already know the controls are dated and cumbersome; add onto that a lack of balance between you and your enemy. Their attacks often have higher priority than yours. They surround and thrash you. You're often incapable of escaping because each blow stuns, a fact that the computer exploits like a son of a bitch. There’s little room for recovery or for any form of retaliation or counter-attacking. I’m not talking about bosses, by the way, but regular run of the mill thugs. They always come at you in waves of two, and they all behave same way. (Approach, then punch or kick.)

I already mentioned there isn’t a scoring system. There isn’t an experience system either. When you push pause, it does brings up a menu. You can apparently recruit more characters and use the menu to switch between them. I never made it that far. Hell, who can make it far in a game like this? We know it isn’t going to get better, because the basics are bad. We know there are better alternatives, including the first two games in the series. We also know there’s no victory to be had in defeating a game like this. If you devote your life to mastering “Double Dragon III,” you will only achieve mastery over a failure.

Rating: 1/10

joseph_valencia's avatar
Community review by joseph_valencia (July 21, 2009)

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