In a world where laws are meaningless and violence is the way of life. Two brothers also martial artist, by the names of Billy and Jimmy Lee contemplate their futures in a city ran by gangs. A gang by the name of the Shadow Warriors physically assaults and kidnaps Billy's girlfriend Marion. The brothers soon receive a ransom note stating that if they want to see her again, they have to hand over the book to their sacred martial art. Not about to take this garbage from any lowly thugs, the two set out to dismantle this crew and save Marion. -summary
Before Crime Fighters, Bad Dudes, and Final Fight, the arcade scene was blessed with Double Dragon. One could consider Double Dragon to be the 80's version of Street Fighter II, by the way it dominated all of the local arcades. I mean hell, this was a serious quarter muncher back in the day that consumed many hours of my young life. Eventually, there would be many sequels to follow with intentions on capitalizing on the success of the original. The series would soon begin to decline in quality, but there were a couple of good ones amongst the lame ones.
Well fast forward several years, and fans of this classic can now take a dive down memory lane. Double Dragon had received the remake treatment for the Game Boy Advance by Atlus. The game combines elements from previous games of the series, most notably, Double Dragon, Double Dragon 2: The Revenge, and Super Double Dragon from the SNES. As a fan of the series, I have to say that the nostalgia trip was fine and all, but the game does have its shortcomings.
Double Dragon Advance is a single and two player co-op, side scrolling beat'em up. The player is given a moves list that is fully accessible from go. There are no type of RPG elements to be found. Moves are not earned or purchased. Just pick up the game, start, and deliver beat downs with extreme prejudice. The player will be able to use weapons ranging from baseball bats, whips, boulders, dynamite sticks, and throwing knives from the original game.
There are also other weapons pulled from Double Dragon 2 like the axe, and the ball and chain. But there's no variety at all with these weapons because they perform exactly like the bat and the whip. These weapons could have actually been left on the cutting room floor. Now there's two other weapons that actually stand out, which happens to be the kali sticks and nunchucks. These weapons perform slightly different and they add more variety to the weapons, also, they are very fun to use.
The game can be difficult and you will get beat up bad, but once you understand the AI's strategy it can become a cakewalk, even on the hardest level. The AI will always try to get at least one character behind you. The trick is to keep an eye on that and try to avoid it.
Double Dragon Advance reuses levels from the previous games and has a total of eight levels. The gameplay is very straight-forward, as the player runs through a horde of enemies, and does battle with an end boss. Some of the levels have different set-ups, and there are ways to die instantly such as being knocked off the back of a moving truck, or mis-timed jumps leading to an unwanted swim. I actually liked this addition to the game, because it increased the difficulty slightly, and you can also hurl the enemies into these death traps. I also enjoy the somewhat realistic feel. The enemies can also kill each other with projectile weapons trying to get to you, and they can also be taken out by their own sticks of dynamite lying on the floor. The player can actually work this into recovery strategies after being beaten up and floored.
The player can also keep a weapon an entire stage if they so desire. Weapons do not disappear after being on the ground for a very long time. The player also doesn't lose a weapon when it's time to advance from one screen to another after all the enemies have been defeated. Also, unlike previous games in the franchise, the player doesn't have to take a hit to drop a weapon anymore. If another weapon comes around, the present one can be dropped by pressing the block button.
The controls are easy to master and it's simple to pull off moves. The game features the basic punch and kick, along with a jump and block button. When the player combines buttons, then additional moves can be pulled off. Some of these moves are meant to attack enemies approaching from behind, on the ground, or crouch and come into a powerful uppercut. The instruction manual contains a full moves list.
When looking at the Gameboy Advance, I was really impressed with the character designs and backgrounds. Atlus tries to add a bit of variety by taking characters and altering their color schemes and styles; for example, the female fighters will be of different races with different hair colors but they will perform the same. The game features many stages from the original with a few new upgrades and everything pretty much looks nice. The battle fields take place on a moving truck, inside of a dark forest, and even in a cave with small platforms surrounded by water.
The animation is good but many of the characters move pretty much the same. The nostalgia kick was in full swing when it came down to the soundtrack. There are plenty of classic songs that die hard fans will quickly remember, and they aren't exactly altered either. I was pleased with them for the most part mainly because they set a nice mood to have a fight.
Atlus went out of their way to try and pay homage to the classic, but they tried pretty damn hard to be innovative as well. I already mentioned the additional weapons and increase in stages. Now, some of the classic stages have been altered, by being extended and featuring different bosses. The moves list also borrows from the Nintendo version by being able to mount a downed opponent and slug him to death.
The game features a survival mode that really isn't different from any of its type. It also has a co-op mode, that can be played by only one player. The single player can control both characters, but this system is seriously flawed. By pressing the select button, the player can swap between characters. But while this is going on, one character is completely defenseless and left to the mercy of the thugs. This could have been so much better had the second player been AI commanded to defend itself. This would have added a bit more depth to the gameplay, thus enhancing the fun factor. Now of course, the game also features classic two player mode with a friend.
Being the type of person who is pretty much story driven. I would have appreciated had the story been taken more serious. The story mentions the passing of a nuclear war, and this resulted in the rise of many gangs. I would have enjoyed this more had the game focused on that, with both brothers being selectable with their move sets somewhat varied, and with a goal to stop the other gangs from terrorizing innocents or something. The whole thing with saving a kidnapped girl and the sacred martial art thing is corny. Atlus should have taken steps to make this a little bit more than just a mere beat'em up. A good story has never hurt a game as far as I know.
Also, the lack of variety in boss battles was an issue. I was sick and tired of battling Abobo, only in a different color. There are plenty of games from the series that they could have snatched a boss from, to keep things a little more interesting. For example, the boss from part 2 who fought using Billy and Jimmy's style. Perhaps there was some type of legal issue I'm not aware of.
Serious fans of straight-forward beat'em ups will dig this, whether they're fans of the series or not. But I can't see someone wanting to bother with this after they completed all of the difficulty levels. I still recommend this to both die hard and casual gamers though. It can definitely be fun for awhile.
Pros: -Nice remake of the arcade classic, moves and new weapons, graphics and controls
Cons: -A bit on the easy side, rehashed bosses, could have been more story driven
Being in the mood for some side scrolling beat'em ups lately brought me back to this. The game play is the strongest attribute with various weapons and multiple fighting skills at your disposable. Double Dragon Advance did the franchise some serious justice, because let's face it, after Super Double Dragon for the SNES (maybe I'll review that next?), the franchise was sitting uncomfortable on its death bed. Highly recommended if you still have a Gameboy Advance or if you have a DS Lite. … more