Why oh why did Accolade do this? Well, I can think of several reasons but one of them definitely isn’t “to redefine the scrolling beat em up genre”. Fully five years since the coin-op first launched we have the Mega Drive version and is most certainly was not worth the wait. At its best (namely at the arcades and on the NES), Double Dragon is fun and satisfying. At its worst (namely on the Mega Drive) it’s frustrating and amateurish.
The initial screens are pleasant enough and there are enough options to tinker the game to your level. However, you can tinker all you like, you’re not going to get anywhere. At a glance this looks like the nearest you’ll get on the home consoles to the arcade version, then it starts going horribly wrong. For want of a better word, everything in this version looks “goofier”. From Billy’s walk to the movement of the bad guys it all feels wrong. The sprites are blurry and don’t make full use of the MD’s colour palette. The animation is barely a step up from the NES version. That’s right, an 8-bit conversion that’s four years older than this can still hold its own.
Music-wise, it’s dull, repetitive and adds absolutely nothing whatsoever to the overall experience. Sound effects are even worse with every punch being greeted by the sound you make when scrunching up a crisp packet. Same goes with swinging chains and the baseball bat.
Action is what Double Dragon is about and this version isn’t short on it. Billy’s weedy strength and the slowness of his attacks ensures that the two bad guys coming to get you will batter you senseless. I tried a few restarts and a few changes of controllers but there is definitely something wrong with the responsiveness of it all. It doesn’t. The collision detection is nowhere as near as good as the NES version which is all the more baffling given Technos were new to the NES and Accolade have had a long time to develop this version. Punches and kicks (that take an eternity for poor Billy to muster) swing right past the bad guy, with you being hit around three times by them in the meantime. Words cannot describe how infuriating this is. Actually I’ll try one – arrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhh.
Something this game has over the NES version is the existence of the two-player co-op mode, where you can admittedly gang up on the bad guys with a mate. Until they fight back. Sit back and laugh at it all because this is easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played on the 16-bit. With games like Streets of Rage already out there, Accolade’s Double Dragon needn’t have bothered.