For whatever the game ended up being worth, Double Dragon 3 came to the arcades in 1990. It was a much hyped, much anticipated sequel to a pair of great games. Though their home conversions differed from the arcade originals (sometimes for the better, sometimes not), the games were brought home for one reason: Double Dragon sold like ice cubes in Hell. It was a hot commodity. Well, it turns out that Double Dragon 3 was less than stellar, and the arcade sales figures backed that up. Home conversions (both console and PC) were already underway to cash in on the franchise. Just as with the previous installments, it was brought to all of the major hardware available: the NES/Famicom, Genesis/Megadrive, and a host of personal computer platforms (the SNES/Super Famicom wasnít available at the time the conversions were licensed out). Those that were faithful to the arcade version fared about as well. Even fantastic ports (like the Amiga and Genesis ports) were just great conversions of a mediocre game. The ZX Spectrum ported the first two games with really sloppy results. Too much was attempted, and the coders didnít work within the machineís constraints. How did this version do?
A bit of a double-edged sword here. The Spectrum was lousy with color distribution. There were loads of hardware constraints that really crippled the systemís use of multiple colors on any small portion of the screen (in order to save memory, the Spectrum was designed so that the screen colors were stored separate from the pixel map in a 32x24 grid array for the 256x192 screen resolution, limiting each 8x8 pixel tile to one foreground and one background color out of the systemís available 15). The first two Double Dragon games were programmed to try and make use of color, and the results were pretty horrible, honestly, and filled with that distinctive Speccy color-bleed and liberal use of color banding. In the third port, the coders (wisely) chose to use color sparingly, and only in the status bar, messages, and the title/info screens. The play window, where all the in-game action takes place, is monochrome. It looks very first generation Macintosh, sans some resolution. The coders also decided (probably for speed) to reduce the play window size. About a third of the height of the screen (at the top) and about fifteen or so percent of the width (evenly split on both the left and right) is letter barred, filled with the status display and a Double Dragon logo. That means only about 60 percent or so of the screenís already low resolution is used. That, combined with the monochrome graphics, mixes the results a bit. The graphics look a lot cleaner than the C64 port (which was just a hot mess), but a whole lot smaller. While systems like the Game Boy made good use of grayscale on their monochrome displays, thereís no gray to be had here (again, because of the color limitation). In the play window, every pixel is either black or light gray. It looks clean, but the low resolution makes everything distorted. The Lee brothers have boulder-shoulders and dithering is pretty ugly. Characters are difficult to distinguish from the more detailed backgrounds since thereís no use of shading here. Worse still, the animation and scrolling are choppy and glitchy. Being as this is a game for the 128K flavor of Spectrum, more should have been done. Really though, the worst offense is that play window size. Itís just too damned small! The only reason this got as high as a C- is that it looks a ton better than the previous two entries for the system.
What is it with these PC ports of this game? There is no in-game music except for in the shop. Nada, niente, zip, zero, zilch. And, like the C64 port, there is virtually no in-game sound. And the generic sound effects for hitting and falling are really, really horrible. Seriously, sound seemed to be some afterthought in all of the ports of this game. So why the C+? This is a title for the 128K version of Spectrum and its added synthesizer. The title music and shop music are actually pretty well done considering the platform this game is on. This could be mistaken for some mid-end C64 SID music. Really pretty niceÖ just not enough of it. The developers should have lost the SFX and put some in-game music in its place: both sound problems solved.
Just like on the C64, this is done alright, except for the small sprites. It looks like everyone is here to play and they all have seemingly unique attacks. But the enemy AI is low, low, low. Can you front kick? Can you do it twice, rapidly? Then you can beat the game. The enemies arenít as insanely tough as the arcade. In fact, theyíre ridiculously easy once you learn the timing of your front kick. You see, your front kick gives you just a bit more range than your enemies have. Since their strategy is to charge at you, all you have to do is time a front kick, repeat, and theyíre on the ground. This sucks just as bad as an overly difficult game. Itís really too easy to play. It's solidly on the lower end of average.
Read my opinions elsewhere on the shlock that is the DD 3 weapons and skills buy-in system. You have a limited number of credits in the game and still have to use them to buy your weapons. The weapons are still very move-limiting, and this still sucks. No D rating here since this is an ďarcade authenticĒ feature. Bleh!
Controls and Moves: D+
Sloppy, slow and choppy. So was the arcade. Even so, this is a ridiculously easy port of the game. Donít worry too much about buying the skills since all you need to know is how to jump, kick and walk. Really. The glitchy scrolling can also make the game easier. Knock an enemy down near the edge of the screen and move the screen in the same direction. The grounded enemy sprite drags with the screen, just slightly. That means you can progress while staying on top of your downed foe. Itís a glitch to your favor, but the game was really easy enough without it. Also, while I played this via emulator and didnít have abysmal load times, this is a two-sided tape game. That means that on an actual machine, the tape had to be played in its entirety, flipped over, rewound, and played again to load the title completely. Lots of loading. Thatís the sacrifice of having a primarily tape-based distribution system though, and not so much a flaw in the game. However, some creative loading schemes could have remedied this. Itís more of an annoyance (albeit a really bothersome one) than a complaint though.
One player or two player. That's it. I suppose thatís OK, but not particularly good. Meh.
All in all, this is a much better conversion for the Spectrum than the previous two entries on the platform. That said, just like other good ports of poor games, itís a great conversion of sorry source material. Technosí decision to stray from the arcade and effectively create a new game on the NES with a similar story was a wise one as the NES/Famicom port is actually quite a good game (wicked difficult, unforgiving, and frustrating at times, but good). Really, no matter how you say it, poop is poop, regardless of what language itís translated to. If this wasnít such a great effort on most fronts and technically impressive with the music to boot, the score would have been even lower. Really though, unless you really want to complete your DD collection, Iíd steer clear of this port and get Nintendoís great conversion of the game. ďItís so badĒ (shameless plug of horrible í80s videogame movie absolutely intentional).