In the heyday of Double Dragon (circa 1988), the Atari 2600's limelight had long
since come and gone. Plainly said, in the world of console gaming the 2600 was
severely underpowered in the age of the NES, the Master System (SMS) and even
its cousin, the 7800. Being as the powerhouses of the day, the NES and the SMS,
had to delegate changes to allow for a conversion from much more powerful arcade
hardware and that these changes were very evident in both graphics and sound
quality, nobody expected a conversion to be possible on the 2600. In a final
triumph on hardware that was designed for Pong type games, Activision's Dan
Kitchen released a game that could plausibly pass for Double Dragon on the 2600.
As underpowered as the system is, in the hands of the right programmers,
miracles did happen. The cart is hard to find (particularly in NTSC format), but
it's a worthy addition to any 2600 collection.
Let's not even try to compare this to any other version of Double Dragon,
because the 2600 will fall miserably short. Let's instead review the graphics as
based on the capabilities of the system. That
said, there's good and bad. Certainly Dan Kitchen pushed the 2600 above and
beyond it's designed graphics capabilities. The level of detail and the amount
of colors and sprites on screen are very impressive.
Most enemies except for your generic thug and Willy all look pretty good.
Willy looks like a dork and the thugs who are palette swapped versions of Billy
and Jimmy look like they're wearing beanies or something. If they lost the hats, the thug/Billy/Jimmy sprite would
actually look decent. Backgrounds are impressive, though not interactive.
Overall, a phenomenal job for the hardware this game is built for, but a little
better character design on the two sprites would have been nice.
This is a mixed bag. The 2600
plainly said has weak sound capabilities. Period. Even so, this game sports a
couple of recognizable Double Dragon tunes. Overall, the music is actually some
of the best I've heard on the 2600. The sound effects are your standard 2600
fare, though that is nothing special. Pretty average.
This is one of the bad points of the game. The first time you play this, feel proud if you manage to kill one enemy before he relieves you of several of your lives. The enemies are ridiculously hard. Moreover, enemy attack patterns are limited. The thug has the exact same arsenal of attacks as Billy and Jimmy. It seems to me that Abobo and Linda have the same arsenal of attacks as well, albeit Abobo is much harder to kill. Unless your timing is perfect Abobo and Willy will knock the crap out of you. Linda's pretty much a pushover and the thugs are pretty difficult, but not like Abobo and Willy. Thankfully, only one enemy at a time can attack you in one-player mode.
Well, you can't expect much here. You
have two weapons that use the
same sprite set. You have a bat that looks like a brown stick and you have a
knife that looks like a white stick. That's it. The thugs carry these on screen
and as far as I can tell, only you and the thugs can use weapons. I think it's
cool that Activision included any weapons with such a weak system.
Overall though, the knife is the only useful weapon.
The bat pretty well sucks. Whenever
I see a weapon, I just leave it.
Controls and Moves: C
Again, the system's limits pop their heads up here. Linda and Abobo have only
two attacks: punch and kick. The thugs and Billy and Jimmy have a good number of
moves, although the kick and jump kick are probably the only two you'll use. The
controls are pretty sticky. You seem to move just a little too slow and the
moves are sometimes hard to perform, especially with just one button. On top of
that, sometimes the wrong move comes off. Programming was a little on the sloppy
Well, there's not much to do here. I
was impressed by the fact that this has a one-player story mode, a two-player
story mode, and a two-player versus mode. Not
too much more you can do. Due to limitations of the hardware though, in two-player story mode, Billy and his one enemy are limited to the top half of the
screen and Jimmy and his enemy are limited to the bottom half, unless either
Billy or Jimmy's lives are depleted. Either
way, only one enemy can attack a player at a time. Pretty slick workaround for
the hardware limitations if you ask me.
Overall, Activision did a really nice job here: a few modes of play, a couple of weapons, an assortment of enemies, decent sound and impressive graphics. The 2600 shouldn't be able to do this, but it does. The game could have used a bit more polish, but really it's as faithful of a conversion as you can expect from hardware that was some 15 years old at the time. If you can find this game, certainly pick it up, if for nothing else than to have a cool talk piece in your collection.