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Double Dragon
Console: Atari 7800
Developer: Imagineering Inc.
Publisher: Activision
Number of Players: 2
Release Date: Late 1989

Story | Codes | Characters | Credits


By Cloudmann
Contributing Writer


While Double Dragon was sweeping the arcades, the NES and Master system were coming well into their own and both had loyal followings.  Within a year of the arcade release, Technos decided to take these games home and the first two home console conversions for the NES and SMS, while totally different, both totally rocked.  The SMS version was closer to the arcade experience, but most agreed that the NES version just had some sort of magic about it.  Well, it seems that Activision didn't want to be left out of the limelight, so the company decided to release a version of Double Dragon itself.  The problem was that Tradewest and Technos did the NES and SMS conversions while Technos licensed the rights to the computer versions to Virgin Software.  The only viable consoles left were the Atari 2600 and 7800.  The 2600 version was surprisingly well done, and the 7800 version fares pretty well in its own right and is actually a much more faithful game.

Graphics: A+

This is a very impressive Atari 7800 title.  I'm a diehard Atari 7800 fan.  Period.  But even I will admit that visually, the 7800 is weaker than the NES and looks abysmal compared to the SMS.  I expected this game to look somewhat recognizable, but not this good.  The first thing you'll notice is that there is a title screen that looks a little bland.  Once the game starts though, things pick up.  The backgrounds are very well done, all characters are recognizable and there's good use of color.  The 7800's Maria chipset was really pushed with this game.  The sprites seem a bit small, even compared to the NES and SMS versions, but you have to hand it to Activision, most enemies are here, they're colorful and they look pretty good for their 7800 appearance.  My only gripe is that the colors seem a little washed out, but that's more of a hardware issue than a software one.

Sound: B+

The 7800 is basically an Atari 2600 with a nice, powerful graphics chip.  That said, its sound capabilities are the same as its little brother's. The music is pretty grainy and sounds are limited, but overall Activision did a fine job with the weak, weak hardware it had to work with.  The music is a bit repetitive, but it's not quite as grating as the 2600 version's was, and there seem to be better sound effects and more of them.  Nothing special, but nothing really bad.  Hey, if the 7800 version has sound why couldn't the C64?

Enemies: B-

At last, an Atari version that does not drive me insane.  Enemies in this conversion are smart, and they are difficult, but not like the conversion that saw the 2600.  This game is actually playable.  Don't get me wrong, the enemies will hound you like madness, but they can be beaten without losing your lives and your sanity.  Much better balance here than the 2600 conversion.  On top of Billy and Jimmy, all the enemies seem to be here.  The standard Williams/Roper replacement thug is here along with Linda, Abobo and even Willy.  What more is there to say about this?  Pretty well done.

Weapons: B

Well, the original arcade game game had seven weapons; three just using different sprites.  Here, since RAM was so expensive and space was a commodity, some weapons had to be cut.  Most are still here though, and unlike the C64 and 2600 versions, the weapons are actually beneficial.  Pretty standard fare.

Controls and Moves: B

This is kind of a mixed bag.  While control here is infinitely easier than on the 2600, it's still pretty sticky, for lack of a better word.  Your character kind of lags a bit, and there seems to be a very slight reaction delay.  Otherwise, the two buttons provide for a decent number of moves, and the game does what it's supposed to.  Hint: buy a Sega Genesis controller and rewire it to work properly with two buttons.  This games near impossible to play with the pro-line controllers.

Modes: B+

Again, not much that can be done here.  There is one-player mode, then there is two-player mode.  It kind of sucks that there is no versus mode, but that's life.  Two-player mode actually plays pretty well.  One-player mode is a bit on the difficult side.  That's it.

Conclusion/Overall: B+

Activision certainly can work miracles with ancient hardware.  On a system designed to play conversions of Pac Man and Donkey Kong, a pretty decent version of Double Dragon appears.  Lets compare this to the Commodore 64 version, built on hardware vastly superior to the Atari 7800.  About the only area that the C64 version outshines the 7800 version in is the one tune the Commodore version plays.  Programming is the key to a good game, and Activision did this game very well.  That's why the company is still around today.