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Double Dragon
Console: MSX
Developer: Melbourne House
Publisher: Zemina
Number of Players: 2
Release Date: 1989

Story | Codes | Characters


Spanish version

By Larry Petit


Double Dragon was such a huge arcade success that it appeared on just about every system of the late '80s.  Since the MSX series of computers were hugely popular in Japan in the 1980s, it was obvious that Double Dragon would be converted to them as well.  The MSX2 was similar to the other late '80s consoles and should have been able to handle a decent enough port.  Instead, a port went to the MSX1, a system extremely similar to the ColecoVision.

Zemina, the company that put the game out, was apparently known for its pirated carts, though Double Dragon has the distinction of being one of the company's (few?) originals.  That, combined with the underpowered hardware, is probably why Double Dragon on the MSX fails to even closely live up to the arcade.

Graphics: C-

I'm being generous with that score because it does look pretty decent, at least while everything is standing still.  Scrolling is choppy, and while Billy Lee moves around smoothly, his walk is barely animated.  He just sort of moves his feet slightly.  The enemies also look okay, barely animated though (not to mention Roper resembles one of those little Lego figures).  The enemies are all surrounded by a black box, oddly enough.  Since the ground is always black, it's not too noticeable until they're standing up against a wall or each other, but it looks pretty bad when they do.  Even worse, unlike Billy, they sort of  blink around the screen in a choppy manner, and when a few get together, there is some flicker.  Luckily, I didn't notice any slow down.

The backgrounds all look pretty good, though they tend to follow the NES version (everything graphically resembles a very stripped down NES version, actually).  There are no obstacles, save for the bridge in Mission 3 and spikes in Mission 4 (that probably kill you, but I wasn't about to risk a life to find out).

Sound: C-

Hey, do you like Double Dragon's soundtrack?  Of course you do!  Who doesn't?  Guess what: Zemina's Double Dragon has a soundtrack, but it sure isn't from the arcade.  It's actually from Vigilante, a late '80s Double Dragon/Kung-Fu Master hybrid, and a fairly good game in its own right.  Even worse than the mismatched soundtrack is the fact that it's only from the first two levels, and it's repeated here in Missions 1 and 2, and then again in Missions 3 and 4.  My guess is that Zemina ripped it from the MSX version of Vigilante, if the MSX actually had a version of Vigilante (and if it didn't, and Zemina couldn't get the soundtrack right, then that is just sad).  The music sounds okay considering the capabilities of the system, but it gets annoying after awhile and is nowhere near as good as the official soundtrack.  As for sound effects, they're nothing special.  Since Billy opens his mouth when he kicks, it looks and sounds like he is screaming, and that's unintentionally funny, I guess.  As mediocre as the graphics and sound are though, you should appreciate them, because it's about to get a whole lot worse.

Enemies: D

Oh boy, have we got a selection here!  Let's see, there's Williams, Roper and green Abobo. That's it.  No Linda, no Jeff, and believe it or not, no Willy.  Instead, every boss is one or more Abobo.  The final boss is simply an Abobo that takes longer to kill.  And though she is obviously not an enemy, there's no Marian either.  This is just ridiculous.  Even the Atari 2600 version had more than that.  None of the enemies are especially hard to defeat, despite the fact that they can be pretty cheap, but we'll cover that later.

Weapons: D+

You only have the knife and it doesn't appear more than a handful of times at the most.  Two thumbs down.

Controls and Moves: D+

We'll do the moves first:  There's a punch, a kick, a jump and a jump-kick.  That's it, as far as I can tell.  Now, as for the controls, they're responsive enough, and as long as you fire away enough at an enemy you should be able to take him out with no problems.  The enemies are always ganging up on you, and if you give them the chance they will beat you down, but it's generally not a problem, and here's why: Every time you fall down, you lose a life-point regardless of how many hits you've taken.  You can take as many hits as you want; you won't lose any life until you hit the ground.  So, when an enemy or enemies start hitting you, simply jump out of the way, walk back over to them, and start slugging.  The only way you'll lose life, aside from carelessness or mistakes, is if they jump-kick you, which doesn't happen too often.  When it does, it's without warning.  It's for this reason that Abobo is the easiest to defeat, because he can't jump kick.  This is just sloppy programming folks, plain and simple.

Modes: D-

If there's a two-player mode, then I sure can't get it to go.  I literally hit almost every button on the keyboard, and nothing happened. Y ou have three lives and no continues, and again, as far as I can tell this can't be adjusted.  I'm pretty sure the programmers hate us (Double Dragon fans, that is).

Conclusion/Overall: D

I wanted to like this conversion. I really did.  The MSX1 was very, very similar to a ColecoVision, and the CV is my second favorite system (behind the NES).  I always thought that if the CV had survived the crash, it could have been a competitor to the NES (probably not a serious contender, but it would have had more of a chance than the revived Atari 2600 and Intellivision).  This port shows that Double Dragon was indeed possible on the system, though it's certainly not an incredibly playable or authoritative port.  The Atari 2600 version had more put into it, even though it's a far weaker system, so I refuse to believe it's the hardware limitations of the MSX.  Is this the worst port of Double Dragon ever?  Nah, but it sure is disappointing.  Still, bad Double Dragon is better than no Double Dragon, and if all you had was an MSX back then, then this certainly would have fit the bill, but it will never make you forget about the arcade while you're playing it.  But hey, this is still better than the Game Gear version at least.

I have since found out there was indeed an MSX version of Vigilante.  I've tried it, and let me tell you, it's far and away one of the most unplayable "games" I've come across.  Not only that, but it appears that MSX DD's soundtrack is NOT ripped from this game, as this Vigilante's score is recognizable, but somewhat inferior in quality.  So, good job Zemina.  You got it right, but then again, you didn't.