Double Dragon (Game Boy) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 06.08.2011

Review for Double Dragon on Game Boy

Double Dragon is one of those franchises that was once so famous that any kid knew about it, so long as they visited the arcades or they owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. The series saw three games released in the arcades, and also three entries on the NES, the first of which is the most widely known. Double Dragon on the Game Boy is a port of the latter, released early in the life of the handheld, making it one of the first portable beat 'em ups ever released. Nowadays the franchise is mainly remembered by old-school gamers - how does this first attempt at a portable beat 'em up hold up today?

Double Dragon’s basic gameplay is reminiscent of other beat 'em ups of its day. You need to defeat waves of enemies in order to progress through the levels to reach the end of the game and save an abducted girl. You can punch or kick the waves of foes that come after you by simply pressing a button, and timing is the key to avoid being hit. Jumping, however, is a bit more awkward to pull off, as it requires that you press both the A and B buttons at the same time, exactly like the NES version. Another element key to the Double Dragon series (compared to later games like Final Fight or Streets of Rage) is the ability to pick up crates and barrels and hurl them at enemies, in addition to classic weapons like a baseball bat or a claw. This makes for more involving, rewarding action, more so than in some other beat 'em ups of the day.

The graphics are much like the NES version, except in black and white, though some characters actually look better in black and white than they did in three colours palettes on the 8-bit home console. The lower screen resolution of the Game Boy compared to what could be accomplished on the NES, however, means that you don't see as much of your surroundings on the screen, and this leads to a major problem with the game: its pace.

It is much slower here than it was on NES - and Double Dragon on NES wasn't a fast paced game to begin with. Making the game run slower than the original was a poor way to circumvent the resolution problem that would otherwise prevent you from seeing what's coming towards you from afar. This makes the overall experience feel really weird. Jumping characters stay in the air for what seems like an eternity, and your punches and kicks can't be chained as fast as your instincts would expect from a real fight.

Screenshot for Double Dragon on Game Boy

If it wasn’t enough that jumping is already awkward given the button setup, some of the later levels require a lot of frustratingly hard platforming, with boulders falling from the top of the screen. Add into the mix the fact that jumping takes an eternity and you end up in a cycle of missing jumps, only able to helplessly watch your character slowly fall to their doom, making your frustration growing even more intense. You don’t want to give up because you’ve come so far, but the game has no save feature, passwords system or even continues. The 3DS Virtual Console outing alleviates this pressure thanks to its quick save system, so you can drop out of the game, turn off your system and cool down for as long as necessary before coming back for more. Back on the Game Boy, though, this wasn't a pleasant experience.

Some of the music can get rather fast paced at times, making you want some faster action, but you’re stuck with your slow moves. Most tracks sound exactly the same as they did on the home consoles, but with the back beat sound channel removed, as was the case with most Game Boy ports of NES games. A few tracks, namely the one for the first stage, seem to play slower on the handheld version, which actually fits the general change of pace of the game.

The Game Boy version of Double Dragon is a little shorter, with some of the later levels from the home version omitted, though the challenge will ensure that the game lasts you quite some time. The level layout also seems to be different from its NES counterpart, although the action is essentially the same, so this doesn't change too much. The two player option visible on the title screen isn't a co-op mode, unfortunately; like the two player mode on the NES, it’s instead a one-on-one brawl match between Billy and Jimmy Lee, the two protagonists of the arcade game. Of course, if you're interested in getting the Virtual Console outing, you probably won't care much for that, since no Game Boy game so far on the service has allowed for the original cable-link mode to work via the wireless connection of the 3DS - Double Dragon is no different, and remains a single player affair.

Screenshot for Double Dragon on Game Boy

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


Double Dragon on the Game Boy was the best portable beat 'em up back in his day... because the competition was nonexistent and the standards weren't as high as those expected from the genre nowadays. Its slow pace and ridiculous difficulty hampers the enjoyment that one would otherwise get from playing this game. There's better enjoyment in a similar genre to be had on the 3DS in the form of Samurai Warriors: Chronicles, for example. However, Double Dragon’s price point being slightly lower than most Virtual Console games might help sweeten the pill if you desperately need a cheap and challenging quick beat 'em all fix on your 3DS. Now that NES games have been announced for 3DS’ Virtual Console though, perhaps it might have been a better idea to wait and release the NES faster paced version. Old-school fans of the genre and the series who are able to overlook its flaws may find some enjoyment in Double Dragon on 3DS, but most players will only find an old relic that hasn't aged particularly well.




Arc System





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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