Your Sinclair1st March 1992
Published in Your Sinclair #75
Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone
They're feisty, they're furious, they've got trend-setting haircuts. The Dragon Brothers are back, and this time they're looking for pebbles.
Billy's girlfriend Marion, evidently a little groggy after being raised from the dead in Part Two, has wandered off and been kidnapped (again). Being somewhat discerning sophisticates, her captors have demanded the priceless and altogether spooky Rosetta Stones as ransom. The story of these stones is a strange and disturbing one starting in the wild China of myth and lumbering on until, ooh, the end of this column at least. If you squat down beside me on this hand-woven mat, I'll tell you their tale.
Way back in the mists of time, the gods threw the five Rosetta Stones out of heaven after mistaking them for loaded dice. Legend spoke of their mystic energy, and that if they were ever brought together, they would confer mickle powers on their owner. Sadly, no-one got a chance to test this theory as the stones were scattered across the world by a series of excessively noisy natural disasters. They lay in secret places for countless centuries, undiscovered despite the intense efforts of the wisest scholars and the most Scandinavian of tourists. Then, by chance, the First Emperor Ming stumbled over one while pottering in the garden. Unfortunately, as he consequently fell into an ornamental pond and drowned, they remained undiscovered for several more centuries. And then a couple more after that. At last, in 1963 one turned up in the house of famed historian and academic Professor Duncan Pog. He had been using it as a doorstop. Hiruko the soothsayer, Duncan's close and wizened friend, speedily deduced where the others were but refused to tell as he feared they may fall into the wrong hands. Since then, many have gone in search of the stones but none have returned, mainly because they got lost.
Well my pretties, that's the story. Marion's, captors want the stones, and you can bet your last peseta it isn't because Arthur Negus is coming to tea. Still, what's the fate of the world when compared with that of your gal? Ah, true lurve! Without a second thought you pack an overnight bag, look up Hiruko in the Yellow Pages and persuade him to help with a heartfelt plea and a lumpy club.
Mine's A Double
Double Dragon 3 is something of a rarity - it isn't a licenced conversion. Storm evidently relish the freedom of an original game, as they've gone overboard on the features. For starters, the action takes place over fourteen stages, spanning five countries and three continents - quite a step up from the dingy back-alleys of the first two games. Starting on the streets of New York, our intrepid pair are confronted by a gang of villains that make most baddies look like gingerbread men. These guys take an awful lot of fancy fistwork to overpower, and there are always more ready to take their place. Before long you'll be getting fed up with your basic jumpy-punchy skils and will be on the look-out for extra weapons. However, in a daring break with tradition, Storm have dispensed with the weapons-left-in-the-street approach. Instead, you'll find bijou armouries dotted about the levels, 'cos in this game you pay your way. Not only that, and this is the really devious bit, you also pay with your credits. So the temptation to get those matching spiked batons or that instruction pamphlet on deadly nose-poking has to be weighed against continuing the game when you pop your pixie boots. You can almost hear the programmers cackling as you ponder.
Make it past the cream if America's street gangs and you face the obilgartory end-of-level baddy. Defeat him and Hiruko will point you toward the next stone. And so it goes on, with out heroes racing across the world, travelling to ancient and exotic cultures and beating up the locals. Before the game's end you'll have been matched against mad bikers, fur-clad Chinese wrestlers, graceful samurai lords, phantom ninjas and, erm, lots of other people.
As you've probably guessed, I like Double Dragon 3 rather a lot. To be honest, after the total disasters of the first two I wasn't expecting a much, so the sheer spankiness of the game came as a jolly nice surprise. Although it seems slow at first you'll find the gameplpay perfectly paced, with the two-player option a bonus rather than a necessity. The variety of the baddies and strategies keeps interest from flagging - you're never quite sire what the game is going to throw at you next. On the presentation side, the graphics are eye-gogglingly good, with excellent detail and a real feeling of weight to the sprites. The backgrounds are of an equally high quality, atmospherically recreating the countries you visit.
For all this, the game isn't Megagame material. It's 128k only, but there's still a heck of a lot of multiloading. Then there's the difficulty level. In an effort to provide a meaty challenge, Storm have made the game too tough. If you get hemmed in by your opponents -. something that's hard to avoid - it seems to be up to Lady Luck whether you escape or not. Even so, you should put this game on your shopping list. It more than makes amends for the preceding Double Dragons and almost topples Target Renegade from the number one beat-'em-up spot.
Third time lucky for the Dragons. Not quite the best beat-'em-up of all, but darn close.