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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 10/21/07 ] = As A Reminder

Capcom created the best side-scrolling fighting series ever with Final Fight. With its polished visuals, control, and sound, it was in instant classic when it came out. At the time, the game was polished compared to previous titles in the genre. Double Dragon was one of those pioneer titles around before Final Fight, and is now the latest side-scrolling fighter on the XBox 360 hardware. Back then, everyone loved it for its two-player, blistering cooperative fighting (which was rare at the time). The game has been reborn with the Live treatment of enhanced graphics and sound, but still retains everything that made the original a hit; cool heroes, a good assortment of enemies, lots of moves, lots of weapons, and lots of ass to kick. Sounds good, right? Well, it would if it weren't for the fact that the game remains mostly unchanged from the original (which needed fixing). Is the new HD remake really the timeless classic everyone says it is? Let's take a look...

I love side-scrolling fighters probably more than anyone on this planet, and the original Double Dragon brings back some good memories. The new one is memorable, too, but for all the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong; I really like the new one for its enhancements and network play. It was an impulse buy for me, and I don't regret buying it. But there are some things in the game that really should have been fixed. We're talking about things that were acceptable back then (with the technology we had), but unacceptable now (with all the technology we have). The two biggest problems are bad hit detection and ridiculous difficulty, which combine to make this Double Dragon Live update one of the most frustrating titles in the genre. Regular attacks are harder to use than they should be, landing a jump kick is still a joke, and the elbow smash is the only move that really even works when it should. Every time I play this game, I think over and over again, "why do my attacks just go right through enemies?" When you do hit them, it's hard to tell who's hitting who (because of the way hits come out), and there are too many exchanges. But that's not all you got going against you; the ridiculously cheap difficulty is absolutely frustrating.

Enemies have the convenience of better hit detection and priority, so enemies like Abobo will go through even your strongest moves with cheap grabs. And let's not forget about the ridiculous command for the headbutt (inconveniently designated as a double-tap forward). Whoever thought it was a good idea to make Forward, Forward the command for the headbutt move should be punched in the face. I don't know how many times I have lost my ass because of this move; it randomly comes out at the worst possible times (you know, like when phone calls from the ex-girlfriend come when you got the new lady friends over)! This lethal combination of issues foces you to abuse the elbow smash move to clear the game in one credit (which shouldn't be the case). I seriously questioned the possibility of clearing the first stage without being hit, and/or one-credit clear. The shitty hit-detetion prevented me from thinking any of it was actually possible without a strike of luck, but then I discovered the devastating elbow smash. I'd like to use the other moves, but successful collision is so rare that using them means continuing ten (or even more) times a stage, so I fall back on the elbow smash to even out the otherwise uneven playing field (and I know I'm not the only one). But it shouldn't be like this, and some balancing efforts should have been taken. To its credit, though, this new Double Dragon update features very smooth analog control (that is, when its not being hampered by random headbutts) and nicely re-done graphics.

Every character has been re-done for the HD era, and they look good! Each of their faces still have that unique and distinct look, and they are even more memorable than in the first game! Roper is trashier than ever, Abobo still gives me nightmares, and the end-boss looks like even more of a dirty asshole than he was before. Marion looks accordingly stunning with the new makeover she's received, and her panties look accordingly great. And lets not forget how cool the Lee brothers look with their little vests, nut-tight-pants, and knee-high boots. You can even see a walnut through those pants if you look close enough! Awesome. The animation looks the same, which isn't a bad thing because I think the first game was really ahead of its time in that department. Fans of 2-D will enjoy the game in motion; the animation style from the original game really compliments the new graphics.

The music, oh, the music. It's not supposed to be, but it's scary as hell, and easily qualifies as a horror game soundtrack (rather than a side-scrolling fighter one). The boss fights still have that weird, dark tone that make them scarier than they really are. Shit, most of the time the music freaks me out more than the bosses do! Now that's fucked-up. Not to say it's bad, it's just not as polished as it could have been. The game description also mentions a re-mixed soundtrack, but it doesn't sound very different from the original (if anything but the title music was actually re-mixed). Punches and kicks still sound the same, which isn't bad. If I remember correctly, hits land with the same thuds and slaps we've already heard in the original. Enemies topple over with a sound effect that is so indescribably botched and abrasive that you can almost feel the pavement on your face. One of the things that made the original game so cool was that enemies let out a muffled grunt, blinked, and then faded into obscurity. The good thing is that they still blink and fade away, but the bad part is that the same dirty, muffled death cry is still there, too.

How does the story go? The exact same as the original. This is the game that started the whole "save your girlfriend" theme so characteristic to the genre. But it's kind-of strange because in this game your girlfriend is actually supposed to be a karate teacher or some shit (unlike the defenseless girlfriend of other titles in the genre). And since they kicked the ass of your girlfriend, now you've got to go and kick their ass! The whole concept is just hilarious (even though it looks serious), which is why I still like the more serious theme of DDII more. In DDII, Marion doesn't just get punched in the stomach like in DD, she gets straight shot! If that's not reason enough to wage war, then I don't know what is...

Anyway, shitty collision and really cheap AI are what make this game frustrating, and within five minutes even the most level-headed player will be jabbing their finger at the TV screen, screaming, "fock!" There are adamant DD fans out there, but this game would have been so much better with fixed collision and AI. Sure, other additions would have been nice, too, but the frustrating parts should have been fixed to compliment the nice graphical makeover. In fact, fixes might have even better than enhanced visuals. Dead Rising is still the best for XB360 side-scrolling fighting, but there's something so nostalgic about playing a Double Dragon remake all these years later. I'm waiting for the sequel to get the HD makeover, though; the original DDII (Genesis version) is still one of my favorite games of all-time. It would be even cooler if they gave the whole triology the HD makeover. Will we see all three games Live in the future? I hope so...