Video Game Review: Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (Arcade)

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone is the only Double Dragon game that I didn’t play in the arcade and I only had the original Nintendo version to recount from memory.

This differs from the Nintendo version, which had an alternate start to the game and also felt like a wonky rebuild of the two games that came before it. It was also hard as fuck when compared to the other two games and it wasn’t fun to play.

At least with the arcade version, you can just pop in more quarters and keep playing without having to start over. Playing this now on a RetroPie, you have all the quarters you want and don’t have to worry about forking over all your allowance and weekly lunch money.

Like its predecessors, this is a side scrolling beat’em up action game. In this chapter of the series, however, you travel the world hunting for MacGuffins.

Apart from that, the game is really just a rehash of the ones before it. Where the second game altered its mechanics in a fairly shitty way, this game at least tried to make them more like the original. Still, they don’t seem to work quite as well but I think that’s due to this game’s reworking of its weapons system.

As opposed to beating someone’s ass and taking their weapon, you now accrue a sort of currency that allows you to purchase items (and I believe upgrades). The in-game system was a bit of a clusterfuck, so I just ignored it and just kept kicking baddies in the chin.

This isn’t great but it is better than the second game. In the end, though, nothing from the franchise tops the first, original Double Dragon arcade game.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Between this and the Ninja Gaiden games, I’ve been revisiting some of the most frustrating things from my childhood.

However, I did finally beat this game after playing it on an emulator and using an actual walkthrough because those last few levels are f’n mazes, man! Mazes that will drive you bonkers, as there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to their design.

As hard as this game is, I was shocked to discover that the final boss, Shredder, was actually the easiest boss of the game. It was like someone said, “Hey you need to go through this six level obstacle course of mortal danger to kill the enemy!” and then when you get to the end, there’s just a snail you need to step on.

Anyway, the underwater level is still one of the most assholishly designed levels in video game history. While frustrated beyond absolute belief, I did beat it on the first try. I remember spending hours on it as a kid and questioning why I was even still playing the game but I hated the level so much I couldn’t let it have the last laugh.

If you have played this game, I’m sure you are already aware of how much of a pain in the dick this is.

But that being said, it’s not impossible. You can master this thing but I guess it comes down to whether or not you want to put that much time into it and whether or not it’s even worth it.

In the end, I don’t hate this game like I used to. However, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the awesome side scrolling beat’em up Turtles games that came after this first official attempt at a TMNT game.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES games but this is the worst of the lot.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon II: The Revenge (Arcade)

The Double Dragon games were a massive part of my childhood. At least the parts that were spent at the video arcade or playing the original Nintendo.

My fondest memories were of the original game and Super Nintendo’s Super Double Dragon. However, when this game first came out, I was ecstatic that my favorite beat’em up side scroller of the time was getting a sequel.

Sadly, this one disappointed, even if I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself it was awesome.

My biggest gripe with the game is how they altered the controls. How you attack depends on how you are facing the enemy, which made attacks from multiple sides a pretty infuriating experience. I could play this for hours and my brain still couldn’t adapt to the bizarre and terrible change.

Playing this now, I turned it off about two-thirds of the way through because even on MAME, where I can alter the controls to my liking, I still couldn’t get the game to work in a fluid and fun way. I was bogged down by the shitty combat system.

Also, the enemies in this game just seem a lot more annoying, which is only compounded by the awful controls.

On top of that, this feels more like a rehash of the first game with shittier and more generic level design. Where the first game inspired imagination, this one just felt like one of the dozens of games that ripped off Double Dragon. This really added nothing good to the game series and in fact, made it worse.

However, the Nintendo version of the game is much better with some pretty good level design and additions. Sadly, it’s still got these shitty controls though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (Arcade)

Being that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game was nearly perfect, I wanted to play the arcade version of its sequel.

Now I have played Turtles In Time before but it was always the version for home consoles and not its superior arcade counterpart.

This was a blast to playthrough though, as it plays just like its predecessor. The controllers and look of the game are the same and the only real difference is that this comes with new levels, new bosses and the time travel element thrown in. If anything, it’s an expansion of the great first game.

My only real complaint is that the boss battles in this one weren’t as good or as memorable as the first game. I missed beating up on the more popular baddies, as this chapter gives us mostly second and third tier Turtles villains.

However, the final boss fights were a lot of fun. The battle with Krang felt fresh and new and not just a rehash of what was done in the previous installment. Also, the final fight with Shredder was more challenging and the cherry on top of this superb banana split of awesomeness.

Overall, I liked this one less than the first game. However, it is a solid compliment to it and it kept things fresh enough to allow it to stand on its own as a worthy side scrolling beat’em up.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game.

Video Game Review: Crime Fighters (Arcade)

Yes, yes, I know… I’ve been playing the shit out of arcade side scrolling beat’em ups. But I just got MAME a few weeks ago and I’m trying to relive the best that my favorite video game genre has to offer. Well, it was my favorite genre when I was eleven but whatever.

I had some pretty fond memories of playing Crime Fighters as a kid. I even remember being disappointed when my primary local arcade got rid of the machine. It was a dark, dark day.

But now, almost thirty years since that broken heart, I can play this game whenever the hell I want.

For beat’em ups, this one is pretty standard. You move with the screen, you smash foes with your fists and feet and you get to play with weapons the baddies drop after you knock them out.

What’s unique about this game, though, is that it has a bit of slapstick humor thrown into it. I always thought that was amusing as a kid and frankly, I completely forgot about it until playing through this again.

Another factor that sets this apart from similar games is that the bosses are all pretty cool and homages to awesome characters of the time. There is a guy that looks like Freddy Krueger, one that looks like Jason Voorhees, a chainsaw dude, a punk dude, an Ivan Drago looking guy and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

If you dig this genre, you’ll dig this game. Especially, if you’re a fan of retro gaming, as well as ’80s horror.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups of the era.

Video Game Review: P.O.W.: Prisoners of War (Arcade)

Since I’ve been using MAME the last few weeks, I’ve been playing a lot of side scrolling beat’em ups. These were my favorite arcade games as a kid, though. So it’s really no surprise to myself that these are the first games I’ve spent my time revisiting.

I had some fond memories of playing P.O.W. However, it doesn’t hold a candle to Double Dragon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game.

It’s very repetitious and it’s also pretty tedious.

You start by busting out of prison and immediately have to fistfight your way through hundreds of soldiers on your way to freedom.

The game feels like a cheaper, watered down version of Double Dragon with the plot of the second Missing In Action movie. While that may sound like a winning combination, this is just a cookie cutter beat’em up for the most part.

The only thing that I really liked about it is that you can pick up machine guns and blast on baddies. However, they quickly run out of ammo and are useless. But they’re good (and fun) power boosts for the few seconds they work.

The level design is pretty basic and nothing is all that imaginative.

Some of the baddies are a pain in the ass just to be a pain in the ass and this isn’t a game you can blow through with any sort of strategy. You get easily overwhelmed and you get caught in beat down loops where you just get thrashed by the enemy and can’t break free to throw a punch back at them.

P.O.W. is not a recommend but there are also far worse games out there in this genre.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups of the era.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon (Arcade)

Double Dragon was a game so good that when I heard rumors about a film being made, I was f’n ecstatic. But then the film came out, looked like absolute horseshit and I never saw it out of protest.

Still, the franchise, as far as the games go, was always solid. The games were superior beat’em ups that seemed pretty immersive, even if they primarily consisted of button mashing and trying to throw that fucknut Abobo into a pit.

Most people have probably played the original Nintendo versions of the first three games. Assuming said people were born before 1985. But only a few of us probably remember that it was an arcade game first. And the one thing I remember about the arcade version, is that it always seemed a lot better graphically, felt more fluid, had much better sound and just came across as way more badass.

Playing it again now, for the first time since the late ’80s, all that still holds true.

Although, I have to say that the NES version does have better level design and feels a bit more imaginative. But I think that was done by the developers to expand on the game to detract players from what it was lacking. Also, the NES version had more baddies and new bosses like Chin… and more Abobos.

I love how this game plays though. And the arcade version is more of a straight up side scroller with simple levels but everything is on point. Plus, this game’s superb soundtrack just sounds so much better in this version.

If you can run MAME or have the money for the original Double Dragon arcade cabinet, it’s worth revisiting.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)

I fed this arcade game so many quarters in 1990 that I never had money to buy anything else. I usually had to persuade my mum into giving me more quarters, as well as giving me an extra allowance just for comics.

Anyway, I’m glad that I can play this whenever I want now and the quarters are free because with MAME, I only have to hit “select” to add credits.

This was and still is one of the all-time greatest side scrolling beat’em up arcade games in history. Sure, the genre was going strong by the time that this came out but it took things to a new level. Maybe that’s because the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing in pop culture in 1990 but even then, this is such a perfectly polished and energetic game that it’s greatness can’t be brushed off simply because it’s associated with a massive franchise.

The controls are superb, the gameplay is fluid and this isn’t a beat’em up that gets dull or all that repetitive. Each level feels fresh and new, the levels aren’t too long and even if you are fighting a dozen enemies at once, you don’t get so overwhelmed that you have to blow through quarters just to get off of one screen.

What’s also great is that this was a four player game. So you and four of your friends could jump in together and kick Foot Clan ass. Even if you didn’t have friends with you at the arcade, there was never a shortage on kids ready to jump in and give you a hand. I actually met some friends this way.

This was an arcade game that I would often play to completion. It was perfectly balanced on its difficulty and every kid felt like they could beat it without completely going broke. There are days where I played through it twice in a row.

The Nintendo port that came out after this was never as good. It always felt like the cheap, incomplete and buggy version of its superior arcade father. Granted, the NES version did add some interesting new levels and characters.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em up arcade games from the era, especially involving turtles.

 

Video Game Review: Pit Fighter (Arcade)

Pit Fighter was kind of the precursor to Mortal Kombat. It’s nowhere near as good or iconic but it gave us real people digitized to create the fighters in the game. To an eleven year-old in 1990, this game looked badass.

However, this is just a straight up button masher. There’s no real strategy, just don’t get hit and hit the baddie more than the baddie hits you. However, if you’ve got a pocket full of quarters or infinite quarters thanks to playing this on MAME, you can just buy your way to the finish.

The controls are fluid and work well. However, the game itself isn’t fluid and the action can be kind of wonky. While it’s a decent attempt at a next gen fighting game (for its time), it’s bogged down by its sloppy play and it’s pretty repetitive. Also, the three fighters you can choose from aren’t really to dissimilar because they don’t really have any sort of unique move sets. You can punch, kick and jump: not much else.

Still, revisiting this and beating it was fun for the half hour or so that it took.

Also, the arcade version is much better than any of the versions that were ported to consoles.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other arcade fighting games from the early ’90s.

Video Game Review: Bad Dudes (NES)

If you don’t like 8-bit, 2D, side scrolling, beat’em up video games, you’re probably lame.

Bad Dudes was one of the best. I preferred the arcade version, as it was graphically superior but the home console version for the Nintendo Entertainment System was still a hell of a lot of fun. Especially, with that 64 lives code. It’s pretty damn hard without that.

While I would consider the original Double Dragon a superior game, this one had the benefit of ninjas and the title character of the video game Karnov as one of its bosses.

All the boss battles in this were pretty unique and fun though. The only weak one was probably the second level boss, which was just a tiny midget dude that has claws like Vega from Street Fighter II.

This game has solid levels for the genre. None of them are designed great but you go from the city streets, to fighting on the top of moving semi trucks and trains, into the sewers, out into the country and finally into a big warehouse full of ninjas and all the bosses you already beat.

Some games can be simple and work and that’s exactly what Bad Dudes is. You walk, you punch, you kick and you steal weapons from ninjas you kick the crap out of. What’s not to love?

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s beat’em up games like Double Dragon and its sequels, RenegadeCrime Fighters, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage and its sequels, etc.