One of my all-time favorite arcade games, Double Dragon, was released to the XBox Live Arcade recently. I spent an inordinate amount of time in my youth playing the arcade version of Double Dragon. This was mainly due to the fact that I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters and so when theme parks became a part of childhood life, so too did the coin-op arcade located at each of them. I could oft be found spending my twenty pence pieces (about 40 cents) on credits for both Double Dragon, and then later on for Street Fighter II. I didn’t have home console systems until my later teenage years and the arcades in my home town were where people went to get mugged, so vacations and day-trips that proffered access to arcades were looked upon fondly.
Gamespot gave DD a fair review and I agree with the thought that a large portion of the appeal is fuelled by nostalgia. That said, there is something very charming about Double Dragon that has kept it in arcades for years longer than its piers. I still see the occasional coin-op version in arcades and family fun centers here and there and, while it doesn’t even compare to the likes of Tekken in terms of graphical prowess, it still holds a special place in my heart as one of the founding releases of its genre.
For $5 I was able to get the full version from the arcade and begin working through the various achievements. It takes about twenty to thirty minutes to reach the final room and kill the boss there, depending upon the difficulty level selected. However, it will take considerably longer to get most of the achievements. I was able to unlock the Untouchable award for finishing the first mission without getting hit, which called for a quick victory dance and a few celebratory shouts. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get the Hero award (finish the game without using continues) but I’m confident that I’ll be able to get the other eleven with some effort. It is in this respect that I think the XBLA version of Double Dragon shines the most; the achievements are well balanced, rewarding, and just in scope for a casual player to achieve. There seems to be a minor issue with the No Swimming achievement intermittently failing to unlock. I did not receive the achievement on the first run through, despite clearing the river without falling in on both occasions. There is speculation that clearing the bridge area quickly can help. I seem to remember that on the two failed attempts I was thrown onto the conveyer belt at the end of mission 2, but managed to avoid it on the successful attempt so that might be part of it. Either way, it is not a tough one to beat (get the bridge jump right) and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to unlock it if you run through the game the several times needed for the other awards.
The more I play, the more I seem to prefer playing the arcade games over the commercial releases. Perhaps it is that I am too casual a gamer to get deep enough into the commercial releases. I certainly find the simplicity of many of the arcade games to be very appealing. Perhaps the price (average $5 – $10) of the games means that I feel like I’m drawing more value from the games than for the hefty $60 price tag typical of a commercial XBox 360 release. Personally, I think it is that only the highest quality arcade games from a period of thirty years of development are selected as the nostalgia-inducing few to grace the annals of the XBox Live Arcade. As the pop-music industry has learned, it is far easier to re-release something that has already hit big and meet with success than to create something new. The stream of great titles that defined an era of gaming will dry up eventually and I’m sure that the quality of the arcade games released will take a dip as standards are lowered to keep a revenue stream flowing, but for now I’m enjoying the second-coming of some of the all-time favorite games that I grew up playing. My game of the year for 2007 is currently going to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for being one of the most incredible arcade games ever released for less than $10. I didn’t get the opportunity to play Castlevania SOTN first time around on the Playstation, neither had I played its predecessor. I was only vaguely familiar with the series when I downloaded the demo, but have since put an incredible number of hours into the game, making it an outstanding value for money. I don’t yet have all of the achievements, although I’m almost 190% of the way through (the entire game is played twice, once upside-down, hence the >100%) and it is still exerting great appeal and playability; taunting me to finish. In terms of a great buy that has brought hours of entertainment and enjoyment for very little expenditure, it simply can’t be beat.
I’m eager to see what the XBox Live Arcade has in store next. I can only sit and hope that several of my favorite Sega titles will make the cut. Playing Double Dragon has whet my appetite for Streets of Rage, and playing Castlevania reminded me just how much I loved the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games. I was one of the rare people who enjoyed Sonic the Hedgehog 2 more that the first release, but both were such outstanding games that I think they deserve XBLA appearances in their own right. While we’re at it, how about a re-release of the original OutRun. Microsoft have really hit upon a superb idea with the live arcade, it’s a wonder to see that the home-realization of coin-op arcades I fantasized about in my youth has actually come to fruition. I probably spent more in an afternoon over the Easter holidays in the Street Fighter II and Double Dragon machines than both titles cost to buy on my XBox 360 to be played ad-infinitum. Compared to some of the relatively disappointing commercial titles I’ve purchased recently (Dead or Alive 4), its nice to see that time-tested games can still be enjoyed. Long live the arcade!