Version tested: Xbox 360
Hands up if you remember when "arcade-perfect" meant something.
If you remember running home with a copy of Your Sinclair, Zzap64 or Amstrad Action from your newsagents each month, ready to pour over the month's news about the latest arcade conversions, it's pretty amazing to think how far we've come. After all, not only do we no longer have to patiently wait each month for the latest videogames news, it's beamed directly into our houses using magic wires. And, in a move that would quite potentially break my brain in 1987, you can now get a literally arcade-perfect conversion of Double Dragon by doing little more than hitting a few buttons on your Xbox 360 (and stumping up 400 points, natch).
Of course, arcade-perfect doesn't really account for much these days - Double Dragon notably received a conversion to the GBA in 2003 that actually improved on the original, with new cut-scenes, moves and extra levels. Faced with that kind of competition, a merely arcade-perfect conversion starts to sound pretty ropey - but wait! Razorworks has gone the extra mile by... slightly improving the graphics!
Massively better than the always-awful graphical enhancements that Digital Eclipse saddles its Xbox Live Arcade conversions with, the new 'high def' Double Dragon graphics are unsettlingly ugly. Exactly the same as the original graphics except smoothed and sharpened to remove any pixilation, they're at least authentic, and any detractors of the enhanced graphics can be satisfied with the option to play the game in its original form, though they'll be forced to admit that they game was terrifically ugly to begin with.
The story of Billy and Jimmy Lee is a simple one. While busy running the international edition of French newspaper Le Matin from their garage in post apocalyptic New York (next door to a shop that sells the extracted tears of Englishmen) Billy and Jimmy overlook Billy's girlfriend, Marian, long enough to let her get brutally punched in the stomach and kidnapped by "the Black Warriors" who clearly took issue with Marian's scandalously short skirt. Or at least that's what I've managed to come up with based on the opening cut-scene. It's obviously up to Billy and Jimmy to fight their way through four levels of repetitive goons until they reach the final boss, dispatch him and then, for some reason or another, fight one another to death for Marian's hand. Despite originally being Billy's girlfriend, Marian doesn't seem that bothered who wins.
And to be honest, I'll be surprised if any player does, either. Though it only takes about 15 minutes to reach the end of the game (and unlimited continues are provided, so there's no extra challenge there) if you aren't bored senseless by then you've either got an incredible tolerance or you're wearing some glasses with a severe rose tint. Wearing them, this is the arcade-perfect conversion we've been waiting for. With them off, "arcade-perfect" means including the crippling slowdown that the original suffered as soon as more than four things are on screen at once, and the elbow smash, a move so powerful you can complete the game using it alone. And as soon as Double Dragon has been finished once, there's absolutely nothing else to do.
Well, you can play it in co-op mode, locally or on Xbox Live, I suppose. On Xbox Live, the experience is satisfyingly free of lag in most games. Compared to the treacley Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's a revelation, but the game only allows two players (it's Double Dragon, you see, not Quadruple, um... Quails?) And the game is no different when played with a friend, other than the added annoyance of avoiding each other's elbow smashes.
So within an hour you'll have seen all the game has to offer. The included achievements will, at best, extend the game's lifespan a few hours more, with only the unfair wall traps on level four likely to deny you the "Sneaky" achievement for any length of time. The rest are either trivially simple or just a matter of abusing the elbow smash.
Now of course, you could play it without using the game-breaking elbow smash, which, as we've said, is just one example of how "arcade-perfect" this release is. But that doesn't excuse what is still a very short, and very dull, brawler. Double Dragon does include some nice "extras" - configurable controls, and some arcade flyers, which should be worth an extra point, but throws the point away with quite possibly the worst (unstoppable) menu music I have ever heard in my entire life.
With an improved GBA version on the market already, maybe arcade-perfect was never something to aspire to after all.
3 / 10