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Title: Double Dragon III
Rom Player: NESticle
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: The Double Dragon series continues in this, the last installment of the series on the NES, which critics have called the ultimate gaming system. This time, the story centers around Marion getting kidnapped. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But the first Double Dragon game had her getting kidnapped, and every game up to, and including, this one has had her as the main bargaining chip/plot device.” Well, yes, but this one is slightly, ever so slightly, different.

As it goes, it is one year after Billy (the blue one) and Jimmy (the red one) Lee defeated the Shadow Warriors and their leader, the Shadow Master. For one reason or another, Marion disappears, almost certainly kidnapped. Hiruko, a shrunken old hag who claims to know of Marion’s whereabouts, approaches them, and says that she will disclose the information in exchange for the three “sacred stones of power.” Of course, one of the first and foremost rules in these sort of situations is that you should never help the mysterious elderly, and you should definitely not give them anything with names like “sacred stones of power.” The thought of my grandfather with his hands on something like that keeps me awake at night. Regardless, they are not smart martial artists, so they take her up on her offer.

You start off being assaulted in the dojo that the Dragons have set up to train students and make a bit more than they made as unemployed heroic ass kickers. As you fight, the question comes up of who are these guys, since you’ve already taken out all of the Shadow Warriors. From there, you will move through each stage, leading up to a tricky boss battle, and then move on to the next stage/country, with the old woman telling you exactly where to go to find these rocks she wants.

One of the more interesting little bonuses that this game has is that in the second stage, you will have to fight a Chinese martial artist named Chin Seimei. When you defeat him, he will actually join you in your quest for the stones. The same thing happens in stage three, Japan, when you beat the ninja boss known as Yagyu Ranzou. Both of these new characters have different moves than the two brothers. Plus, they can use weapons they pick up just like the Dragons. It is strange, however, to see a ninja master wielding a broken bottle.

Speaking of broken bottles, each character has their own little bonus weapon. Each one has only a limited number of uses before it, like the weapons the bad guys use, vanishes. The two Dragons have nunchuks, spelled just like that for you spelling buffs, Chin has an iron claw, and Ranzou has some shurikens. The weapons do significantly more damage than a simple punch or kick, but their limited number of uses also severely limits their practicality in combat. Ranzou’s shurikens are useful, though, as you get a bunch of them and they have great range.

Ninjas aside, at least for now, the Dragons have gotten themselves even more moves than ever before. They’ve gone back to using the old system of punching and kicking, where the “A” button is for punching, and the “B” button is for kicking, rather than the system used in Double Dragon II, in which “A” and “B” caused you to attack left and right, respectively. They’ve retained their infamous cyclone spin kick for dealing 360 degrees of pain to bad guys. Now, though, they’ve learned an even more bizarre looking maneuver than anything they have ever done before: the “midair somer-assault.” I kid you not about the name, though I, myself, would give this maneuver the more accurate title of “flying hair throw.” Essentially, you do a flip over an enemy, grab the top of their head, and hurl them a good distance when you complete the flip. Even better than that are the improvements made on the grappling system, as now you can either grapple a foe the old fashioned way by punching him repeatedly to get him to double over, or you can simply give him one good kick in the stomach to get him in the right position.

Performing the moves, however, is still a tricky business. The punches and kicks each have slight delays before they actually hit, so your timing has to be nearly flawless. Plus, you have lost the ability to do maneuvers such as the uppercut and flying knee-to-the-face from the second one. This means that you can’t do any moves as you are getting up from either a crouch or from having been knocked flat on your ass by some punk. Also, performing the spin kick and hair throw maneuvers require you to mash both attack buttons, which can be somewhat tricky on a normal controller, but is even more difficult to do on a computer, where hitting two buttons at once can produce either no effect or an undesired one.

So who are these guys who aren’t Shadow Warriors, but vanish when they die just like a Shadow Warrior does? Hell if I know. Each stage has its own unique bad guys, each one with a different look based on how much they can do in the way of attacks. The most basic guys can just punch, jump kick, and duck some of your jump kicks. Others can kick, punch, jump kick, and so forth. What’s even more impressive is that they demonstrate some level of teamwork, now. If one is beating you, the other will stand by to hit you if you start fighting back. On occasion, two will actually team up to perform a special maneuver, one of such moves involves one jump kicking into the other, and then being thrown back at you at tremendous speeds.

The bosses are all based on regional expectations (read: stereotypes) of the kind of warriors you’d expect to see in the country. The US, for some reason, gives you a biker guy. I would have thought that the Japanese would use a cowboy instead, but I guess some Harley-riding freak is just as good. Sadly, that one does not join your group once you beat him. Anyway, the other bosses are the two guys who join your party, plus two more, since the game is only five stages long. Each boss is tricky, though, so don’t let the ethnic look fool you into thinking that they’re just attendants from a nearby tourist attraction.

While you’re busy pummeling left and right, you’ll be treated to some rather interesting music. The songs aren’t that bad, thus helping to drive home the notion that this game is all class.

The sound effects consist of the same delightful blend of impact noises from the first, with new, semi-realistic sounds for when weapons are dropped. Sadly, there would be no in-game dialog, as it would be years before anyone thought about making these red and blue scions of good talk at all.

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t seen this game before, you are depriving yourself of one of the greatest fighting games to ever grace the course, gray surface of the NES. That, and seeing how similar these guys looked in the early days of their careers is creepy.

Best Cheats: Wall Jump - To perform this maneuver, just run up to a wall and jump kick it. If you do this right, you will rebound off the wall, going faster and farther than you could, sans wall. It's a great trick for surprising overanxious foes.

Game Play: 8
Graphics: 9
Music/Sound: 8
Originality: 7
Overall Rating: 8

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