Double Dragon IIIDouble Dragon 1 was okay, but had some issues that weren't all too ignorable. Double Dragon 2 was an improvement, and was a pretty good game overall, but still had some problems. With this pattern in mind, Double Dragon 3 ought to be the best damned game ever made. Well... not necessarily. It's not quite as good as Double Dragon 2, but it's still a good game... and I'm probably getting some dirty looks right about now for saying that. See, Double Dragon 3 is known as being a really hard game, but almost unfairly hard, to the point where people go "*bleep* this", put it in the shit pile, and move on with their lives. Well, again, I wouldn't put it that high on the NES food chain, but it's still a good game worth playing through.
Story: A year after the events of Double Dragon 2, Billy's girlfriend gets kidnapped, and he and Jimmy have to rescue her. To do this, they must collect the three Sacred Stones. Not much of a plot, but like Double Dragon 2, at least it's told well enough in the cutscenes. There are some in the form of text and some snapshots, which is admirable, given that other games in their period didn't really take storylines into consideration... except the Ninja Gaiden trilogy, but they're of a completely different species from wjat we get in Double Dragon, so moving on...
Gameplay: Like the previous games, the aim is to go through each level while kicking the shit out of bad guys and jump across a few platforms. You'll be given all of your abilities right off the bat like the hurricane kick, jump kick and overhead throw (do a 180 degree frontflip, grab the enemy's shoulders, and do another 180 degree frontflip, then release), and they'll be really useful, especially the hurricane kick, because enemies are tougher and you aren't!
See, the problem everyone has with this game is the frustrating difficulty. You only have one life with no continues. It makes sense to have only one life (and I'll explain why in a bit), but I thought the lack of continues was bullshit. As the difficulty has been raised, you can't really afford to screw up, but it's innevitable because this time around, enemies are complete pricks, able to surround you easier and deal more damage - but hey, there's a lot more variations of them, like thugs and ninjas! Anyway, if you die, you go back to the beginning of the game, which can get pretty frustrating after a while, though perserverance never hurt anybody! Then again, infinite continues - or hell, just three - would've made this game a bit more fun to play through, as opposed to frustrating as hell with a cheap difficulty level!
Now to explain why I think it makes sense to be presented with one life - during the game, you'll be given additional characters, which you can switch between either while paused or when a character dies, so to give them three lives each would just make things way too easy and way too brief (as it's only five stages long - one of which is pretty fillerific), which is never really fun. These additional characters vary from Billy (and Jimmy in two player mode) in speed and power - Chin is slow, but damn, he's got some strong attacks. Ranzou, on the other hand, is fast, but surprisingly weak. Ranzou uses twin swords and ninja stars that could be useful if you have to attack enemies over a pit and don't want to risk it, though he's weaker than a kitten. He can jump pretty high and move fast, so I suppose it's a fair trade. Unfortunately, due to their imbalances, keeping Billy alive is *bleep*ing essential! Chin is too slow and abusing his belly flop isn't as helpful as abusing Billy's hurrican kick, while it takes FOREVER to kill enemies as Ranzou.
If you haven't gotten the message, playing this game alone isn't really all that fun. I mean, it's fun if you know how, but given that However, this game is still fun with a second player, thanks to two player simultaneous play. Enjoy fighting tough enemies and rough bosses together while cursing each other out for getting Billy/Jimmy killed. most of the fun is experienced this way; alone, the game just feels frustrating, because the simplest mistake can get you royally butt*bleep*ed in the long run, and with only one life and no continues, well, you're *bleep*ed if you suck. But hey, that's what practise is for, so pull your head in and get to it!
Controls: Look, I know that they wanted a deep brawler (at least by 8-bit standards), but cramming in a few combos with just two buttons just gets pretty bothersome, especially when attempting the hurricane kick. Hell, you could have the right directional and button input, and still jump forward without doing a hurricane kick... possibly into a pit! It makes the game more frustrating than necessary! However, at least they got rid of that quirky directional attack scheme where you do forward punches and backward kicks - instead, it's back to basic forward attacks with the simple press of each button. This is something that, obviously, never got fixed until Super Double Dragon on the SNES.
Graphics: Looks like the graphics have gotten better since the second Double Dragon. Just a touch bit better, though. The colors are still bold and the environments are still fairly detailed, given the limitations of the NES hardware and whatnot. The characters' faces are a bit more distinguishable, but still just a little disfigured, though the rest of their models are pretty well done. Definite looks great for 8-bit, though expect a little bit of lag and flicker every now and again.
Audio: The soundtrack is much like what you'd hear in Double Dragon 2; consistent and good. They manage to fit with the pace of the game, enhancing the atmosphere and make combat that bit more interested. Sound effects, again, stand out as fairly unique and actually kind of good!
Replay Value: Much like Double Dragon 2, two player simultaneous play is what makes this game last. You and a friend can kick some ass together while fighting over who gets to deliver the final blow to a boss, or if they want to switch to the other two characters.What kills the replay value is that it's fairly frustrating to go through, not to mention kind of dull upon repeated playthroughs. The first time through, it's frustrating, yet it can be fun; the second time through is a different story. At least Double Dragon 2 remains interesting on repeated plays...
Overall: Double Dragon 3 is definitely not the shitsucker that many have made it out to be. It's actually not a bad game. The problem is that it's just frustrating to get through your first time, and the second time isn't quite that interesting, either. It's still recommendable, though I wouldn't pay too much for it if I were you.