It’s been Double Dragon week here on RVGFanatic and it’s time to conclude the week by examining the last Double Dragon game ever released on the Super Nintendo. And that is, of course, Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. The first SNES appearance of the Lee brothers came in the form of Super Double Dragon. They reappeared for Battletoads & Double Dragon and they made their third and final SNES run in a tournament-based fighter. This was a radical change for the franchise. But keep in mind Technos (the original developers of the series) had nothing to do with this. Instead, a very small and obscure firm by the name of Leland Interactive handled the duties of this game. It was also based off the Double Dragon cartoon, which wasn’t exactly the most faithful representation of the proud franchise. To be blunt, Double Dragon V gets a lot of hate. But is it really that bad?
NOT YOUR BROTHER’S DOUBLE DRAGON
I first saw Double Dragon V in EGM issue #59 (May ’94). My first reaction: WTF, a fighting game?! After getting over my initial jolt of disappointment, I actually thought it looked pretty cool. EGM’s preview made it look like a promising game. The thing about it that grabbed me was its cartoony look (which makes total sense since it was based off the cartoon that started airing the year before). The next thing that caught my eye were all the strange fighters. I had a fetish for the Dhalsims and Blankas of the world. I always selected the weirdest fighters first whenever playing a new fighting game for the first time. And this game was chock full of oddities, which appealed to my penchant of liking the spare parts of fighting game rosters. Also, as a huge World Heroes fan, Billy and Jimmy Lee were Hanzou and Fuuma 2.0. Straight down to the blue and red colors and very similar movesets.
I’ll never forget GameFan’s AMAZING preview. Double Dragon V opened up the Planet SNES section — GameFan usually reserved the top spot for the game they wanted to champion most that month. So to see Double Dragon V get top billing made my expectations for the game soar. Not to mention how they made it look like a million freaking bucks! Remember the good old days when all we had were magazines, like EGM and GameFan, to help fuel our imagination of how our hopeful new favorites would play? There was no YouTube to stream instant footage in those days — your imagination did it for you based off a few pages and screenshots in a magazine you held in your very own hands. To some of you reading this that may seem primitive but for the rest of us that was our childhood and it was actually quite awesome. GameFan was the best at making every game look like a masterpiece thanks to their hi-res photos and creative layouts.
Summer 1994. The new Hollywood Video by my house had finally opened. I remember running over (it was literally not five minutes from my house) and I vividly recall seeing both Fighter’s History and Double Dragon V sitting pretty next to each other. This remains embedded in my heart nearly 25 years later. Although I loved me some Fighter’s History, my best friend Nelson DID already rent the import version a few months prior (see The Summer of Imports) and so it was pretty much a no-brainer for me at that point. I excitedly grabbed Double Dragon V from its resting place and rushed to the front of the line. A sign in the window said membership was free. The clerk, a young lady, asked for my membership card. I told her I didn’t have one yet and wanted to start one. She chuckled at my innocence and replied, “Well, you would need a driver’s license and credit card for that.” My hopes crushed, I sauntered away quietly feeling like such an idiot. As the great wrestling commentator turned Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura once said, “Close but no cigar.”
I took this picture on a cold rainy Monday night January of 2006. Hollywood Video was one of my favorite stores to visit as a kid. I wasted hours going up and down the long aisles gawking at the seemingly endless supply of horror movies. Those classic vintage VHS boxes haunted my youth. There were so many obscure horror movies from the ’70s and ’80s that it blew my young mind. It felt almost a little taboo even just to be browsing them. And of course, after wetting my horror movie appetite, it was on to browse the latest 16-bit games. It was a big part of my childhood, and it saddens me to think the kids of today will never know what it’s like to roam through a video store. This location finally died off in 2009. It was one of the last relics remaining from my youth. Thanks for the renting memories!
Wow did I take a tangent there! Anyway, I never did get to rent Double Dragon V. So when I bought a copy in 2006 during my SNES resurrection, boy, was I psyched to finally conquer a 12 year curiosity. And you know, despite all the terrible things people say about Double Dragon V — I’ll be damned — I actually find it to be not so bad. Hell, even halfway entertaining!
TAXI CAB CONFESSIONS
THE SHADOW FALLS
To execute Overkills, you must finish off your opponent with a specific strike while they’re standing. Note that the listed Overkill for each character below is what you must do TO them as opposed to “done AS them.” Also, Overkills only work on Medium or higher difficulty and can’t be done in the Quest mode.
I like Billy’s stage for how incredibly morbid it is. A pair of prisoners squirm in the background knowing that their fate will eventually be that of the skeleton displayed front and center. Hmm, this stage begs the question if Billy is really a secret serial killer. Love the music here as well — it’s catchy.
Billy’s your typical fighting game main hero, which means his moveset consists of the following: a fireball, a leaping uppercut slash and a spinning attack capable of multiple hits. In addition he has a quick lunging strike to keep opponents on their toes.
Jimmy does all of his training at the Dragon Dojo where he hones his craft day and night. A giant golden dragon statue looms in the background, reminding him everyday of the untapped power of the Dragon. The statue even breathes smoke and flashes its glowing eyes. It has sometimes proven to be an effective distraction to Jimmy’s opponents, which allows him to take full advantage. Unlike Billy, Jimmy isn’t afraid to embrace a little bit of the dark side from time to time…
Jimmy shares the same moveset as his brother. Only his fireball is literally a fireball as opposed to a dragon-shaped projectile.
The Red Dragon Tea is one of Metro City’s hot spots. After all, what can beat an endless variety of tea drinks and a backlot brawl on a Friday night?
Projectile overkill much? But that’s kind of why I find this game to be a guilty pleasure. Double Dragon V feels like it was made by a bunch of 10 year old kids who couldn’t agree on one fireball so they included all three of their ideas for a fireball instead. Jawbreaker is a fun quirky fighter who can also launch himself head first, à la E. Honda.
When the hipsters of Metro City aren’t hanging out at the Red Dragon Tea, they’re most likely chomping on some greasy burgers at Cody’s Nutron Grill. Fights often break out here as well. It’s hard to top dinner and a show.
Icepick is cool (sorry) if only for the fact that he’s the only one who can freeze his opponent, Sub-Zero style. He’s also got a regular projectile just for the hell of it, because it’s Double Dragon V: Land of the Projectiles.
I like how this stage is set against the backdrop of a heavily polluted factory. It fits in well with Metro City’s whole grimy feel…
Another bizarre fighter with THREE different projectiles. Can you name another fighting game that can claim that? Certainly not from 1994. Like I said earlier, it feels like it was made by kids who came up with a bunch of “cool” fireball attacks but couldn’t agree on just one so they included everyone’s idea. I find that oddly fascinating!
The mysterious neon green bubbling liquid gives this stage a lovely glow. TMNT Mutagen flashback, anyone?
Sickle only has one projectile, believe it or not! But to make up for it he has some super cool blade attacks, including one that can safely pass projectiles.
This is a rather creepy sewer thanks to a couple of strange looking cats and rats scurrying around.
Blade’s M.Bison-like torpedo strikes hard and fast. He likes to bury his blades deep in his victim’s crotch before discarding them like yesterday’s garbage.
Trigger Happy has the coolest name but also the worst looking stage in the game. It’s a bit drab and nothing to write home about.
Luckily, he’s been compensated with an incredibly cool moveset. Two different fireballs — one hits high while the other hits low, so the multiple projectiles actually serve a function here. He also has an electric AND flame-based attack. Not to mention a very cool take on the old Dragon Punch. Trigger Happy is easily one of the more fun characters to play as.
This is one of my favorite stages from the game. It perfectly conveys the seediness of Metro City. Love the city backdrop and how the ‘E’ in HOTEL flickers in and out.
Countdown has the coolest special moves in the entire game, even more than Trigger Happy. HE TURNS INTO A MOTHER F*CKIN’ ROCKET. You just can’t top that one, folks. End scene. Done. Finito!
A forgettable stage for a forgettable fighter. Not much else to say, really.
Sekka and Blade are almost interchangeable; they have no projectiles and similar blade-related attacks and strikes. Not one of my favorites.
That Double Dragon yin yang symbol is awesome but that is about the only notable thing of this stage.
Dominique has a very meh moveset. She was created specifically for this game and feels like an afterthought. As if someone said, “Hey we should have a female boss character…”
The creepy dragon/snake statue in the background glows off and on, creating a pretty neat effect. I also like the murals adorned on each side of this stage.
Shadow Master can teleport, has a charging strike and commands both electrical and flame-based projectiles. Not too shabby for a final boss. Terrible generic costume, though.
DON THE DRAGON MASK!
Sorry… you can’t wear the dragon mask like in the cartoon, but this comes pretty close.
Note: all of the following codes are done at the game selection screen.
- Play As Bosses: L, R, Up, L, L, Down, R, R
- Extra Continues: Left, Right, Left, Right, L, L, R, R, R
- Six Extra Points: Right, Down, Down, Left, Up, Right, L, R, L, R, L, R
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
For all the hype Double Dragon V got in gaming magazines, it turned out to be a bit of a flop. EGM’s review published in issue #60 has always stuck with me. The screenshot reaffirmed to me what a weird roster it had but the scores were so average. They gave it ratings of 5, 5, 5 and 6. GameFan never reviewed it despite giving it a glowing three page preview. My theory? GameFan disliked the final product and was embarrassed that they gave Double Dragon V top billing. Perhaps by not reviewing it they were hoping to wipe it from everyone’s memory. Super Play gave it an abysmal 39% rating. The majority of online retro gamers tend to trash this game whenever it gets brought up. It gets a bad rap but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as most people say it is. I mean, it’s not great or anything but it’s definitely playable. There are plenty worse games on the Super Nintendo, that’s for sure.
Some games deservedly get a bad rap while others I feel really aren’t so bad. Double Dragon V fits the latter, for me at least. If you approach it with the right mindset, it can be mildly amusing for 15-20 minutes or so. The graphics are colorful yet “dark” at the same time, lending Double Dragon V a unique style. It’s not a particularly great looking game but in certain spots it’s alright. The sound is pretty lackluster but the music is decent especially on a few stages such as Billy Lee’s. I like how the music for each stage kicks into a frenzy whenever one opponent’s health starts reaching the danger zone. It helps add a little extra drama to a match. This game is the perfect definition of a guilty pleasure.
A fighting game is only as good as its control, roster and mechanics. The control here is passable. It’s not crisp but it’s not terribly difficult to pull off the special moves. My biggest gripe actually? The physics. They feel a little off, similar to Clay Fighter. The roster isn’t notably appealing and there aren’t many combos to speak of. It’s mainly a fireball spam fest and trying to hit each other with your special moves. Yet, there’s something about this game that compels me to play it every once in a blue moon. I think one of the main reasons why Double Dragon V gets such a bad rap is because it wasn’t a proper kick-ass beat ‘em up sequel to Super Double Dragon. Sure, the fact that it’s not a good fighting game plays a big role too of course but I think many people were never able to look beyond their initial disappointment or look beyond the game’s admittedly terrible aesthetic. I really don’t think this game is THAT bad. Give it a fair shot and I think you’ll realize it’s not in the same class as the bottom feeders. That’s not high praise but you get my point. It’s not the first SNES fighting game I would play, but I can’t deny that I find it oddly enjoyable. After all, any game where you can turn into a rocket can’t TRULY be a total loss, can it?