Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones (1991)
I was going to take some time to lecture you in great detail about the third Double Dragon game on Nintendo. But to be honest, there isn’t much to say. After all, I could barely get past the first few screens to even see what the rest of the game had to offer.
Yes, many NES games just decided, on a whim, that they were gonna hate you. And Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones hates you, despises you in fact. This game is almost impossibly hard, and no matter what you do, you just get the head punched off you any time you try.
Your health bar drains far quicker than the previous two Double Dragon NES games, and you don’t even have multiple lives to fall back on. Die once and that’s Game Over, probably one of the quickest Game Overs you’ll experience. You do manage to extend your lifespan a bit by recruiting some unlockable characters along the way, but obviously I never made it that far.
The only really notable thing about the game these days is that, if you decide to play the two-player Co-Op mode, it will misspell the name of one of its protagonists in the opening text. So now you’re playing as Bimmy instead of Billy. So if you’ve ever gotten a pirate CD of Bimmy Idol, now you know the reason why.
How on earth could they commit a mistake like that? I could almost understand if they’d messed up with the other Dragon, Jimmy, and localised him as Jilly – that’s a name that you might actually consider calling your child. Bimmy sounds like someone you’d get in South Park, a rival to Jimmy and Timmy. That really shows you why nobody gives a hoot about Double Dragon III.
So instead of trying to get some comedy value out of a game that’s not even worth the circuit board it’s printed on. I decided to watch the 1994 Double Dragon film instead. Yes, you probably thought you were all clever with your 1994 Street Fighter film starring Kylie. And you’re not impressing me with your live-action Mortal Kombat film starring Johnny Cage. True fighting video game fans preferred Double Dragon ‘94, starring Alyssa Milano.
I’ll be honest, I can only ever see Alyssa Milano in two ways. No, before you ask, I don’t mean on her back and on all fours. I only ever see her as Jenny Matrix in Commando, the catalyst for Arnie’s arrival into some banana republic, bringing with him as much violence as physically possible. Otherwise, I see her as the annoying as all hell political commentator we see nowadays on that septic tank of public opinion, Twitter.
At least Robert Patrick is on hand to rescue things. And I must say that this is the only other film I’ve seen the T-1000 star in, with the exception of two annoyingly brief cameos in Die Hard 2 and Wayne’s World. Mind you, whenever I watch a film without my glasses I might as well be staring up a dog’s arse for all the chance I’ll have at recognising actors, so I might have missed Patrick elsewhere.
Old Robert seems to get typecast quite easily though, as he spends a lot of time in Double Dragon melting in and out of the floor. He’s the film baddie, of course, and he has the power to masquerade as other people by taking over their bodies. He can’t fashion his arms into sharp blades, unfortunately, but that’s the only major difference I can see from Terminator 2.
The whole plot of Double Dragon seems to be simply a more 90s oriented Karate Kid. It’s two martial arts obsessed brothers, both orphans who are being looked after by their Asian foster mother or something. They’re Billy and Jimmy, though I swear I heard Bimmy in the dialogue at one stage.
As you might expect, given how we saw the same in Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, and any other godawful video game movie adaptation you can think of, the dialogue in Double Dragon stinks. So too does the plot: in this universe, there exists a medallion called the Double Dragon, split into two halves.
When you put the two halves together, well, you should see the climax of the film for yourselves but you can make a load of wild ninjas appear to do your bidding. That seemed to be the extent of what it could do, although it’s talked up as some sort of world-ending device.
They weren’t throwing around a mega budget here, if you hadn’t already guessed. After all, if they had the dosh, they would have hired Arnie as the villain instead, wouldn’t they have? You can see the penny-pinching at the beginning of the movie, which takes us through a mix of Mad Max and Escape from New York. It’s a car chase scene, at slow speed, and the car giving chase has a 3D camera installed, giving far more information about the road ahead than your piddly Google Maps. God, even Hackers had better 3D effects.
The characterisation is all wrong as well, although it’s not as if Double Dragon was a sweeping epic so I suppose you can forgive some artistic liberty. But take Marian, for example – instead of being the damsel in distress, well, I mentioned Hackers, she’s almost like the precursor to Angelina Jolie in that film.
Just to bring it back to the beginning: a massive earthquake has caused devastation to Los Angeles, which is now called New Angeles, and the film takes place in the year 2007. But things look so dystopian, it looks more like the year 2300. But then, how could I know that? Personally I thought we’d have flying cars in 2020, so it just shows what I know. The cars aren’t flying in Double Dragon’s version of 2007, though they are powered by anything and everything the people onboard can find, as they literally throw objects into the combustion engine while they’re driving.
What any of this has to do with Double Dragon, I don’t know. I ask again, how do you take a NES game, or arcade game, as simple as Double Dragon, and end up with this? The whole point is to just bring your guy to the end of the level and beat up guys along the way. Sometimes you beat up girls too, which is less virtuous. Then you get to the very end, achieve the near-impossible in beating the top martial arts man in the world, and then watch a rubbish, ten-second credits sequence.
Well, so much for being the toughest guys around. Half the time in this film, the two Dragons are running away or hiding. There’s an escape sequence where they take a speedboat down the river – I don’t remember anything like that in the games.
The highlight of the film for me was Linda Lash, the dominatrix that follows Robert Patrick around. Unfortunately you don’t get to see enough of her, and she doesn’t wield her whip as often as one would like. That’s probably because the whole film is definitely a bit PG. That’s why you should stick to the animated video game films instead – you might feel like more of a pervo, but at least you’ll get to see Chun-Li’s boobies.
Probably the weirdest adaptation is the classic boss character, Abobo. In the games, he’s a humungous bald bloke who towers over Bimmy and Jilly. At the beginning of the movie, he’s not a small fella by any means, but he’s not that intimidating, and for some odd reason he has a mohawk.
It’s only when Abobo properly ‘roids up that he becomes this disgusting blob who can barely move. A lot of women pretend not to like muscular men, you know. I know my missus pretends to gag whenever she joins me to watch Commando (featuring, yes, Alyssa Milano) for the millionth time and Arnie takes his top off. Perhaps what she sees onscreen there, is how I perceive Abobo in this movie. He looks more like he ought to be in Total Recall than Double Dragon. And Total Recall had a NES game as well.
It’s only at the very end that the main duo actually get into their famous blue and red karate gis to take Robert Patrick down. I forgot to mention that Patrick has some incredible bleached blonde hair, mixed with brown in a fearsome two-tone, and he often wears sunglasses. Yes, this is an extremely 90s film, and some of the clothes and the way that gangs dress, it’s almost offensive to the eyes. This is the kind of film that is unwatchable if you’re sober. Get a few drinks into you and it becomes unmissable.
You’ll get a lot more time and enjoyment out of watching this 90 minutes of claptrap than you would playing Double Dragon III, where even if you played well and got to the end, it’s still only a 30 minute game. Maybe you could get some enjoyment out of the game, but you’ll need a lot of patience – it’s nowhere near as accessible or playable as Double Dragon 1 or 2, so I fail to see the point.
It’s kind of appropriate really. It was around this time that the Double Dragon name was getting hoored out to anybody who fancied a go at making a Double Dragon game. This is why Double Dragon III is an unplayable game, and why Double Dragon is an unwatchable film. Maybe sometime soon we’ll get some Double Dragon fashion lines that’ll be unwearable, and after that we’ll have some Double Dragon whiskey which will be undrinkable.
11 June 2021