One of the phenomena I wanted to visit with this Atari ST retrospective is how Arcade "coin-op" conversions tended to translate. No 8-bit or 16-bit system was perfect when it came Arcade game conversions, mostly because the tech behind Arcade cabinets could evolve from game to game, while most home systems remained static for the five or so years of their average lifespan. Even so, the computer versions of these Arcade games were plagued with additional complications due to the fact that the ST joystick had a single button and most of the grunt work was performed by mercenary developers for UK/European publishers, who contracted the licenses for ST/Amiga/C64/ZX ports from their Japanese/US holders.
Double Dragon, a hugely influential brawler, was originally released in the Arcades by developers Technos Japan (who had already set a precedent for the side-scrolling brawler genre with their earlier Renegade) and publishers Taito in 1987. UK devs Binary Design, which would also develop the home computer version of Sega's Shinobi, had quite the task squeezing a two year old Arcade game onto four year old computer hardware. The result was... well, we'll see for ourselves in just a moment.
Because I didn't think Double Dragon alone was sufficient, I've thrown in its 1988 sequel (which also came out on the ST in 1989 courtesy of Binary Design): Double Dragon II: The Revenge. Oddly, that conversion fared a little better, at least graphically. (Usually I'd put the theme tunes here, but YouTube has failed me. You aren't missing much: Double Dragon's loops the first four seconds over and over until the game's loaded, at which point it plays the rest. Double Dragon II literally plays a small loop for about ten seconds as it loads the game and then stops. In both cases, there's absolutely no background music while playing. Instead, here's the classic original Arcade theme.)
Though awkward in many respects, the heart and soul of Double Dragon still exists here. It's not the home version I'd recommend everyone rush out and buy, but I found it serviceable enough as a kid, to the extent that I still remember how the infinite continues cheat works. (You and a friend both die with one continue left, and then hit the respawn button simultaneously. The counter freaks out trying to allot the one remaining continue between the two of you and adds on another 255. If you were wondering.)
It might just be I'm giving the complexity of Double Dragon a little too much credit. Anyway, onto the second:
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
The Atari ST Double Dragon 2 feels much like the first, though a little faster and a little more fluid. There's a significant upgrade to the character sprite graphics too, but that lack of music and single attack button might still be a dealbreaker for most. I can scarcely believe this is the same developer, though it's possible they got some outside help for the art (or they just traced it this time instead of trying to draw it from memory, which works too).
However, given that the only other non-Japan exclusive home version we saw was the NES version (which, while solid enough, couldn't quite match the Arcade look that this game does), it might be the best of a bad bunch.