is the third game in Technos Japan's (presently Million's) Double Dragon series of beat-em-ups. Originally released in 1990, the original arcade version was not developed in-house by Technos, but farmed out to an external developer, East Technology. Because of this and the fact that the game used a new engine, it has a completely different look and feel from the previous two installments.
An NES version developed by Technos, published by Acclaim as Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones in the west (Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone in Japan), was released in 1991. Acclaim also published the Game Boy and Mega Drive/Genesis ports of the arcade version as Double Dragon 3: The Arcade Game.
The arcade version of Double Dragon 3 has a more realistic look than the almost cartoon-like graphics of the first two games. The game's plot, as explained in the attract mode, involves Billy and Jimmy meeting a mysterious fortune teller named Hiruko after returning to their home from a two year training mission. Hiruko tells the Lee brothers that a dangerous new enemy is threatening the world and that in order to stop this threat, they must first collect the three Rosetta stones and then travel to Egypt.
The arcade version can be set up for up to two or three players (much like Combatribes), with the third player taking control of "Sonny", a yellow-clad palette swap of the Lee brothers, as the default character. The game uses a three button configuration similar to previous games in the series, but has different play controls and techniques from previous games. Many of the techniques and maneuvers from the previous games like the hair grab are not featured in this installment, but new ones are added such as a belly-to-back throw, stomping over fallen enemies, the ability to dash and a back-to-back hurricane kick that can be performed with another player.
The game features a shopping system in which the player can purchase power-ups for their character by entering into certain weapon shops in some levels and inserting additional tokens. The available power-ups includes: extra men, in which a new fighter takes over if the player's current character is defeated; weapons, in which a nunchaku or a tachi can be used by a Lee brother; tricks, which adds the hurricane kick and an overhead attack to the player's set of moves; energy, which restores the player's life to 150%; and attack power, which increases the player's agility. The three character types available to the player via the weapon shops are: the Urquidez brothers (Roney, Sunny and Jonny), who are strong grapplers; the Ōyama brothers (Masao, Kunio and Akira), who are Karate masters with quick attacks; and the Chin brothers (Seimei, Taimei and Sinmei), who are Tai Chi experts with powerful attacks.
The game is composed of five stages, each set in a different country and featuring their own unique set of enemy characters, including bosses, that fit with the setting. The first four stages are America, China, Japan and Italy. The final stage is set inside a pyramid in Egypt, where the player must overcome several trap rooms and creatures like treemen and stonemen before the final battle against a resurrected mummy, who is revealed to be Cleopatra.
Following the game's release in North America and Europe, a version of Double Dragon 3 was subsequently released in Japan which removed the shop system. Instead, all four character types are selectable from the start with their special techniques already at their disposal. The hurricane kick was made harder to perform, requiring the player to immediately press the kick button after pressing the jump button. The level design of Mission 1 was greatly altered; the weapon shop is omitted (the stage starts in front of the "Power Records" store) and there is no conveyor belt in the warehouse. The other stages are identical, featuring the shops in the background, but the player no longer has access to them. While playing as a Lee brother, players will find a weapon (either the nunchaku or the tachi) lying on the ground, allowing the player to pick them up.
The NES version of Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (the title being spelled with a roman numeral, instead of the Arabic numeral used in the arcade version's logo), unlike the arcade version, was developed in-house by Technos Japan rather than East Technology. Both versions of the game were also developed at the same time and came out months apart. Much like the NES version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, the English language versions of the game were published by Acclaim, which were retitled Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones.
The game does not feature the shop system either, nor are all the playable characters available from the start. Instead, the game uses a system in which the player is joined by additional characters by defeating them as bosses. The player can change characters during gameplay and will automatically change to the next available character when their current one is defeated. The player starts the game off as Billy Lee (with Jimmy Lee, if joined by a second player) and can gain two additional playable characters by defeating them as stage bosses: Chin Seimei (the second stage boss, who was also playable in the arcade version) and Yagyu Ranzou (the third stage boss, who uses a ninja blade as a default weapon). Each of the playable characters also has a reserve weapon in his disposal that have limited uses per stage (nunchucks for Billy and Jimmy, an iron claw for Chin and shuriken for Ranzou). The NES version features techniques similar to the arcade version, such as the overhead shoulder throw and the double cyclone spin kick that can only be performed with two players as Billy and Jimmy, but adds moves and features from the previous games too such as the hair pull technique and the ability to disarm certain enemy characters and use their weapons. The available weapons are an army knife, a bottle and a sai. Certain enemies will also use knives and hand spears against the player, which are weapons that are exclusive to the enemy and cannot be picked up by the player.
The plot went through considerable changes during the game's English localization: the final boss' identity was changed from a resurrected Cleopatra to "Queen Noiram", a possessed Marion (Billy's girlfriend, also spelled Marian) whose been kidnapped again and an explanation was given for Hiruko's death when none was offered in the Japanese version. The English version also shows all of the main characters (including Hiruko) in the ending after completing the game once, instead of only showing the characters the player completes the game with like in the Japanese version. The localization is notable for its typo of Billy's name as "Bimmy" at the opening intro of the 2-Player Mode.