A highly trained martial artist named Billy Lee declares war on a gang called the Black Warriors. Lead by the Shadow Boss, the gang has assaulted and kidnapped his girlfriend Marian. Now Billy ventures into the city with intentions on infiltrating their lair and laying a savage beat down on the whole crew. -summary
I would like to make something clear. It's said that the classic Double Dragon, is the godfather of the side scrolling beat 'em genre that consist of games such as; Bad Dudes
, Golden Axe
, Final Fight
, and the Streets of Rage
series. This is indeed true, and one would have to be a complete madman to dispute this claim. Its influence can be felt through many of those games, as it was the blueprint for each and everyone last one of them, with Streets of Rage 2
being the best of the best. However, I'm not here to dispute Double Dragon's claim to fame, well not the arcade version at least. But this Double Dragon is a totally different case, and as far as I'm concerned it didn't really influence anything nor did it do the original game any justice at all. I remember this game on launch day back in 1988 and there were many unhappy customers. Die hard fans of the arcade game scoffed at this game for one major reason; it was not two player co-op. To top it off, even the cover art is misleading, because it shows the two main characters Billy and Jimmy Lee working together. The game was a scam from day one, because they knew sales would have probably been an all time low. Therefore, 24 years later I'm still trying to figure out what's so "double" about it. It could have been called "The Fight" or "Single Dragon", and it wouldn't have made a difference.
The game was ported over to the NES back in 1988 and released by Technos/Tradewest, and like many games that were ported over to the system from the arcade, there were big differences in the overall gameplay and even design. Some folks looked at this as being creative for the Nintendo but it always frustrated me, because it defeated the purpose of having the game at home, and it usually resulted in me heading right back to the arcade to play it, which was the case here. I was never really too fond of this game. However, I will give credit where it's due, and admit, Technos did add something interesting and I will judge it for what it is, and not what I wanted to play. Game Play:
Double Dragon is a two player non co-op beat'em up. In other words, when player one dies it's the second players turn. This defeats the whole purpose of it being called Double Dragon. But anyway, the object is to complete 4 missions by slugging it out with the opposition, and along the way you will pick up various weapons such as bats, knives, whips, and even dynamite sticks. Due to limitations on the NES, only two characters appear on the screen at once and I found this to always be annoying, because it limits the game play, and disposing of two enemies was hardly ever an issue. To make matters worst, the enemies are not mixed up either so you'll find yourself battling against two twins over and over again with the same fighting style until the very end. Not cool.
The stages resemble many from the game, you get to see the woods with the broken bridge and the moving cinder blocks that level you, but there were also some additional stages added which makes the missions longer. Remember when the hulking Abobo use to punch his way through the wall leaving a huge hole? Well now, you can go inside that hole, and it introduces a whole new different stage with falling stalactites and all. The game removes itself various times from a side scrolling beat'em up, into a standard plat-former with stages that would fit better in Wizards and Warriors or something. There's also a stage with moving plat-forms and missing them spells doom. This entire set-up is completely ridiculous with Double Dragon. Even though it's challenging, I never took a liking to this style. The enemy AI is challenging eniugh because one guy will always try to get behind you. The bosses really aren't much until the end, when you battle the machine gun blasting Shadow Boss (I remember him killing me a lot), and eventually your brother who uses your entire arsenal of moves.
The removal of the two player co-op was something I never got use to. However, the game goes through a somewhat interesting turn here. Billy doesn't begin with all his moves; they have to be earned by gaining a certain amount of points, and a heart will appear on the bottom left side of the screen. As the hearts increase so does the repertiore of moves. Billy will be able to finish punch and kick chains with uppercuts and roundhouse kicks, he will be able to grab and knee opponents on the head, toss out elbows, and even mount opponents for punches. This RPG aspect is the only interesting part of the game, and I'll give it points for that, because by the time you make it to the end you'll be a killing machine for sure, but again, along with the many platform elements it just doesn't completely feel like a side-scrolling beat'em up.
The game also has a second mode which features one on one mirror matches. You can choose between Billy and one of five characters in the game and you'll fight with your twin. This portion was put together terribly, because the CPU has two advantages; it will always out punch you. And it has a larger health bar than you. This forces you to resort to cheap kick attacks to make them squat, and hit them with your knock down punch which gets boring fast. Even with the two player mode they remembered to add on for this, I never grew a liking to it. Controls:
The controls require some getting use to. It's possible to pull off the moves, but stronger moves like the jumping hook kick can only work when the enemy is hit and forced to squat, and even then, they can sometimes duck the hit. The elbow comes out automatically when an opponent is behind you. The only downside is if you're punching someone in front of you, then the elbow will come out if someone is behind you, which leaves you open to get hit in the face. Other than that, the elbow can be worked into highly damaging combos that will kill weaker enemies instantly, and stronger ones with little effort. Graphics/Music/Sound:
There was some effort put into the backgrounds, and the fights take place in factories and dark caverns to name a couple. The character designs use different sprites but they have some disfigured faces. There's also a couple of programming issues, and I've seen characters fall through invisible pits. The BGM is definitely memorable with remixed versions of the arcade that fits pretty well. However, there are a couple of new songs that are just awful, but for some reason they always stuck in my head. Sound effects are intact with a distinction between kicks and punches, and the dynamite to the face is still hilarious with that sick exploding sound. Replay:
Games like these survive the test through time only because of their two player co-op, and this game was dealt a serious blow leaving it out. The two player one on one is lackluster, and with a larger selection of fighters out there now. I can't imagine anyone coming back to that. Where can it be found?:
I was told that this game can be downloaded on the Wii. I never bothered to check since I still own it in original cartridge form and it performs very well still. Final Thoughts:
Technos eliminated something very special, and added something very interesting. But in this case, interesting is no true substitute for special. Even when I was younger, Double Dragon was something I didn't play for too long. The removal of the two player co-op was a bad decision. The plat-former style overshadows the brawling aspect; it does the same with the RPG element too. I'm not sure who to recommend this to. If you need a Double Dragon fix, then you can always check out the SNES version Super Double Dragon or the Gameboy Advance version. Personally, I'm never going to play this again. Pros:
-RPG element is interesting
-No two player co-op
-Plat-former elements are out of place