Retro Tuesday is here again folks!!…and today we take a look at the much acclaimed Double Dragon for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Double Dragon first made it’s debut in 1987 on the Arcade machines and was a super smash hit back in the day. Inspired by Renegade, which was it’s predecessor, sans the multiplayer and ability to pick up your enemies weapons and use it against them; but having said all that – Double Dragon truly inspired some pretty wicked sequels and clones, River City Ransom, being the most popular (watch for that review sometime).
This is what I loved about the Double Dragon series, they always had a great story line. Anyway, the story is about twin brothers – Billy and Jimmy Lee, who learned to fight on the cold, tough streets of the city. Their expert knowledge of the martial arts combined with their street smarts, has made them both formidable fighting machines. But now Billy is faced with his greatest challenge. Marian has been kidnapped by the Black Warriors, the savage street gang of the mysterious Shadow Boss! Using whatever weapons come to hand – knives, whips, bats, rocks, oil drums, even dynamite – Billy must pursue the gang through the slums, factories, and wooded outskirts of the city to reach the hideout for his final confrontation with the Shadow Boss… his brother Jimmy! (See? I told you they made great story-lines!)
The game-play for it’s time was superb! It had all the moves, ability to interact with objects and pick up and throw stuff around etc. and all of this was backed up with slick animation, stunning facial expressions and the whole lot of intense battles. You started off with basic moves, kicks and punches, and the level up system – although to this day I don’t know how it works – would slowly start ‘unlocking’ new moves, such as the flying kick, grab and throw, grab and knee shots to the face and a few more, that ensured you were not a sitting duck. The level designs were varied, but certainly not conducive to a fighting game, notably the one in the caverns, where the emphasis was more on platforming rather than fighting. For me, this was THE most annoying stage. Of course, once you get the hang of it, you’ll breeze through, but it was certainly trying back in the day.
The NES version also featured a ‘mode B’ – this was the ‘versus’ mode essentially, and you could pick any of the characters and duel it out Mortal Kombat style – although, nowhere close to that quality. It was a minor addition to the NES, mainly because of it’s so many limitations, they just threw this in for good measure I suppose. The upside to this was you had MUCH larger sprites, so you could take a look at your characters for what they truly are…in all their 8-bit glory.
Having said all that, the game-play was certainly HARD. It would take you multiple tries to even clear the first level, but once you did get the hang of it, you could punch and kick you’re way through with panache!
The graphics on the NES was not poor, but certainly not great. They did try to visually make the game very compelling, but it was the hardware limitation on the NES that was the roadblock. Frame rate issues aside, and slightly sluggish controls notwithstanding, the game did look good if not anything else. As mentioned earlier, the NES hardware limitation did allow only 2 enemies at a time on screen, and they had to be the same type, which you probably won’t notice or would not have because the game was so hard as it is. These little things did detract from the experience.
This was my favorite part! Who did NOT love the opening track of Double Dragon. The music for me was something that really added to the experience and it was not only appropriate for each of the levels, but it was so in-sync with the game-play that you couldn’t help but NOT enjoy the experience.
The sound effects were average at best, they did have some good effects especially when taking a knife to the face, or being thrown around, the dynamite explosions etc.; but it was pretty standard for the most part of it.
In closing, it is certainly one of my most treasured games, I remember playing at it for hours on weekends or until my dad would start losing it (whichever came first) – but my only gripe about this game is that it’s positioned as a 2 player game; but it’s a single player game in actuality. Should have been called just ‘The Dragon‘ or “Single Dragon” – LOL!
But yes, I loved this game and still continue to own it on my NES, GBA and PS3. If you do get a chance to get it for the PS3 (Double Dragon Neon), you should get hold of it. It’s closer to the arcade version than the NES version, but still loads of fun.