Double Dragon
Box Shot
Double Dragon
Platform: NES
Publisher: Tradewest
Designer: Technos
Genre: Beat-em-up
Players: 1 (special 2-player mode)
Published Date 1988
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

It's an arguable point that Double Dragon started the whole beat-em-up genre. You know, the type where you control some character who has to wander through a town and beat the crap out of every bad guy nearby. It's even more startling when you learn that the game that started it all really isn't all that impressive.

As the opening screen states, Marian is standing in the middle of the street when a big bad dude comes up, slugs her in the stomach, slings her over his shoulder and takes her off. This evil gang (supposedly being led by the hero's brother Jimmy), for whatever reason, decided to capture her. Well, as Billy Lee, you're off to rescue your girlfriend.

The game's a simple walk forward and smash the crud out of any bad guys. However, this is Tradewest's version of the arcade hit. The most glaring omission is the lack of a two player mode. Yep, this is a one player only affair, so don't expect to plow through the bad guys with a friend. To compensate, a tournament mode is included that allows you to pick one of the game's characters and pit them together in a small enclosed arena. These scenes can be played in two player, although the game simply ends once one persons dies...there's no continuity in this mode, just quick bursts of fun. They also play a bit differently, with different sets of moves and the ability to run. It's nice to play as the enemy characters, and everyone is drawn quite a bit bigger and better looking than in the actual game.

Another interesting twist is that Billy Lee gains more techniques as the game goes on. Each time you hit an enemy, you get some heart points. Once that number reaches 1000, you gain another technique. Although this is an interesting way to introduce new techniques, it's kinda stupid to start the game without the ability to jump kick. Some of the moves are rather cool though, like punching enemies in the face when they're lying on the ground. If that wasn't enough, Tradewest added a couple areas in the game that weren't in the arcade version (like the cave in level 3.)

The biggest gripe I have about this game is the way it's controlled. In many beat-em-ups, once you landed a hit on an enemy, he/she remains stunned until you deliver another hit. Not so here. Punches barely seem to stun bad guys and they often return the favor before you can dodge. Similarly, two people can punch each other at the same time inflicting damage. Since you're limited to three lives, simply punching and kicking enemies (especially bosses) will get you killed before far, so the next viable move is the jump kick. But too many enemies duck your attacks and hit you from the back. Since you'll get hit so often, you'll spend more time on the ground than you really want to. Additionally, weapons disappear very quickly in this game (and some don't give heart points) so you don't have much of an opportunity to take advantage of them.

Graphically the game is a bit cartoonish, except as mentioned above in the tournament mode. The opening title and first level tune are quite good, but everything takes a real big nose dive at level 3. There's one spot that sounds like a radio tranceiver gone haywire for about ten seconds. I just have to wonder what the hell the composer was thinking when he put this section in. The sound effects are the generic punches and thuds, nothing special really.

Double Dragon isn't necessarily a bad just gets boring constantly using two moves against enemies, most of which they dodge and counterattack anyway. There's no continuing either, so once you lose all of your lives, it's Game Over for good. All in all, Double Dragon is good played in a 15 minute time periods. Otherwise the action will become too repetetive to really tolerate for a long amount of time. You probably won't survive much longer than that anyway.

Reviewed By: Matt Hull
Kurt pretty much covered over the whole game engine of Double Dragon so I'll just comment a little. It is frustrating to punch and kick your foes and for them to be stunned for half a second. I've learned though that if you can land punches from a long distance, the enemy characters won't be able to counter attack nearly as well. If you get in close and punch, you'll most likely be the one getting the pavement. Now that doesn't mean to stay back. With the Abobos, it's good to get in close and kick him.

About the graphics, they are very good for 1988. The background in the street fighting mode is absolutely superb! I like the background images and the character graphics in Double Dragon. One gripe though. When you fight certain enemies, (notably the Chintais) they seem to "teleport" with their "knee sliding kick" and you have no time to react. Its rather cheap and the animation seems sloppy in that regard. Besides that, the animation is very well done.

Musically, Double Dragon will thrill video game players with the title theme and the first 2 Mission tracks. Most don't like the tracks from Mission 3 on but I kind of like them. However, the Mission 4 track at the beginning seems to be there just to annoy. Good music overall though.

Play controlwise, it's very good but not as good as DD2 and 3. It seems like sometimes I press the punch and kick buttons and they aren't executed nearly as fast as I'm pressing the buttons. It's still good though.

Double Dragon is a very challenging game that is up there with Double Dragon 3 as far as difficulty. Once you learn the moves though, it's really not that hard. (especially the move where you punch the enemies when they are out for the count) The main "obstacle" isn't an enemy at all. It's the moving blocks at the beginning of Mission 4. Here's a tip: Wait until the second block from the top goes out and run. I didn't get touched when I used that trick. Another tough for is machine gun Willy who can zap your energy QUICKLY. My advice is to get in close and kick him.

Double Dragon is overall a great game and a lot of fun to play. However, if you're not like me and you can't tolerate cheap hits and one tough game, you (and your sanity) might be better off not playing this one. However, I recommend it!