Double Dragon (NES)

Double Dragon Box Art

Double Dragon

System: NES

Release Date: June 1988

Developer: Technos Japan

Publisher: Tradewest

Genre: Beat ‘em Up

Here’s a perennial favorite of people in the NES library, Double Dragon! I’m a big fan of Technos Japan and the games they make as time goes on. Here we’re going to take what they started with Renegade and build on it. This is a better version of Renegade in every way. You are Billy Lee and it’s up to you to save your girlfriend Marian from the Black Warriors led by the Shadow Boss. It would have been cool if they game allowed you to find out the twist on your own, but nope, the manual tells you right away that the Shadow Boss is Billy’s twin brother Jimmy, who you play as in 2 player mode.

You move to the right and beat the crap out of everyone on the screen. To begin with, you can punch with the A button, kick with the B button, and throw a headbutt with a double tap of left or right. As you beat up your enemies, you gain experience points that level up your techniques. The roundhouse kick and uppercut are learned at level 2 and become combo finishers. The jump kick (A + B buttons) at level 3 replaces the normal jump and becomes an important tool. At level 4, you get the hair pull knees with the B button and throw with the A button. Level 5 gives the Thesz Press punch when you press down on top of a downed enemy. Level 6 gives the back elbow, which is incredibly strong, despite being a bit difficult to hit. Level 7 gives the jumping roundhouse kick, which I was hoping would be super strong, but was dodged by the enemy way too often.

There are four missions that Billy must go through. At the end of each is a boss that then becomes a normal enemy in future levels. The most iconic enemy in the game, in my opinion, is Abobo. This giant roided up monster can put the hurt on if you’re not careful. I find it difficult to get by Abobo unscathed, as well as Chin, who is the boss of Mission 2. Some enemies come on screen with weapons. The most dangerous are knives and dynamite. You don’t want to get hit with these or you will lose a huge chunk of health.

There’s also a second game mode that is a fighting game. This is a pretty crappy try at a fighting game. You can choose from Billy or one of the enemies from the game. The sprites in fighting mode are a little bit bigger and more detailed, but the fighting is crappy. You can punch, kick, or throw a jump kick. The AI gets more hit points than you and you don’t get any kind of advantage otherwise.

Graphics: 3.0

I like the backgrounds a lot. The sprites are a little bigger than normal at this time, but there can be a lot of flickering, so that’s a downside.

Sound: 3.0

The music is very well composed, but it doesn’t sound great, yet. Some of these tunes will be redone better in the future.

Gameplay: 2.5

It’s a good game, but there are a few things going against it. There’s some unresponsiveness and some annoying randomization (see the wall in Mission 4).

Difficulty: 3.0

I got better on each playthrough, but couldn’t get myself to the final boss.

Fun Factor: 2.5

Double Dragon is certainly an enjoyable game, but it isn’t my favorite.

Overall Grade: 2.8

Double Dragon earns a B. Definitely play it, but realize that it isn’t as fleshed out and polished as you may recall.