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Double Dragon (NES) artwork

Double Dragon (NES) review

"It must've been Bimmy Lee"

Double Dragon for the NES was a curious entry, not only because it lacked the 2 player co-op of the Arcade original and other ports, but because it was also decided that Billy's twin would be the bad guy who kidnaps Marion overall. What a mess. However this did not prevented from being a hit on the NES and is still revered by gamers as a good entry in the series, despite said changes and lack of said feature.

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Gameplay is quite simple for the NES, you get both buttons assigned to punches and kicks, and press both to do the jump kick, which is one of the most valuable moves on this game. However, to be able to do other moves like the famous back elbow you must gain enough "experience hearts" which are accumulated by defeating enemies throughout the game. It is a bit cumbersome to have to do this in order to get signature moves featured in the Arcade version, but on this port you actually gain even more special moves that aren't featured anywhere else, such as being able to pummel a downed enemy with your fists for example. Said moves would later be added in other adaptations of the series. The hit detection is spot on; you never miss any move landed on your enemies.

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One thing about this game is the level designed is drastically changed in contrast to the Arcade. You even get to do some plat forming halfway through Mission 3 for example, avoiding stalactites and rocks as well as jumping over dangerous pits. Said radical change of pace is a bit disorienting, being that you are used to defeat enemies and suddenly you start jumping over obstacles. Some stages have hidden paths you must undertake in order to finish them, instead of simply walking from left to right in order to do so.

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The music has a nice rhythm to it, transferring the original soundtrack into 8-bit splendor. Some new tracks are added for this port alone. Each punch and kick sounds crisp and fresh as you mow through enemies in order to rescue the damsel in distress. Each sprite is well detailed as are stages you travel through.

CptRetroBlue's image

Besides the lack of co-op there is no way to gain neither extra lives nor are you allowed continuing from where you lost your last life. Either you go through the entire thing with what you got or will have to start from the very beginning. In spite of this there is an extra mode where you get to duel with a character's clone in a one on one fight, which can be done with a single player or against a human controlled character. Too bad you don't get to mix and match characters to truly make this into a mini tournament of sorts.

Despite its weird way on how the story is brought up among other radical changes from its source material, the NES adaptation is pretty fun to play and well balanced. Rarely will you get irritated at tough spots although you will question the fact that you must choose the right track in order to continue on finishing some stages, otherwise you will find yourself at the very beginning of said stage. This will no doubt confuse newcomers to the game and probably will make them irritated enough to let go of the game for a while before figuring out how to beat those unruly stages. There are no other wrongs about this port otherwise; it’s just a different take on an Arcade classic and one I do recommend to try.


CptRetroBlue's avatar
Community review by CptRetroBlue (June 09, 2019)

Cpt. Retro likes old school gaming the most and grew up playing Arcade games in Mexico. He also loves talking about retrogaming.

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Masters posted June 11, 2019:

Ah, this brings back memories. I forgot that you could pummel a downed opponent! Have you played the SMS version? It's way better and it gets no love.
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CptRetroBlue posted June 11, 2019:

I have. The only trouble I find on it is that the hit detection is lacking but it does have the option for two players as in the Arcade original.

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