Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All

Double Dragon (Arcade) artwork

Double Dragon (Arcade) review


"What ensues is a left to right adventure where Billy, and optionally Jimmy, will match fists with an alarming number of people that have no need for shirts with sleeves. During the first stage, a woman in purple spandex emerges from a doorway cracking a whip. A gargantuan mountain of a man crashes through a brick wall looking to kick your ass. A gang member whips out a knife to sling, which Billy can block, pick up, and fire right back at his throat. Every beat ‘em up for years after copied these identical ideas, and they didn’t copy them from Renegade. They copied them from mission one of Double Dragon."



My advice is simple: play Double Dragon for the love of the brawler.

Some want to credit Renegade, both from Technos Japan and Double Dragon’s immediate predecessor in their line-up, as the title that originally established the beat ‘em up genre. Before then, we had side-scrolling titles with kicking and punching – 1984’s Kung-Fu Master the first – but none with playing field depth or the urban element involved. Yet I can’t find it in me to extend that accolade here at HonestGamers; Renegade is simply missing too many pages of the official beat ‘em up playbook.

It’s not continually side scrolling but arena-based, reminiscent of games like Street Smart and Ka-Ge-Ki that stand out as oddities amongst peers. It’s more West Side Story than a showcase of the grit and grime that came to define the genre’s staunchest adversaries, Taito’s localization masking its original intent of a Japanese youth standing up for his friend against schoolyard bullies. It has all of the fisticuffs but none of the style, and can be easily beaten in ten minutes or less. Most importantly, it’s not two-player, the singular aspect that explains the surge in the genre’s arcade appeal.

Double Dragon is the lone original author of the playbook.

When the Black Warriors gang member punches the dainty Marian in her stomach, slings her embarrassingly over his shoulder and walks off to the right, it marks both a setback for the feminist movement and the very beginning of the modern beat ‘em up genre. Enter twin brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee, nicknamed Hammer and Spike for the American audience, emerging from a hard day in the garage (because working on cars is manly) to discover their mutual love interest kidnapped (bummer). Unfazed, they decide to lean upon their martial arts background (even manlier) in orchestrating her rescue. They do this because, if they succeed, one of them is probably going to get laid, as far as anyone has been able to tell.

What ensues is a left to right adventure where Billy, and optionally Jimmy, will match fists with an alarming number of people that have no need for shirts with sleeves. During the first stage, a woman in purple spandex emerges from a doorway cracking a whip. A gargantuan mountain of a man crashes through a brick wall looking to kick your ass. A gang member whips out a knife to sling, which Billy can block, pick up, and fire right back at his throat. Every beat ‘em up for years after copied these identical ideas, and they didn’t copy them from Renegade. They copied them from mission one of Double Dragon.

The city streets give way to dynamite hurlers and environmental hazards – bottomless pits, oil drums, a conveyor belt leading to a trash compactor – for mission two. Three detours through the woods as you near the Black Warriors’ headquarters, cleverly hidden inside a mountain(!), and protected by a nasty opponent resembling the Incredible Hulk. Four unveils a base as elaborate as the great pyramids, with massive bricks that shoot out from the walls and stone statues that prod with lances. The memorable and for its time elaborate soundtrack – an arranged version hit Japanese stores in ’88 – reaches its high-note for a final battle on the bossman’s red carpet. Marian hangs from the wall helplessly bound by rope. The stakes have been raised, as the final competitor has brought a machine gun to the party. And should Jimmy and Billy both emerge victorious, players one and two will battle to win Marian’s heart.

That’s Double Dragon in a nutshell, and its themes have been reproduced an uncountable number of times ever since. Like stories passed down through generations, the Final Fight and Streets of Rage and various others flavors all end up better than the original, taking liberties with the content to make the tale more elaborate and exciting and unforgettable, embellishing on the original blueprint. Yet Double Dragon is the source material for all of them. While we can trace the roots of the beat ‘em up deeper – to Renegade, to Kung Fu Master, to even Heavyweight Champ, that history bottlenecks at DD because after it, every single beat ‘em up was following its lead. It is the foremost and defining example of the genre.

Don’t play Double Dragon expecting it to have aged particularly well. When multiple enemies appear on screen – especially around hazards like the conveyor belt – the in-game play will be noticeably sluggish. The jump kick is sometimes sporadic and its delayed execution renders it not too useful. You can play forever and not find much difference between kicking and punching, especially in countering enemy tactics, and in order to one credit the machine an especially defensive and exploitative strategy is necessary. Time has not been so unkind as to leave Double Dragon unplayable, but at best a return visit will be merely a “good” time.

Play Streets of Rage first. Play Final Fight first. Play Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and The Punisher, and Comic Zone, and all the other unforgettable renditions of the genre that are truly great games. Hear all the versions of the story, the ridiculous embellishments, and notice that no matter what some traits always remain, villains bursting through walls and lavishly red carpeted lairs and paths that lead through industrial parks. To play Double Dragon after that is to listen to an original recording or read an unedited manuscript; it is impactful in that exact way, where playing it leaves you feeling squarely in the shoes of something great just before it became great, and totally worthwhile for the understanding and knowledge it intrinsically provides.

My advice is still simple: play Double Dragon for the love of the brawler.

Rating: 6/10

Leroux's avatar
Staff review by Winston Wolf (October 10, 2010)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by Winston Wolf
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U) artwork
New Super Mario Bros. U (Wii U)

New Super Mario Bros. U isn't just a bad title for a game but a misnomer as well.
WWF No Mercy (Nintendo 64) artwork
WWF No Mercy (Nintendo 64)

It is a timeless wrestling game -- one with a still faithful following, one with a generation of devotees steadfast that it has not yet been eclipsed -- that reminds us how mortal we are.
Donkey Kong Junior (Arcade) artwork
Donkey Kong Junior (Arcade)

With all respects to Ms. Pac-Man, you've heard of Donkey Kong Junior because it is perhaps the first great sequel to advance the original concept, cleverly reworking the formula while at the same time feeling immediately familiar to dedicated Donkey Kong players.

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Double Dragon review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
zigfried posted October 10, 2010:

I liked the bottleneck line. There are all these ideas from old games that fed into Double Dragon, and then on the other end that one particular game inspired dozens more. So true!

//Zig
board icon
honestgamer posted October 10, 2010:

I really can't take your advice (and play Double Dragon only after Final Fight and the like), unfortunately, because the first real brawler that I played was, I believe, Double Dragon for the NES. I also played Renegade around that time, so it's hard to say exactly, but I think Double Dragon was the first. I had quite a bit of fun with it and I've played it since, but never gotten past the point where the two heavies (Abobo or whatever) break free from the rock wall and pummel me.

Great review, by the way!
board icon
sashanan posted October 11, 2010:

Double Dragon brings back memories of the PC version. It crashed if you beat the final boss on your own (because that's where it wants to trigger the player characters fighting each other). It wasn't possible to bring in a second player in the final stage, I believe, so I learned to do that at the end of the previous one and then just control them both with the keyboard in the final stage (with one just trailing the other).

From there on I started doing it in Golden Axe as well.
board icon
Genj posted October 11, 2010:

I've been enjoying the weekly reviews. Hope your inspiration and schedule allows you to keep up the output.
board icon
Leroux posted October 12, 2010:

Thanks for all the feedback.

Double Dragon is probably one of the rare arcade games where I like the console version (NES) a bit more. Will try to keep up the output.

NEXT WEEK: X-MEN!
board icon
JoeTheDestroyer posted October 14, 2010:

Sweet! Looking forward to the X-Men review.
board icon
Masters posted November 25, 2010:

Double Dragon is probably one of the rare arcade games where I like the console version (NES) a bit more.

I think the NES version of Double Dragon II is also better than the arcade original.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Advertise | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Double Dragon is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Double Dragon, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.