The first Double Dragon
game was originally released as an arcade cabinet in 1987 (originally beginning development as a sequel for Renegade
). Though it was not the first Beat 'em Up
, it was the Trope Codifier
, and its incredible popularity helped the genre become one of the most well-known. Because of its good reception, many ports followed, with varying degrees of accuracy.
Like many others, the plot is minuscule - as martial artists Hammer and Spike (later renamed Billy and Jimmy Lee), the player must rescue their lady-friend Marian from the clutches of the Black Warriors, the dominant street gang of New York City. Through four stages, the Lee brothers must punch, kick, and jump your way through the enemy forces to rescue her. The original arcade game was also famous for its Twist Ending
: if two players finished the game, they had to fight to the death for Marian's love.
The NES port, developed by Technos and published outside Japan by Tradewest in 1988, is famous for its differing points. Since Technos was inexperienced in developing NES games at the time (having only made the NES port of Renegade
at this point), the popular two-player mode
was omitted, replaced with a turn-based one and a "Mode B" - one-on-one fighting mode where player controls the Lee brothers or five enemy characters (with match ups being limited to mirror matches
). The plot was also altered to fit this change: Billy ventures out on his own, and Jimmy is revealed to be the leader of Black Warriors. The level designs were also very different, making the game longer than its original arcade release, and it added a Character Level
feature - you could earn levels by beating up enough enemies, allowing you to perform new attacks as.
The game was followed by Double Dragon II: The Revenge
This game provides examples of:
- Adaptational Villainy: Jimmy Lee in the NES version, who went on from being the Player 2 character to becoming the "shadow boss" of the Black Warriors.
- The Artifact: The input for Jump Kicks in the original arcade game is different depending on the direction the player is facing. Pressing the kick button while jumping only does jump kicks to the left and in order to do a jump kick to the right, the player must use the punch button instead. This is actually a leftover mechanic from when the game was conceived as a Renegade sequel (which used direction-based attack buttons).
- Artifact Title:
- The NES version ran the risk of having one due to the developers' inability to include a 2-Player co-op mode at the time. Since having a game titled Double Dragon with just half of the titular duo wouldn't had made sense, Technos decided to subvert this by taking a cue from the arcade version's twist ending, in which both brothers fought over Marian, by having Jimmy (Player 2 in the arcade version) as the final boss.
- The Game Boy version plays this straight by lacking a co-op mode as well and ending the game with the final boss fight with Willy.
- Badass Mustache: Abobo's in-game sprite sported a horseshoe mustache. The character illustrations for the NES version gave Abobo a clean-shaved look though, giving him an appearance similar to Kratos or Sagat.
- Bald of Evil: Abobo.
- Character Level: The NES game added a leveling system that only allowed the player to use his basic punches and kicks (and the headbutt) at the start of the game, gradually giving him access to the rest of his moves as he levels-up.
- Composite Character: Jimmy Lee in the first NES game, who not only serves as the new final boss, but essentially replaces Jeff (the head-swapped Lee brother boss from the arcade version) as the boss who uses all of the player's moves.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In mode B in the NES version, the computer has more health than you, can duck - which you can't do - and reacts faster than humanly possible when you run at it.
- Co-Op Multiplayer: Famously subverted by the NES version.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory: The NES version uses A+B as the command for a jump kick—if your character has reached Level 3. Until then, A+B is just a regular jump, not an attack. Forget this bit, and you may jump right into a bad guy's punches.
- Damsel in Distress: Marian.
- Degraded Boss: Happens during the final two stages in both the arcade and NES versions, where the bosses from the first two stages appear as regular grunts. The "degraded" versions are generally just as tough and sometimes have just as much health as the boss versions.
- Demoted to Dragon: In the NES version, Machine Gun Willy goes from being the main bad guy to being the last enemy Billy fights before the final battle with his brother Jimmy.
- Divorced Installment: The original arcade version began development as a Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun sequel. The reason why the characters and settings were changed was done to avoid developing a separate version for the western market, as was the case with Renegade.
- Dual Boss: The twin Abobos.
- Evolving Attack: The NES version gives Billy new moves as he gains experience points from fighting enemies.
- Expy: The character illustrations drawn for the first Famicom/NES game makes Billy and Jimmy Lee look like clones of Kenshiro and Raoh.
- Chin Taimei from the NES game resembles the Karate Fighter from Mat Mania, a Technos-developed wrestling game, while Abore in the arcade version of II seems to be based on André the Giant from the WWF Superstars arcade game also developed by Technos.
- Foreshadowing: Jimmy Lee is among Marian's kidnappers in the opening of the NES version (instead of Machine Gun Willy like in the arcade version), although his palette is different from one used in the final battle (he has blue hair instead of blond and lighter skin).
- Head Swap: The boss characters in the arcade game. The Mission 1 boss is a black head-swapped version of Abobo with a mohawk, slightly larger eyes and a beard who could easily pass himself off as Mr. T, while the Mission 2 boss is a head-swapped Lee brother in green clothing.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: The NES version took a cue from Renegade and added a Sit-on Punch to Billy's attack repertoire, allowing him to pin down fallen enemy grunts and punch them while they're down.
- Let's You and Him Fight: After defeating the final boss in the arcade game, Billy and Jimmy must fight to the death to see who wins the heart of Marian.
- Level Grinding: The level-up system in the NES game awards players experience points based on the attacks they land on a foe. As a result, it's easy to leech off experience points by attacking an enemy without knocking him to the ground, since enemies only die when they fall to the ground. If you're really patient, you can earn the entire set of techniques in the first level in this fashion.
- Long Song, Short Scene: In both, the arcade and NES versions, only a fraction of the intermission theme is played between stages since the game cuts off to the next stage before the remainder can be heard (as a result the only way to hear the full intermission theme is through sound rips).
- In the Game Boy version, the intermission theme is played as regular background music in Mission 4-1, while the GBA version features cut-scenes that can be read at one's leisure, allowing the whole intermission theme to be played in both of those versions.
- Mirror Match: Mode B in the NES version is a one-on-one versus game that allows players to control Billy Lee or one of five enemy characters from the main game, but the battles are limited to same character matches (Billy is matched against Jimmy, while the enemies are matched against a palette-swapped counterpart). In the Game Boy version, it's just a Billy vs. Jimmy fight.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed
- The Abobo Head Swap in the arcade version bears a more than mild resemblance to Mr. T.
- Williams and Rowper's sprite designs in the original arcade game were deliberately modeled after their namesakes from Enter the Dragon.
- Nonstandard Game Over: If the battle between Billy and Jimmy for the heart of Marian ends in a Double KO (say, if both brother's fall into the spike pit below), the game returns back to the title screen with no fanfare whatsoever.
- No Name Given: The characters in the arcade version. The console versions would gave their identities in the manuals though.
- Palette Swap: In the original arcade game, there are only seven unique enemy characters and two of them are just head-swaps of other characters (namely of Abobo and the Lee brothers). The game simply recycles the same set of enemies for each stage by changing the main palette for all the mooks, including the occasional black-skinned variants. The third boss is also a green skinned palette swap of the first boss, who is nothing more than a black-skinned head/palette swap of Abobo with a Mr. T-like beard and Mohawk.
- Pistol-Whipping: Willy with his gun.
- Production Throwback
- The end of Mission 1 in the arcade game has a billboard for Nekketsu Koha Kunio-kun, the Japanese version of Renegade and Technos Japan's previous beat-'em-up, in the building just before the first boss battle.
- The red sports car from Road Blaster (a Data East laserdisc game, ported to the Sega CD as Road Avenger), a game designed by the same director (Yoshihisa Kishimoto), can also be seen inside Billy and Jimmy's garage at the start of the first stage.
- Sequence Breaking: In the final area of the arcade version, Willy watches on from the balcony and will come down once the Lee brothers have beaten enough mooks. You can bring him down earlier by intentionally letting Abobo throw you up the balcony and knock him down.
- Spell My Name with an S: Rowper, one of the enemy mooks, had his name spelled as "Lopar" in the translated manual for the NES version. However, the character's name is actually meant to be a reference to John Saxon's character "Roper" from Enter the Dragon.
- Linda's name is spelled "Rinda" in the promotional brochure for the Famicom version.
- Chin Taimei's name was shortened to "Chintai" in the NES version's manual.
- Stalked by the Bell
- Theme Music Power-Up: The final battle in the original arcade game (and in some of its ports and remakes) uses the title theme as background music.
- Unwilling Suspension: Marian.
- Wanted Poster: In the arcade versions, wanted posters for the first two bosses (the Mohawked Abobo and Jeff) can be seen in the beginning of Mission 1, offering a reward for $10,000 each. Willy's wanted poster can be see next to Jeff's in Mission 3, which shows that his bounty is $100,000, ten times greater than either of the other two.