The first Double Dragon
game was originally released as an arcade game in 1987 (having begun development as a sequel for Renegade
). Though it was not the first Beat 'em Up
, it was the Trope Codifier
, and its incredible popularity inspired many imitators that helped propelled the genre to new heights.
The premise is simple - martial artists Billy and Jimmy Lee (originally named Hammer and Spike in the arcade version) must rescue their lady-friend Marian from the clutches of the Black Warriors, the dominant street gang of New York City. Throughout four stages, the Lee brothers must punch, kick, and jump their way through enemy forces to rescue her. The original arcade game was also famous for its Twist Ending
: if two players clear the game, they had to fight to the death for Marian's love.
The NES port, developed in-house 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 ported Renegade
to the NES prior to it), the popular two-player mode
was omitted, replaced with a turn-based one and a "Mode B" one-on-one fighting mode where the 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 adventure longer than its original arcade release, and it added a Character Level
feature - the player earn experience points by beating up enemies, allowing Billy to gain new techniques as he levels up.
Other versions of Double Dragon
were released for the Master System
, Atari 2600
, Game Boy
and various home computer formats with varying degree of quality. A remake was released by Atlus
for the Game Boy Advance
in 2003 titled Double Dragon Advance
, which integrated elements from the various sequels and console versions and updated the combat system to more modern standards. In 2011, another remake was released for iOS
devices simply titled Double Dragon
, which was developed by Brizo Interactive, who also handled the rarely seen Zeebo version released only in Brazil and Mexico.
This game provides examples of:
- Adaptational Villainy: Jimmy Lee in the NES version, who went on from being Billy's partner to becoming the "shadow boss" of the Black Warriors.
- The Artifact: The input for Jump Kicks in the arcade version is different depending on the direction the player is facing. The kick button only does jump kicks to the left, while the punch button is for jump kicks to the right. This is actually a leftover mechanic from when the game was conceived as a Renegade sequel, which featured directional based attack buttons.
- Artifact Title: Subverted by the NES version. The title Double Dragon wouldn't had made much sense without the 2P co-op mode, so what did the developers did to get around this conundrum? Just make one of the Lee brothers into the main bad guy so you could still have both of them in the game.
- The Game Boy version lacks both, the 2P co-op mode and the final fight between the Lee brothers, but it still has the one-on-one "Mode B" minigame from the NES version, meaning that Jimmy Lee is still in the game, albeit in a limited capacity.
- Badass Mustache: Abobo's in-game sprite sported a horseshoe mustache. The concept art for the NES version gives Abobo a clean-shaved look though, making him look 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 final boss to simply being the last enemy Billy fights before the final battle with Jimmy.
- Dual Boss: The twin Abobos in the middle of Mission 3.
- Evolving Attack: The NES version gives Billy new moves as he gains experience points from fighting enemies.
- The concept art for the Famicom/NES version makes Billy and Jimmy Lee look like clones of Kenshiro and Raoh.
- Chin Taimei from the NES game resembles the Karate Fighter from the Technos wrestling game Mat Mania.
- 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).
- 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. Since enemies only die when they're knocked to the ground, it's easy to leech off experience points by attacking an enemy without knocking him. 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, the intermission theme played during stage transitions gets cut off before the full track is played. As a result, the only way to listen to the full intermission theme is through sound rips.
- The full track gets played in both, the Game Boy and GBA versions (where it is used as background music for one of the stages in the former version).
- 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 Mohawked Abobo 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 2-player duel at the end of the arcade version ends in a Double KO (say, if both brothers fall into the spike pit below), the game returns back to the title screen with no fanfare whatsoever.
- No Name Given: The mohawked version of Abobo, who was the only enemy character not featured in any of the console ports released at the time and thus was not given an official name.note
- Off Model: In the NES version, Jimmy has blue hair (and a lighter skin tone) during the opening sequence instead of the blond hair he has during the final battle. This was likely due to the NES' limited color display (it could only display up to 25 colors on-screen) and the fact that the opening sequence is the only part of the game that has more than three characters (Jimmy, Marian, Williams, Rowper and Chin) shown at the same time.
- Palette Swap: The arcade version changes the palette for the enemy characters in each stage, with bad guys coming in white and black variants. The Mission 3 boss deserves a special mention, who is a green-skinned version of the Mohawked Abobo from the end of Mission 1. Were the Black Warriors conducting experiments with gamma radiation?
- Pistol-Whipping: Willy with his gun.
- Production Throwback
- The end of Mission 1 in the arcade version has a billboard for Nekketsu Koha Kunio-kun, the Japanese version of Renegade, on the building just before the first boss battle.
- The red Interceptor from the cult laserdisc game Road Blaster (a.k.a. Road Avenger) can be seen inside Billy and Jimmy's garage at the start of the first stage. Road Blaster was directed by Double Dragon creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto, who was employed by Data East prior to joining Technos Japan.
- 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's name is spelled "Lopar" in the manual for the console versions.
- Linda's name is spelled "Rinda" in the flyer for the Famicom version.
- Chin Taimei's name was shortened to "Chintai" in the localized versions.
- Stalked by the Bell
- Theme Music Power-Up: The title theme is played during the final battle againgst Machine Gun Willy.
- Unwilling Suspension: Marian in the arcade version. In the NES version, she's resting on a bed.
- Wanted Poster: In the arcade version there are wanted posters of the first two bosses (the Mohawked Abobo and Jeff) in the very start of the game, with a bounty 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.