Double Dragon is a 1987 beat 'em up developed by Technos Japan and distributed in North America and Europe by Taito Corporation. The game is a spiritual and technological successor to Technos' earlier beat 'em up, Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (released outside of Japan by Taito as Renegade), but introduced several additions such as two-player cooperative gameplay and the ability to arm oneself with an enemy's weapon after disarming them. Double Dragon is considered to be one of the first successful examples of the genre, resulting in the creation of two arcade sequels and several spinoffs, as well as inspiring other companies in creating their own beat 'em ups.
Home versions of the game were released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Game Boy, Genesis/Mega Drive and Atari Lynx, among other platforms during the series' height of popularity. A remake titled Double Dragon Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004. The NES version was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in North America on April 28, 2008 at a cost of 500 Wii Points.
The player takes control of martial artist Billy Lee, or his twin brother Jimmy (also known as Hammer and Spike in the supplementary materials for the American arcade release), as they fight their way into the turf of the Black Warriors gang in order to rescue their common love interest Marian. The player character has a repertoire of martial art techniques which they can perform by using the joystick and three action buttons (kick, jump, and punch) individually or in combination. Techniques ranges from basic punches and kicks, to more elaborate maneuvers like hair grabbing moves or elbow punches. When playing with another player, one can assist the other by grabbing their partner's opponent from behind. The player begins the game with a certain number of extra lives and a life gauge which depletes as the player takes hits from enemies. If the life gauge runs out or the time limit reaches zero, the player will lose a life.
There is a small variety of enemy characters that the player will face thorough the course of the game. Certain enemies will carry a melee weapon which the player can use by disarming the enemy carrying it and then retrieving the item from the floor. The available weapons includes steel bats, whips, throwing knives, and dynamite sticks, as well as large objects such as cardboard boxes, oil drums, and logs, which the player can lift and throw at enemies or kick it towards incoming ones.
The game is divided into four different stages or "missions", which consist of a city slum, a factory, the woods, and the hideout of the boss. The game normally ends if a single player defeats the final boss alone. However, if two players manage to complete the game together then the two will be forced to fight each other in order to determine who will win Marian's affections.
Nintendo Entertainment System
Double Dragon was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System by Technos Japan in 1988. The game was published in North America by Tradewest (who was given the license to produce other home versions of the game as well) and by Nintendo in Europe. The NES version of Double Dragon was released for the Wii's Virtual Console service in Europe on April 25, 2008 and in North America on April 28, 2008.
The most notable difference the NES version has from the arcade game is the omission of the arcade's two players cooperative game mode. Instead, the two-players mode in the main game ("Mode A") is done by alternating, although both players take control of Billy. In this version, Jimmy Lee (the Player 2 character in the arcade version), serves as the main antagonist. After defeating Willy, the original final boss from the arcade game, Jimmy will appear before the player for the true final battle.
Due to the technical limitations of the NES, the game can only generate two enemies on-screen to confront the player and both enemies are the same character. Additionally, weapons cannot be brought to the next fight if the original enemy carrying it is defeated. A level-up system was also implemented. The player begins the game with only the basic punches and kicks available to their character, gaining the more powerful ones after acquiring the experience points needed to use them. The player has a total of seven skill levels that they can achieve thorough the game.
The level designs are very different, with some stages featuring new areas (notably the cavern section in Mission 3) that features greater emphasis on jumping over platforms or evading traps. All of the enemies from the arcade game also appear, with the exception of Jeff and the mohawk version of Abobo, the two head swap characters from the arcade game. A new enemy named Chin Taimei appears in this version as the second stage boss.
The NES version features a bonus game mode (dubbed "Mode B") where the player can choose between Billy or one of five enemy characters from the main game and compete against a double of their character controlled by the computer or a second player in a one-on-one match. Matches against the computer are handicapped in favor of the computer-controlled character, while certain characters will get a chance to wield a weapon in the 2-Players matches.
Shortly after the release of the NES version, Sega acquired the rights to develop its own port of the game for the Mark III in Japan and the Master System in North America and Europe. The game supports the optional FM Sound Unit sold separately for the Japanese Mark III, which is already integrated into the Master System models.
Due to the Master System's technical superiority, this version featured graphics slightly improved over the NES version, with brighter colors and the fact that the game could display up to three different enemies on-screen. The game retains the two-player co-op mode and has level designs that were closer to the arcade game than the NES version's were. This version features the character of Jeff, the second stage boss from the arcade version (who was replaced by Chin in the NES version). However, the mohawk version of Abobo is missing in this version as well, being replaced by black and green palette swaps of the bald Abobo as stage bosses.
Like many early Sega games (such as Shinobi), the Master System version allows for unlimited continues until the final stage. However, if a player performs a certain number of backward jump kicks at the start of the final stage, they would retain their unlimited continues.
In 1990, Technos Japan produced a Game Boy version of Double Dragon, which was also released in North America and Europe by Tradewest. This version features gameplay similar to the NES version, but with completely different level designs and all the of main character's moves available from the start. The enemies are the same as the NES version, but some of the characters such as Abobo and Chin were given new techniques. The main game mode is still single player, although the game ends after the fight with Willy, with Jimmy not appearing in the main game. A two-player Versus Mode is also included like in the NES version, but the only characters available to play as are the Lee brothers.
Versions of Double Dragon has been produced for various other platforms as well. In 1988, Activision released versions of Double Dragon for the Atari 2600 and Atari 7800. During the same year, ports of Double Dragon were released by Melbourne House for the following computer platforms: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and IBM PC, all ported by Binary Designs. Two different Amstrad CPC versions were produced: one was released for the CPC6128 (128kB RAM) based on the Amiga version, while the other was released for the CPC464 (tape and 64kB RAM) and was ported from the Sinclair version. In 1991, a second Commodore 64 version was released by Ocean Software unrelated to the earlier Melbourne House port.
In 1992, Accolade released a Genesis port of the game in North America and Europe under the Ballistic Software label. This version was released as an unlicensed third-party cartridge. An Atari Lynx version was released in 1993, developed by Knight Technologies and published by Telegames.
In 2003, a remake of the original arcade game titled Double Dragon Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance. The game features all of the stages and almost all of the characters of both Double Dragon and Double Dragon II, but with new stages, fighting techniques and cut-scenes added to the mix (most of them based on the later installments). It was developed by Million Corp. and published by Atlus. In 2006, a mobile phone game based on Double Dragon Advance was released titled Double Dragon EX. It was developed by Korean-based Eolith
An Xbox Live Arcade version of the Double Dragon for the Xbox 360 was released on May 9, 2007. This version features an emulation of the original arcade game, as well as an optional game mode featuring redrawn high definition graphics and a remixed soundtrack. It also features support for online multiplayer. It was delisted on July 1, 2009 due to the closure of its publisher, Empire Interactive.
In 2009, a version of Double Dragon was released as a launch title for the Zeebo game console in Brazil. Developed by Brizo Interactive under license from Million, Zeebo version of Double Dragon is not a port of the original arcade game or any previous version, but a new game made for the system.
The game was listed at #41 in Electronic Gaming Monthly magazines "200 Greatest Games of their time". Toys "R" Us reported that the NES Double Dragon sold out in its first two weeks on sale in the US. Computer Gaming World noted the limitations of a joystick caused the IBM and C64 ports to use fewer moves than the arcade, the C64 port in particular being "a pale shadow of the original."
Double Dragon was followed by two arcade sequels: Double Dragon II: The Revenge in 1988 and Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone in 1990. Both games were also followed by various home versions. Technos produced a fourth game in the series titled Super Double Dragon, released for the SNES in 1992. A crossover game with the characters from Battletoads was released in 1993 by Tradewest titled Battletoads & Double Dragon, which was released in North America and Europe for various platforms. Also in 1993, a Game Gear game by Virgin Games was released titled Double Dragon: The Revenge of Billy Lee. Billy and Jimmy also appeared in the 1990 NES game Super Spike V'Ball. The characters of Randy and Andy in the 1989 NES game River City Ransom are based on Billy and Jimmy; in Japan, they are known as Ryūichi and Ryūji and they appear in later Kunio-kun games as well.
Double Dragon also spawned a series of related media in the United States, which includes a six-issue comic published by Marvel in 1991, an animated TV series which ran for two seasons from 1993 to 1995, which influenced a live-action film in 1994. In turn, the animated series and movie inspired their respective video game spinoffs as well, both which were fighting games. The cartoon inspired the Tradewest-developed Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls, released in 1994 for the SNES and Genesis (also ported to the Atari Jaguar); while characters and plot elements from the movie were adapted into the 1995 Technos-developed Neo-Geo version of Double Dragon. Double Dragon was a major influence on the ‘Simpson’ and ‘Ninja Turtle’ arcade games.