Double Dragon was a pretty sweet game back in the day.
Everyone I knew played the 1988 Nintendo version. One of the very first of the “Beat ‘Em Up” genre, it has the standard plotline of “They kidnapped my girlfriend, so let’s you and me go and beat down their asses, one by one”. You played either Billy or Jimmy Lee (just Billy on the NES), strolling through Black Warriors territory to beat up a bunch of punks to save the girl.
There are four levels: The City Slum, a Factory, The Woods, and Machine Gun Willy’s Hide-Out, and at the end, you and a buddy can then fight it out to see who gets the girl (which is AWESOME). The game was semi-broken (weapons were AMAZINGLY powerful and threw off the whole balance of combat), very hard, very long (one stage just goes on FOREVER), and had very cheap enemies who liked to double and triple-team you. All things defining of the great years of Nintendo in the mid-80s :).
The Arcade Version was SIGNIFICANTLY nicer-looking than the Nintendo version that I was familiar with as a kid (I had NO IDEA what the boss/Giant Mook Abobo was supposed to actually look like as a result, and got a shock looking at YouTube clips), and featured co-op combat, while the NES version uses Jimmy Lee as the main antagonist. Also, only three characters could be on-screen at once, and both enemies had to be the same guy. There was also a one-on-one fighting version (yes, a Fighting Game for the NES), where you could fight a mirror image of your own guy.
The Sega Master System version allowed a massive THREE enemies on-screen at a time (ah, the old days), and looked prettier, but I knew exactly one kid with a Master System, and even he didn’t play it. Although, my fellow Ghost of the Stratosphere coworker, Andy Larson, does seem to swear by that version…eh I didn’t know him when I was a kid so that doesn’t count…
This game was a HUGE hit with my friends and I, and was a big hit overall, judging by the sheer amount of sequels to come out of it. None of them ever attained the notoriety of the original, however most people still remember the first, with all it’s Abobo Goodness. It is for this reason that there have been approximately one billion remakes over the years, hitting even the current Generation of consoles (and iPhones and junk) with their downloadable stuff.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
This game actually features poor Marian getting stuffed into the refrigerator in THE OPENING SEQUENCE, which is CRAZY. Now you’re the Lee Brothers out for REVENGE, and it’s a retread of the first game for the most part, using the same engine and everything, though there’s new artwork throughout.
Once again, there’s four levels and Willy is the Final Boss. I don’t think I ever played this one. I was mostly renting Ninja Turtles stuff from the local place at this point. At least the NES version allowed co-op play this time around, and they even brought Marian back out of the fridge at the end! Both the Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) & PC Engine (no idea) released versions, with the former one sucking hard because of poor coding (thank you Wikipedia).
Battletoads/Double Dragon- The Ultimate Team
An insane merger of two games from two different companies, they basically stuck Billy & Jimmy Lee into the Battletoads world. This game actually gets a lot of respect (even more than any other game in the series, as far as I can tell), and was well-reviewed for it’s time.
I’m not sure if I ever played it. Battletoads games are WAY too hard for me to have ever gotten far, so it’s possible I blocked it out of my mind due to the intense shame. Seriously, watch people playing Battletoads on YouTube some time. It’s a testament to the human spirit’s ability to overcome ANY horror.
Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone
The third DD game is basically a “Treasure Hunt” Worldwide Macguffin Search concept, and allows for three players- a third can play “Sonny”, a yellow palette-swap of the Lee Brothers. Players can purchase (ie. actually put more coins into the game) new weapons, techniques, and even characters- holy crap, did World of Warcraft steal their money-grabbing ideas from Double Dragon III?
Sadly, this game apparently sucked ass, and didn’t get a wide distribution. By this point, Capcom had released the FAR superior “Final Fight” series, which took a giant diarrhetic crap all over “Double Dragon” as a series, and these ancient-looking graphics totally didn’t hold up.
The NES version allowed you to beat bosses and control them as characters later on, which I thought was awesome. I only played the Genesis version of the game once at my brother’s friend’s house, and there was some damn platform stage that resulted in my dying like a hundred times because of hard-to-do jumps (something I hold against a game in terms of balance- it wasn’t hard because of stuff being in the way- it was just hard to actually JUMP PROPERLY, PERIOD).
Super Double Dragon
The fourth game came out for the Super Nintendo in 1992- like MANY game series that started with the NES era, it gained a “Super” prefix instead of sticking with the old “numbered sequel” bit. The graphics are better, but it’s essentially another seven-stage ass-whupping like the series always is. By this point, people had mostly written “Double Dragon” off as an old relic of a prior era.
Double Dragon V- The Shadow Falls
With the fifth, they actually switched genres from the then-tired Beat ‘Em Up genre. See, by 1994, the biggest games on the market were the “Street Fighter II” series, and the “Mortal Kombat” series. SNK was also doing quite bitching work with “Fatal Fury”, “King of Fighters” and “Samurai Shodown”. In other words, fighting games were THE SHIT in this time period, and soon you had every company worth a dime (and some that weren’t) jumping on the Fighter Bandwagon, pumping out the new fad in gaming.
Fighting Games had almost replaced Action Platformers as the “default” type of generic game, resulting in varied, sometimes-good/sometimes-crap stuff like TMNT Tournament Fighters, Clayfighter, Eternal Champions, Brutal- Paws of Fury and this game. And so Double Dragon V came to be a 2-D 16-bit Fighting Game, released for the current systems (Super NES, Sega Genesis- later Atari Jaguar, because y’know those “64-bit” graphics totally did justice to this game).
Was the game good?
Oh no…it was basically your everyday generic fighter that was just thrown together- some interesting character designs, but most everyone looked like a big puffy Roid Monster with generic designs and no interesting stuff about them. I wouldn’t say it was BAD, but I only rented it once and it certainly didn’t impress overly much. Keep in mind that while Fighting Games were ridiculously common and generic, it was REALLY goddamn clear that only a few companies could make awesome ones, and the fans noticed. The “Best Platformer” award was never as easy to give out as the “Best Fighter” was- it was Capcom or SNK, and that was that.
Altogether, there were Billy & Jimmy Lee, eight other fighters, and two Bosses, making for a solid roster of 12 guys (about normal for most second-tier Fighting Games). You basically had Billy (the Good Son), Jimmy (the Bad Son who was raised to be a Shadow Warrior and was thus the more reckless one), Shadow Master (end-boss with teleporting & shadow powers), Dominique (dominatrix-type sub-boss, which was actually pretty unusual- sub-bosses were usually monsters), Jawbreaker (big dumb eater), Icepick (computer guy with a sword), Bones (rock & roll skeleton, predating Lord Raptor of “DarkStalkers”), Sickle (generic bad guy with the obvious weapons), Blade (cyborg based off of the generic Mooks in the cartoon), Trigger Happy (brutish blaster), Countdown (cyborg with rockets & lasers) and Sekka (lady cyborg with Wolverine Claws). Altogether a pretty generic roster of guys, most of whom were villains.
Double Dragon 6-1
This is a Neo-Geo Fighting Game with HORRIBLE graphics (came out a year after V, too), and it was basically completely forgotten to history, being washed over by the huge glut in fighters around this time.
The roster is even more generic than “V”- It’s Billy & Jimmy, plus Marian & Abobo from the original games, then Amon (ninja), Dulton (stupid-looking punker), Burnov (big fat Big Van Vader knock-off), Rebecca (hot girl with tonfas), Cheng-Fu (drunken-boxing fighter), Eddie (generic black guy), Duke (assassin) and Koga Shuko (evil wizard/dictator Bison knock-off)… basically FightersGeneration.com shows the most generic looking roster I’ve ever seen, with 90% of the characters looking like they’re wearing regular street clothes instead of anything resembling fighting gear.
There was another SNK fighting game that was supposed to get the license, but the deal fell through and it was turned into an “homage” instead. At least it’s graphics were better.
And the series ended with a whimper after that. Technos went out of business soon after.
To this day, people still remember “Double Dragon”, though (“Double Dragon Neon” is coming out for X-Box Live as a reimagining).
Hell, it got both a cartoon series (one I don’t remember at ALL, and even at that age I would still know just about any good cartoon on TV) AND a live-action feature film (which is a piece of crap most notable for having Alyssa Milano and that guy from “Party of Five” in it before that show got popular), both of which sucked utter balls as well.
Really, this game series being so memorable and well-thought-of is odd, considering the sheer amount of CRAP attached to it over the years. I think it’s failed more times than it’s succeeded, actually.