Double Dragon for the NES
I haven’t done a feature on gaming since I started the site. I figured I could juggle it all but with so many figures and music releases coming in, MOTUC figures to look back at, and so much more crap, I just keep skipping over it. As well, my time for actually gaming has gone down to practically nil. In my spare time, I’m listening to music and working on the site by taking pics, editing pics, doing vids, editing vids, and more. I’m just not gaming like I used to.
Excuses aside, I’m diving back into another retro-gaming feature with another game I used to play the hell out of: Double Dragon for the Nintendo Entertainment System by Technos (but Published by Tradewest). This game came out in 1988 and was the home gaming counterpart to the arcade game.
The arcade game (released in 1987) was extremely popular and was one of the games to kick off the whole 1-2 player coin sucking beat-em-up genre. Whenever I saw a Double Dragon arcade cabinet, I had to sink quarters into it. I loved it. The graphics were bright and the sprites were large. There was also the satisfaction of beating up the bad guys as a kid. In the arcade version, I don’t think I ever got past the third stage due to either not being good enough or not having enough money – it’s all a little hazy.
When the home port came out for the NES, it was a game I wanted badly. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I even owned the damn game when I was a kid. So many friends I knew owned it and were already done with it by the time I got a NES (I had a Commodore 64 for gaming before finally landing an NES), so I constantly had it on loan. Another one of my good friends who I moved behind also had it and considering I practically lived and gamed there, I had no reason to ask my mom to buy it for me.
The game was similar to the arcade version in spirit featuring similar levels and characters such as the main characters: brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee. Billy’s girlfriend, Maria, is kidnapped by Black Warriors gang and the brothers go on the hunt to find her and bring the gang to justice.
One of the huge differences on the NES version is the leveling up system that unlocks new moves. As your character fights other baddies, you’ll see the heart metre go up and once it gets to the maximum of seven hearts, you unlock a new power or move for your character. There aren’t any additional button combos to learn as your character will just do the moves automatically.
One of the cool tricks that I used to do was brought to my awareness by Nintendo Power magazine way back in the day (at least I think it was the magazine that taught me the trick).
There’s a section of the second level where you can lure some of the baddies on screen and quickly make them disappear. If you go to the area where they disappeared and punch/kick or swing with your bat, your experience points will go up and you’ll leave the second level with all your moves unlocked. This really helps getting through the game. Go to about 4:00 in the video below but I never had to go back down on the other side. I’d just go to the left half way.
The NES version tries its best to mimic the arcade by following similar styles to the levels and how you encounter the enemies. There are parts in the NES version, of course, that differ because of limitations of the NES (such as the graphics and size of the sprites) and also because I think Technos/Tradewest was trying to provide a longer gaming experience. I think I actually prefer the NES version over the arcade now not just because of the nostalgic tie to it but because I think it’s a better flowing game in general.
The NES version also featured a one-on-one verses mode that you could play against a friend or the CPU. I remember many, many nights of playing this against my friend and him whipping his controller because he couldn’t beat me. I’d have to pretend to lose some times just to have him continue playing because the CPU wasn’t a challenge. This is before the days of Street Fighter II and AI wasn’t up to snuff yet.
I have such fond memories of this game and when I hook up my NES, it is one of the games I always play. If I put on some Anthrax, Weird Al, or Guns N’ Roses during my play-throughs, it whisks me back to my youth and that’s a great part about going back to classics. I’ve only beaten this game a handful of times because of the difficulty. I also think this was one of the games that helped me learn to swear and whip my controller.
Some people debate about which is the better game on the NES: Double Dragon 1 or 2 (don’t even put part three in there – it’s a piece of shit). I think I’ll take a look the second one next in my next gaming feature to give you my thoughts on that and I promise the next installment won’t take as long to come to fruition as this one did.