Double Dragon

Read the review here.

Double Dragon NES

About to get a foot to the face!


“This is a prototypical, straightforward, genre-defining beat-’em-up title.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

I think we take Double Dragon for granted.

I think it had a profound impact on gaming, from the foundation-laying work for titles like Streets of Rage and Goldenaxe, to the fight-game influence on combos and the titular Street Fighting scene, even to the way video games are produced, marketed, and sequeled.

Double Dragon is THE original beat-’em-up title, the prototype that set the mold (well, along with Renegade). It spawned a classic series that is close to my heart, and still echoes in the ripples seen in gameplay today. You could make the argument that the modern action RPG, or “Western RPG,” is modeled after the gameplay set down by Double Dragon in 1988, whereas better moves were earned in real time as Billy battled the bad guys.

Even if I think the pacing for the first game was not quite perfected, and I admit the controls for the second game are odd (although it is my favorite), and the third is rather difficult, I still really like the Double Dragon games.

NES Gameplay Tips for Double Dragon: Always take advantages of the items, especially always take advantage of putting enemies into bottomless pits, and memorize enemy spawn points in subsequent playthroughs. Do not develop the habit of relying on the jump kick, as it is a weaker attack.

But the true key to mastering Double Dragon is understanding range. Knowing exactly to the pixel how far Billy can punch and kick, before the foe can ever make contact, makes the difference between winning a bout and taking damage. Timing is important, such as when enemies get up from the ground, come out of doors, swing, and throw weapons, sure; but range is what will enable victory. Knowing where to stand next to a fallen guy to lead them into your punches; conversely, know how close you can get to guys without taking damage. With the bulky characters like Abobo and Willy the Mad Machine-Gunner, you can actually stand right on top of them, and their punches, kicks, and gunshots will travel right through you, the hit detection missing as their limbs and bullets extend too far to make contact with your hitbox. Take advantage of this, keep it close, and deal major damage. From there, it is just a matter of practice.

4 Responses to “ Double Dragon ”

  1. […] as with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game; or if people forget, like sometimes with Double Dragon; or can be discerned by the simplistic, high-score gameplay format, as with Q*Bert; the point is, a […]

  2. I am glad you came down generally on the positive side for this title. The NES Double Dragon game has taken a lot of stick over the years for being a less-than-faithful conversion of the arcade original. However, I am of the mind that it is actually superior in most ways to the arcade title. I always felt like the controls for the original arcade game were clunky and the hit detection was flawed, whereas the NES version fixed those flaws quite well because the control (once you mastered some of the earned special moves) was very precise. I also feel like it was one of the first games in the early life of the NES to truly showcase the potential of the system. Before Sunsoft wowed NES gamers a year later with that game’s soundtrack, Double Dragon was one of the earlier titles that made great use of the NES sound chip, along with fellow 1988 alum Bionic Commando, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, The Guardian Legend, and the venerable Super Mario Bros. 2. Not only that, but the tunes themselves were excellent.

    The other thing that sets this game above other beat-em-ups of the time (and above other NES titles in general) is the fact that the gameplay is so balanced and the difficulty curve is perfectly tuned. It’s easy to pick up and play and get through the first couple stages without a ton of effort, but getting beyond that means taking more time to learn enemy attack patterns, understand the light RPG elements of gaining experience and using other attacks, as well as standard stage memorization and developing controller dexterity. I truly feel as though Double Dragon, despite its flaws, is still one of the early NES titles that is truly worthy of the console’s legacy.

  3. I love Double Dragon–the music, the fighters, the backgrounds, the leveling up for higher damage moves. Excellent review of a classic and hard as nails game. I’ve revisited this title over the past few weeks and am getting closer to the end. Still can’t get past the Machine Gunner though. You are dead on with the learning “range” tip. Also, another tip is to only punch in the first level to earn more XP and level up faster.

  4. […] Nintendo Legend written review […]

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