Double the pleasure, double the fun . . . double the amount of epic freakin' beatings!!!
From the main menu of this game you have four options, the first of which is called "Mode A – 1 Player". This is the main story mode of the game, in the one player format. When you start out on this mode a cutscene will play first, showing a few random thugs walking down an empty street. They approach a lovely looking woman in a red dress . . . and then punch her in the gut! They throw her over their shoulders and take off back the way they came. This is when the first mission begins, here is a breakdown of the four story mode missions contained in this game.
The first mission is very short and starts off on the same street where the original cutscene took place. You first have to battle a few of the "Will" characters (white fellas with coiffed hair, blue jeans and maroon vests). You then move down the street a bit and have to deal with a couple of the "Linda" characters (white chicks with short, curly red hair that are wearing either purple or light blue jumpsuits) that came out of a nearby doorway. After dealing with them you end up in some sort of yard at an industrial complex. A number of the black "Rowper" characters (burly dudes with short hair, the black version is dressed in a green suit and the white version is dressed in a baby blue suit) will soon attack. Make sure to use the nearby oil drum to your advantage. Immediately after these Rowpers come some more Lindas. After finishing them off a nearby door opens where you will enter a building, in to an area that's stacked with boxes and features a conveyor belt that drops away in to some sort of abyss. At first there are a couple of black Rowpers to dispose of before a black "Abobo" character comes out to play! The Abobo character is a giant mass of a man who features an even larger head, which is bald. Abobos are bare chested and come in three colours, the black version is wearing blue pants, the white version green pants, and the green version white pants. You can use the conveyor belt to your advantage to finish off Abobo, which signals the end of the first mission.
In the second mission you start off at some sort of industrial construction site, whether it is part of the same area where you end the first mission I don't know, but the theme is similar. Play begins on a blue platform stacked with steel beams, you'll have to dispose of a few white Rowpers before you come to a Will character who is armed with a lit stick of dynamite! Use his own weapon against him and move on. You will immediately come to a gap in the platform and be forced to climb a chain-link fence up to a plank that connects to another nearby platform. On top of the fence a Will character armed with a baseball bat will test you. Once again just turn the tables on him and beat him at his own game. Next you'll jump down off the fence to the next platform and have to deal with a bunch of Wills, some of which have more dynamite and baseball bats at their disposal. After dispatching them you'll move on to the next area of the mission, which features a building in mid construction. A couple of Lindas (armed with whips as they usually are) wait for you at the bottom. After dealing with them begin climbing the building, taking out a few more Lindas along the way. At the very top of the building a door will open and the boss of the level enters the scene, a new character named "Chin" (these are white characters only that have long hair drooping in their eyes and are well versed in martial arts, they are bare chested and their pants/hair are either purple or red). Finish him off and the mission is complete.
The third mission begins in a bit of a different locale, in the middle of a forest path. Right off the bat there are a bunch of Wills to deal with, some of them are now even armed with knives!! Play your cards right and you can reverse the roles, throwing their own knives back in their faces. After dealing with a couple different Will infested areas of the forest you'll then come to a sequence where you have to fight a few Chins in a row, not too difficult but they usually do manage to put a bit of a dent in your health bar. Next you'll come to a dilapidated bridge that you must jump across, first dealing with the Will that's guarding it. After jumping to the other side of the bridge there are a handful more Wills to sort out. After moving on past the bridge you'll run in to a few white Rowpers. Upon defeating them you'll come to a big cliff wall that is composed entirely of stones. A couple of white Abobos bust out of the wall and will begin to attack. I recommend using the good old jump kick move to take the fight to them, after a good while they'll go down. When this is done, enter one of the voids left in the stone wall where the two Abobos first came from. Once inside the cliff wall you'll have to make your way along a ledge where there are no enemies to face, the problem is all the stalactites falling from the ceiling! Avoid them and you'll soon come to a chasm you must navigate by jumping across a series of three motorized platforms. Once over the chasm and on the ledge on the other side, a door will open up and a couple Chins will appear, once you defeat them enter the door they came out of. On the other side of this door you'll come to another cavern, this section featuring some running waterfalls. Right away a small horde of Wills will approach, a couple of them armed with dynamite. The close quarters make taking these clowns down a bit tougher than usual, after you dispose of them and move on you'll come to the edge of a chasm. Some loose boulders begin to fall so you must quickly make your way down the ledges of the chasm and outrun said boulders. Along the way you'll have to jump a couple lava pits, avoid a small section of more falling stalactites, and then make it down a couple more ledges. At the bottom of these last sets of ledges a green Abobo busts out of the wall. Take him down but that isn't the end of it, one more green Abobo will arrive on the scene after his buddy suffers defeat. Once both of them are down, pass through the hole in the wall the first Abobo made. Once through this passage you'll be on the outside of the cliff wall once again, this time on the other side of it which faces the sea. Make your way down a bunch of ledges on the side of the cliff, which are connected by stone ladders built in to the rock. Trying to impede your progress however will be a whole battalion of Lindas. But no worries, just knee them all in the head and throw them down in to the drink!! Once you dispose of them just enter the set of large purple doors at the bottom of the cliff wall, which signals the end of the mission.
The fourth and final mission begins back inside the cliff wall you had to traverse throughout the second half of the third mission, but in a more dastardly and sinister section of it, the motif is primarily centered around bones and skulls!! Right off the bat you'll have to fight about a half dozen Chins in a row, no small feat. Fortunately a couple of them come armed with knives, which you can use against them, and there is also a chasm beside the platform you'll be fighting on, so you can easily throw them to their doom. After defeating these Chins you'll move across a small ledge, having to jump a couple of broken sections. At the end of the ledge will be a large stone wall. A black Abobo bursts out of it but before he can attack just begin your ascent up the stone wall, leaving the giant buffoon in your dust! At the top of the stone wall a small horde of white Rowpers will engage you. None of them are armed and there is a nearby chasm you can fire them in to, so easy peasy. Enter the archway these Rowpers were appearing from, which will take you to the next section of the mission. After passing through this archway you'll somehow end up on the outside of a building that has sort of an Asian motif to it. Climb the building using a series of ladders as well as by jumping on and riding a couple of motorized platforms. Along the way a couple of Wills will try and stop you but they are easily dispatched. At the top of the building is a small doorway shaped like an open snake's mouth . . . enter it. On the other side of this doorway is a hallway that looks like it's straight out of an ancient palace, with a large dragon head statue in the middle of it. A bunch of Wills approach first but there is tons of room in which to fight, so they are pretty easily dealt with. After moving on past the hallway you came to a room with a lush red carpet and a giant set of gold doors at the top of it. First out of the doors come two white Abobos, then two Chins (one of them with a knife), then two Lindas, then two white Rowpers . . . it's a lot of fighting to do but at this point you should be well practiced! The real problem is the guy who comes out next, a total uggo named Willy who totes a huge gun. Keep active and on the move and you'll eventually take him out, bringing about the final boss fight of the game. And the final boss you'll have to face, the guy behind the kidnapping of your woman is . . . your own brother, Jimmy Lee!! He's a tough fight as well, but fortunately he doesn't sport a weapon like Willy does. Lick him down and you'll have ended the violence once and for all! The game closes with a cutscene of Billy reuniting with his woman, getting their smooch on.
Back to the main menu of the game, the second option you come to is called "Mode A – 2 Player". This option features the same main story mode of the game that I just summarized above, but in the two player format. Unfortunately, unlike in the arcade version of the game, this title doesn't support a two player co-operative function. In this two player format you simply take turns playing solo on the above missions. When the first player starts out he/she plays until they die, it doesn't matter if they complete a mission or not, they can complete as many missions as possible before the second player gets a turn. It's only once you die that play shifts to the other player . . . rinse and repeat. Also, when you die in this two player format you don't restart at the very beginning of the mission you were playing at the time like you do in the one player format. You pick up right where you left off, in the very same section of the mission where you perished.
Third on the main menu you'll come to the "Mode B – 1 Player" option. This is Double Dragon's alternative game mode, and it's one of the earliest occurrences of a Street Fighter type of game style that you'll find. When you enter this mode you will be asked to choose from one of six game characters (characters featured are Billy, Will, Rowper, Linda, Chin and Abobo). Once you make your selection you'll be taken to an environment that looks like a spot right out of Venice, on the shores of a canal somewhere. You will then square off in a one on one street fight against a doppelganger of the character you selected. First player to run out of health loses, it's as simple as that. These matches are handicapped a bit in the machine's favour as the computer controlled character starts out with a slight bit more health than your character does. The look and feel of this mode is quite a bit different than in story mode however, the characters are a fair amount larger and more detailed, and the colour schemes are altered as well, to help in differentiating between the two competing participants.
The fourth and final option on the main menu is "Mode B – 2 Player" and is simply a two player version of the alternate game mode format I described in the paragraph above. There are a couple of small differences in the two player version however. First, there is no handicap in terms of health, both players start out with the same amount in their health bar. The other difference, and this is a really fun one, is that three of the characters in the two player format will feature a weapon in their fight. The characters who feature weapons are Will (knife), Rowper (billy club) and Chin (nunchuks). These weapons will be lying on the ground in the middle of the environment when the fight starts, the first person to get to them usually holds quite an advantage, at least for as long as they can hold on to said weapon.
As you make your way through story mode there isn't really much in terms of items to look out for, the only things you'll come across that you'll be able to use is weapons that your enemies will drop when you attack them. You can then pick said weapons up and quickly turn the tables. Weapons in this game include whips, oil drums, boxes, dynamite, baseball bats and knives. As for the game screen, there is some information at the bottom of it that you'll need to keep your eyes on. In the bottom left you'll find your health bar, which is composed of 14 coloured sticks. As you take hits these sticks will disappear, when they run out completely you die. Underneath the health bar is another type of gauge that will fill with up to 7 red heart icons as you progress through the game and earn points. These icons represent the evolution of your fighting abilities in this game, but more on that soon. In the bottom middle of the screen you'll see your lives tally. You start the game off with three lives (you cannot earn extra lives in this game), as you lose them the number represented here will decrease. Underneath your lives tally you'll see a timer. On each section of each mission you'll have 199 seconds to complete it, this timer will count down from 199 and if it reaches 0, you die. Finally, in the bottom right of the screen you'll find the score section. On top you'll find the reigning high score from the total session of gameplay you've been up to, and underneath that you'll find the score of the game you are currently playing.
Above I mentioned the heart gauge, which represents Billy's fighting abilities in this game. To start story mode this gauge contains one heart, meaning Billy has very limited fighting moves at his disposal. In the beginning he can perform a basic punch and a basic kick, a head butt, and he can jump. As you progress through the game and earn points, there are certain intervals where you will earn more hearts, in total you can obtain up to 7 of them. Here is how Billy's abilities upgrade with respect to the hearts to be earned. When you earn your second heart Billy will be able to perform a new high kick, as well as an uppercut punch. When you earn your third heart Billy can then perform a jump kick, which will become a real staple move, especially when dealing with the Abobo characters! With the addition of your fourth heart Billy will be able to grab a stunned opponent and then perform knee bashes to his/her head, as well as an over the shoulder throw. Another staple move! With the addition of your fifth heart you'll then be able to mount a prone enemy and repeatedly slap them in the face. With your sixth heart Billy will then be able to throw a back elbow at enemies approaching him from behind. Lastly, with your seventh heart, Billy will add a new jumping round-house kick to his arsenal that usually finishes off his kicking combos.
The game controls are pretty simple in Double Dragon, as is usually the case on NES titles. The control pad is what you use to move your character around the environment. Use the left/right buttons to move towards a stunned enemy and grab on to them (once you have that ability). Tap the left or right buttons twice in a row and you will perform a head butt in said direction. After you gain your back elbow move, just double tap the left/right buttons in correlation to whatever side your enemy is approaching from. Press down on the control pad to mount a prone enemy. Up on the control pad allows you to enter doorways. Both the up and down buttons are used to climb ladders, fences, etc. The A button is used to throw punches, both when you are standing and when you have mounted a prone enemy. When you have grabbed on to a stunned enemy, use this button to perform your over the shoulder throw. As for the B button, it is used to perform kicks. Also, when you have an enemy in a grab situation, this button is what you press to throw repeated knee bashes at their head. It's as simple as that!!
As for this game's presentation, it is, wait for it . . . legendary!! At the time Double Dragon was released it was praised for just about everything. The graphics were top notch, the look and feel of the game and how you move around in it is just right, and helping to make the action as tense as possible is one of the best original NES soundtracks of all time. Weeks after completing this game I've still got the music stuck in my head!! This is a true beat 'em up game, certain sections of the missions are simple side scrollers, but for the most part you can move around the environment in a 360 degree manner, they have depth to them. And the controls work perfectly to boot, there is absolutely nothing wrong with how this game is put across.
In terms of the pros and cons of this game, as befits a true classic like this the pros are many and the cons are few! The first pro is the game's presentation, which I mentioned earlier. The look, feel and sound of this game is just so good, especially for the time it was first released, you just can't help but love it. What I also really like about this game is the depth in the variety of environments and characters. Although the game is pretty short in essence, you get to see a lot of different looks. The degree of separation between your enemy characters and the weapons they sometimes carry also help to mix things up quite a bit. Another great feature to this game is the additional game mode, especially considering that back then alternate game modes were pretty rare. And of course all of this means the fun factor is through the roof, you never get tired of Double Dragon! On the downside I can only think of a couple bad things. First, the game is pretty short. But given how it is quite a challenge to complete this game despite it's limited length, it doesn't really seem like that big of a deal when you're actually playing it. The main con to this game and the reason I gave it a 9.5 instead of a 10, is the lack of a two player co-operative game mode, which was one of the main strengths of the original arcade game. Seeing as how much fun the alternative game mode is with two players, a co-op function on story mode would have been a huge boost to this title, which would have made it pretty much perfect.
There are a few tips and tricks I can offer future players of this classic. First, learn the tendencies of your enemies (and also the tendencies with respect to your own abilities). Your different fighting moves have various degrees of success depending on the enemy in question's abilities. Learning what moves are more likely to succeed in any given situation will decrease the amount of damage you take and thus increase your odds of beating the game. Remember, you've only got three lives with which to complete these four missions! Also, use depth to your advantage. A lot of times you'll be attacked from both sides, make sure to keep on the move and alter the angle of attack so that you don't get stuck in a tornado of blows. Furthermore, different attacks earn different amounts of points. If you are trying to max out your points in order to gain hearts as quickly as possible, learn which types of attacks earn you the most points and use them as much as possible. Lastly, there are a lot of environmental hazards you can use to your advantage, if you find yourself in a pickle. There is a conveyor belt you can knock enemies off of in the first mission, but throughout the rest of the game there are lots of spots where you can throw your enemies in to open air or in to a body of water and get rid of them in a hurry.
To summarize, Double Dragon is one hell of a game, an innovative classic that even the lack of a two player co-op mode can't bring down. Now I just need to find myself a copy of Double Dragon II because, believe it or not . . . I remember it being even better than the first one!!