American promotional flyer for the arcade release by Taito. In this flyer, the main characters have their original localized names as "Hammer" and "Spike".
Sega (Sega Master System)
|Publisher(s)||Taito Corporation (North America)
Technōs Japan (Japan)
|Producer(s)||Tradewest: Leland Cook and Byron Cook|
|Release date(s)||(Arcade) August 1987|
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up|
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players, simultaneous|
Double Dragon (ダブルドラゴン Daburu Doragon?) is a 1987 beat 'em up developed by Technōs 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, Atari ST, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Game Boy, Genesis/Mega Drive and Atari Lynx, among other platforms during the series's height of popularity. A remake titled Double Dragon Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. 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. Nintendo also released the Game Boy version on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console in 2011.
Another remake was released for the iOS mobile devices in 2011, which features brand new gameplay, sprites and animations, and music. A new Double Dragon title, Double Dragon Neon, was released in 2012 for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and in 2014 for Steam and is considered a reboot of the series.
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 range from basic punches and kicks, to more elaborate manoeuvres like hair grabbing moves and elbow strikes. When playing with another player, one can assist the other by grabbing their partner's opponent from behind. Caution should be taken, though, as some enemies are able to do the same thing to the players. The player begins the game with a certain number of extra lives and a life gauge which depletes as the player takes hits. 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 through the course of the game. Certain enemies carry melee weapons, which can be knocked out of their hands and picked up to use against them. Available weapons include baseball bats, whips, throwing knives, and dynamite; in addition, rocks, oil drums, and boxes can be found in certain places.
The game is divided into four different stages or "missions," which consist of a city slum, a factory, the woods, and the gang's hideout. The game normally ends if a single player defeats the final boss alone. However, if two players manage to complete the game together, they are then forced to fight each other in order to determine who will win Marian's affections.
The original arcade version featured a color palette of 384 colors and the hardware used several 8-bit processors running in parallel; 16-bit technology was cost-prohibitive at the time the game was first released. Along the multiple HD6309-based processors, multiple processors were dedicated to sound, such as the Yamaha YM2151 sound chip.
Nintendo Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System
Double Dragon was ported to the Nintendo Famicom by Technōs Japan in 1988. The game was published for the Nintendo Entertainment System 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. It was also released in North America on December 12, 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U although in Europe, the former was released on December 5, 2013 while the latter was released on March 13, 2014.
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 technical limitations of the NES that were not worked around, 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 throughout the game.
The level designs are very different, with some stages featuring new areas (notably the cavern section in Mission 3) that feature 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. The mode features larger sprites different from the main game itself.
Double Dragon was only the second game that Technōs developed for the NES, and the two-player mode was reputedly omitted because of the programmers' inexperience with the hardware. This also accounts for the game's large number of bugs and glitches. Also, the "Mode B" was said to be a prototype originally planned for the main game.
Sega Master System
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, Europe, and Brazil. The game supports the optional FM Sound Unit sold separately for the Japanese Mark III and which is already integrated into the Japanese Master System models.
Due to the Master System's technical capabilities, this version featured graphics improved over the NES version, using brighter colors and displaying up to three different enemies on-screen. The game retains the two-player co-op mode (including the final face off between both players) and has level designs that were closer to the arcade game. 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.
The Master System version allows for unlimited continues until the final stage. However, if a player performs a number of 10 backward jump kicks at the start of the final stage, they retain their unlimited continues.
In 1990, Technōs 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. This version has also been re-released on the Virtual Console for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011.
8-bit & 16/32-bit computers
Versions of Double Dragon have 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. In 1989, the MSX version was released by a small Spanish group, Xortrapa Soft.
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 (which was widely criticized for being a poor port of the game). It came on a special 32k bank-switched cartridge and did not support two-player mode.
In 1992, Accolade released a Mega Drive/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. Although the Mega Drive/Genesis has a smaller color palette than the arcade original, due to the more powerful 16-bit hardware it actually fixes all of the slow down problems from the original arcade game. However, it had a number of deficiencies (especially in sound quality) because Ballistic Software was forced to use a small 512k (4 Meg) cartridge ROM for cost reasons. This version comes closest to the arcade version.
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 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.
2011 saw the release of a brand new Double Dragon title, titled Double Dragon iPhone, which serves as a remake of the original. It was again developed by Brizo Interactive under license from Million, in collaboration with Aksys Games, and published by Bow Mobile Corp. It employs brand new artwork and sprites, bluetooth multiplayer connectivity, online score ranking, and a host of other new and unique features, new to the franchise.
Another game developed by WayForward Technologies, Double Dragon Neon, was released in 2012 for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It is considered a reboot of the series, and features 3D polygonal graphics while the gameplay remains in 2D. It is not a remake of the original Double Dragon arcade or the NES game. Instead, the game is loosely based on the original Double Dragon arcade game and the NES version of the first game.
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". Compute! stated that the Commodore 64 version added a two-player mode, but lacked some arcade features such as moving objects, climbing most ladders, and detailed animation. The Mega Drive version was also not well received: Mega placed the game at #10 in their list of the 10 Worst Mega Drive Games of All Time.
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. Technōs produced a fourth game in the series titled Super Double Dragon, released for the SNES in 1992. In 1993, a crossover, titled Battletoads & Double Dragon and featuring characters from both franchises, was released 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 Technōs-developed the Neo-Geo version of Double Dragon.
The boss Abobo is the star of the indie retro game Abobo's Big Adventure.
A soundtrack titled Original Sound of Double Dragon (オリジナル・サウンド・オブ・ダブルドラゴン Orijinaru Saundo obu Daburu Doragon?) was released in Japan by Apollon and composed by Kazunaka Yamane, on February 21, 1988. The soundtrack features arranged versions of the music from the original arcade version. Its catalog number is BY12-5028.
- Opening (Double Dragon) (オープニング（双截龍） Ōpuningu (Daburu Doragon)?)
- The City Slums (The Black Warriors Arrive) (スラム街（ブラックウォリアーズ出現） Suramu Machi (Burakku Uoriāzu Shutsugen)?)
- The Industrial Area (The Great Fray) (工場地帯（大乱闘） Kōjōchitai (Dairantō)?)
- After the Battle (闘いのあとで Tatakai no Atode?)
- Setting Off (A New Battle) (旅立ち（新たなる闘い） Tabidachi (Aratanaru Tatakai?)
- The Woods (森林編 Shinrin Hen?)
- The Giant Abobo Appears (大男アボボ登場 Ō Otoko Abobo Tōjō?)
- The Hideout (Willy the Nemesis) (大要塞（宿敵ウィリー） Daiyōsai (Shukuteki Uirii)?)
- Ending (Reunion with Marian) (エンディング（マリアンとの再会） Endingu (Marian to no Saikai)?)
- Information's obtained from MAME Source, http://mamedev.org
- The kanji characters shown on the title screen are 双截龍, literally "Twin (Measure-word) Dragons". The characters on the title screen are as follows: shuang (double), jie (measure word for dragons, compare "sheet" for "a sheet of paper" or "loaf", "a loaf of bread"), long (dragon). This is an example of gikun, in which characters are used to represent a meaning or ideal and not for phonetic value.
- "Double Dragon Now Available on Wii Shop Channel!". Nintendo of America. 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- File:DoubleDragon SMS BR cover.jpg - Sega Retro
- "Double Dragon for Zeebo - Zeebo official site" (in Portuguese).[dead link]
- "The Lee Brothers Rescue Marian And Their Dusty Franchise". 11 September 2012.
- Double Dragon
- World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer
- World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer
- World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer
- MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 6, page 77, June 1992
- 200 Greatest Games of their time
- Worley, Joyce (Oct 1988). "Video Gaming World's Newswire". Computer Gaming World. p. 48.
- Wilson, David M. (May 1989). "Street Lethal". Computer Gaming World. p. 21.
- Poggiali, Len (July 1989). "Double Dragon". Compute!. p. 63. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- Mega magazine issue 1, page 85, Future Publishing, Oct 1992
- Double Dragon at the Killer List of Videogames
- Double Dragon at World of Spectrum
- Double Dragon guide at StrategyWiki
- Double Dragon at DMOZ