“You’ll never have to stand in line to play Double Dragon again!” 

Publisher: Tradewest + Nice list of moves.
+ Awesome music.
+ Good arcade port on the NES.
Developer: Technos
Genre: Beat’em up
Released: 06/1988  
ESRB: NA - Arcade shortness, worthless “versus” mode.
- Simultaneous 2P action is missing!
- There’s nothing to block with…just your face
Platforms: NES

What’s the story?: Double Dragon is a legendary arcade hit. It was ported to the NES in June of 1988. It’s a 2D side scrolling beat’em up that takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York. It stars brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee – masters of Sou-Setsu-Ken, and owners of their own Martial Arts school. One day, Billy’s girlfriend Marian, is kidnapped off the street by a gang called the “Black Warriors”. Just seconds after the incident, Billy takes to the streets out for revenge…enter you.

retro_review_double_dragon_07 What’s to like: Billy Lee has some pretty awesome moves at his disposal, such as an over-the-shoulder enemy toss, the spin kick, and, of course, the devastating elbow smash. Unlike the arcade version, you have to do a little work to unlock them here. You see, for every 1000 points gained in DD on the NES , a heart will be given in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. A new heart means a new move has been unlocked – there are seven total.

retro_review_double_dragon_06 Although this is kind of lame considering the arcade has all the moves from the beginning, it does give the player a goal to work towards. In the end this was a good choice; having the elbow smash (the game’s most devastating move) so early in the game would make this one all too easy. At least this one lets you toss the “Lindas” by their hair over your shoulder – in the arcade this could not be done. Obviously, “Abobos” still cannot be thrown; those guys are huge!

retro_review_double_dragon_04 Some enemies may carry weapons such as bats, knives, whips, rocks, and even dynamite that you can pick up and use on them in return. A well timed jump kick (A + B or 1 + 2 on the Wii controller) can knock a knife loose, but be advised, attempting this on this on dynamite is not recommended.

retro_review_double_dragon_11 Double Dragon’s stages do a good job at recreating some of the ones found in the arcade. Although not even close to “Arcade Perfect,” you are definitely playing Double Dragon at home. The music helps with this along by including the arcade’s awesome selection. The title theme ranks right up there with Mega Man 2′s. The same theme is also used for part of the game’s finale, which offers a drastically different take on the arcade’s final boss.  It’s your double-crossing, dirty rat brother Jimmy! He kidnapped your lovely Marian; what a scumbag!

retro_review_double_dragon_02 What’s not to like: Due to the technical limitations of the NES, Double Dragon lost its two player co-op mode and instead alternates between the first and second players. Also the NES could only display two characters on screen other than yourself, and both enemies had to be of the same type…boo! This should explain what an elbow smash would do to enemies at the start of the game…devastation. Enemy names are also missing here, when in the arcade each baddie has a name. Minor, but a disappointment for sure.

retro_review_double_dragon_14 Wait…now that I think about it, indeed it was possible for two human players to be on-screen at the same time. Unfortunately though, this feature is only available in the games terrible 2-player versus mode. This mode plays terribly and feels so tacked on. It’s like a deformed version of the original Street Fighter. Characters are huge and the gameplay is stupid. If you can find someone desperate enough to play it with you, don’t.

As I stated earlier, DD is based on the arcade game, so you can expect arcade game length here. While the game’s four stages are fun and challenging, they won’t keep you playing very long at all. You may get a half an hour’s worth of gameplay out of this one. DD also has a few glitches that should be noted such as weapons disappearing out of your hands or getting stuck outside of the screen and the like which sets up some annoying spots in the action.

Below you’ll find gameplay taken from every stage of Double Dragon including the battle with Jimmy. I couldn’t help but to use the game’s incredible title theme for the majority of the video. Overall score below.


Double Dragon was one of my first three NES games and holds a special spot on the retro shelf. To me, it is the “granddaddy” of side scrolling beat’em ups. There may have been others before it at the arcade, but certainly not on the NES. Its gameplay is solid, complete with a great list of moves, enemies, and a strong soundtrack to keep you deep in gang-pummeling mode. Although its sequel (DD II) is the overall better game, it is not yet available on the Wii Virtual Console. However this one is, and for only $5.00, I say buy and experience for yourself the beginning of the beat-em-up genre at home. And no, Urban Champion does not count.



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