Double Dragon (NES) Review

Double Dragon NES

Double Dragon is one of the earliest examples of a scrolling beat ‘em up, one of my favourite genres as a kid, and one I still enjoy today. That being said, I didn’t actually play the original Double Dragon all that much, me and my brother rented it out once or twice, and I played it around my friends once, so this was an interesting revisit in that it felt fresher than most of the older games, with no nostalgia glasses to block any potential flaws… though given the film I reviewed alongside this, any flaws will seem pretty minimal…

Background:

Double Dragon NES 1

The barrel throwing is about all I really remembered about the game…

The original Arcade game was released in 1987, with a NES port released the following year. The game also came to the Master System, the GameBoy, the Amiga, C64, Spectrum, Mega Drive… and lots more in between.

I say the game was ported to the NES, but it was quite different due to the limitations of the hardware, and the inexperience of the team porting it (mostly the latter given the Master System version being far better!). There’s no simultaneous co-op, there are only two enemies on screen at once, and a lot of the level layouts are radically different. To be honest, had I done any research going into this, I’d probably have reviewed the Arcade game via MAME instead, but I went for the NES version as it’s on Nintendo’s online service, meaning it was easier for screenshots…

Gameplay:

Double Dragon NES 3

I’m whipping Lash… oh the irony, I guess?

As it’s a scrolling beat ‘em up, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the key point of the game is to scroll and beat people up. Punches, kicks, jumping kicks, grapple and throw, those are your tools to take out the endless string of often similar-looking foes. You can also pick up weapons like baseball bats and steel drum barrels to use, as well as holes in the ground you can use to sends foes to a quicker death.

Throw in bosses with larger health bars and that’s your game! I will say that it feels very slow and sometimes unresponsive, which is a shame. I mean I’ve played tonnes of scrolling beat ‘em ups, but they’ve all been on 16-bit or higher consoles (or Arcade cabinets), so of course this is going to feel less polished, but even so it still feels sluggish, and having to make precision jumps (something you’ll have to do more often in the NES version than the original) it’s a real struggle sometimes.

You can still select multiplayer, but it’s turn-based, like Super Mario Bros, rather than on-screen co-op. You can also choose a “Mode B” where the game works like a VS. beat ‘em up instead, allowing you vs. a CPU, or Player 1 vs. Player 2, the only caveat is that you have to play as the same character…

Graphics and Sound:

Double Dragon NES 5

Jesus, what the hell kind of cave is neon pink and purple?

The graphics are fine, unless you unfairly compare them to the Arcade original. The sprites are good (especially the larger ones for the Mode B VS. mode) and the backgrounds are decently detailed for a late 80s NES title.

The sound is okay, decent midi music and some good thud sounds and people groans.

Story:

The Black Warriors gang has kidnapped Billy Lee’s girlfriend Marian, and now he and his brother Jimmy must fight their way through the entire gang until they defeat the boss and save the girl… which they do.

Thoughts Then:

Double Dragon NES 4

I definitely remember not being able to make this jump…

I remember specifically picking up the red barrels and throwing them at enemies, causing them to fall down a large hole… and that’s about all I remembered about the game. I had Double Dragon III (I think it was III…) on the Mega Drive, but as for the original, it’s only vague memories, not enough to give a score for anyway…

Thoughts Now:

Double Dragon NES 2

It’s Bo Abobo, one of the few non-Jimmy and Billy characters I actually knew the name of…

Double Dragon on the NES can be quite fun… for a bit. Then the jumping bits start, and the slow striking gets to the point where all you’re doing in flying kicking people… It might have been more fun if I was doing co-op, but I chose the one version that doesn’t have it (out of the viable options, anyway). Ah well, I’m sure I’ll revisit either the Arcade original or maybe even the MS port at some point down the line…

2 Star Game New

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