Does It Hold Up: Double Dragon

Friday, December 28th, 2012

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Games are never what we remember them to be… unless we never played them to begin with. When comparing a retro classic to a modern game, we need to stop and ask ourselves “Does it hold up?” We continue our series into the past with that famous NES beat ’em up that started it all in The Wizard…


Double Dragon Title: Double Dragon
Publisher: Taito Corporation
Developer: Technos Japan
Release Date: 1987 (Arcade), 1988 (NES) April 28, 2008 (VC)
Genre: Beat ’em up
Platform: NES
Rating: ESRB E10+


Double Dragon is a beat ‘em up that was released in the arcades in 1987. It was ported several times over, including to the NES. However, if you know much about this game, you know that the NES port has several differences over the original arcade game – including but not limited to the final boss. But I know a number of you don’t really care about comparisons between revisions and ports and stuff like that so I’ll skip.

So, why do we all remember this game? Because some whiny little kid who wanted to go to California to see the dinosaurs from Peewee’s Big Adventure got 50,000. And we all wanted to beat that score so we can say we were better than him.

Double Dragon




Double DragonCombat can feel like it’s a bit of a button mashing experience. But if you experiment a bit – and gain experience – you can discover some effective moves to help take out your enemies.

Control is also done well for the game. There is a slight delay in punching and kicking but it’s done more to show a wind up instead of a problem with the controls. Also, if you jump down from a high point, you’ll land and be able to immediately move. However, be careful doing this; you can’t adjust in mid-air – which isn’t too much of a problem, as long as you’re not heading for a pit.


Double DragonThe music has some good melodies to it. However, it seems rather bare bones, even for an NES game. The one song I have a major issue with is the first stage in Mission 3. If you listen to most of the other songs, you can hear some sort of make-shift drums to go along with it. And it appears for most songs. This particular song is one that doesn’t have it. In addition, it feels like they ran out of ideas for it and just used sound effects from other games to finish the loop.

Art style looks good… when it’s not flickering – which constantly happens. Enemies will flicker across the screen as you get closer. There’s even spots where part of them will disappear for a bit. I swear I’ve fought half an Abobo about a dozen times.

I know I said control and combat were good but I have one complaint about it: when I punch someone just before they punch me, why do I lose health? This doesn’t make much sense to me.

Oh, and there’s a VS mode. Don’t play it.


Double Dragon

Screenshot from the Arcade version

Double Dragon feels like it’s plodding from start to finish. The pace just seems so slow for something that’s supposed to be action packed. However, I think this has more to do with perspective than actual movement of the sprites. The programmers seem to have pulled the visual perspective back from where it was in the arcade, making sprites look smaller and move slower than they probably would have had they been a bit tighter.

It’s just a bad decision leading to a bad feeling.


Double Dragon

Yes, Fred Savage. I got 50,000 on Double Dragon. Stop questioning me!


Double Dragon on the NES was one of the earliest beat ‘em ups on home consoles. However, like most of the firsts at the time, it has not aged well. If you really want a shot at 50,000, I can’t really stop you from doing that. However, if you’ve already proven to be better than a kid at this game, I’d suggest looking at one of the Final Fight games. Or, if you still want to give the Double Dragon franchise a chance, check out the reboot, Double Dragon Neon.


Does It Hold Up Double Dragon

About Jeff Neuenschwander

Jeff has been a supporter of the website and campaign since the beginning. Joining in for E3 2012, he worked his way up the ranks quickly, making it to the Editing Manager post at the beginning of 2013. Jeff has a wide variety of tastes when it comes to gaming and pretty much likes anything that is quirky, although his favorite genres are Action, Platforming, and RPG. Outside of gaming, Jeff is a musician, being trained as a trombonist for Jazz and Classical music, and holds a degree in Sound Recording.