Double Dragon


A highly popular arcade game in the 80's, it was only natural that it would be ported to Nintendo's popular gaming system.  While the port did have its flaws (most notably the lack of two-player simultaneous play), it still upheld the legacy of the arcade classic well, and quickly became one of the NES' best-selling games, continuing to rake in high sales even after Double Dragon 2 had come out.

The game opens with Billy's girlfriend, Marion, being beaten up and kidnapped by punks.  In true martial artist fashion, that's his cue to take to the streets and dispense some flashy punches, kicks and headbutts in an attempt to get her back.  From time to time you'll also come across a dropped weapon you can use to more efficiently fell enemies; the best of these are the throwing knives, which will destroy most enemies in a single hit.  They can also do serious damage to you in the enemies' hands, so use caution.

Throwing a steel drum at the enemy is also amusing

Abobo, a recurring boss throughout the series, but perhaps seen most prominently in this game; it's not uncommon to fight two of them at a time in several places.  Your first encounter with him is fairly simple, though; just knock him down with a few kicks and let the conveyor belt dump him into the pit, and you're off to Stage 2.

A feature not seen in the arcade version was the "leveling" system.  In the lower-left corner of the screen you'd have an experience counter; each time this hits 1000 points you gain a new move. 

Level 2 - Uppercut/High Kick.  Pressing A or B when an enemy is both nearby and stunned unleahses one of these powerful attacks.  Usually powerful enough to finish them off.
Level 3 - Jump Kick.  Replaces your normal jump (A+B).  Not too powerful, but useful in that it can be used to knock enemies around.
Level 4 - Hair Grab -  If the enemy is close to you, tap B following a kick to grab them.  You can then knee them in the face up (tap B) or throw them (tap A).  For maximum damage, knee them four times, then throw them.
Level 5 - Pin Punch.  When an enemy is knocked to the ground, press Down to kneel over them and then A to punch them repeatedly.  Not too useful, as they tend to throw you off before you can finish them.
Level 6 - Elbow Smash.  Press A when an opponent is behind you to hit them with an elbow smash.  This move is very powerful; weaker enemies require only one hit, stronger ones (ie Abobo) usually fall in 4-5 hits.  Has roughly the same range as a kick.
Level 7 - Roundhouse Kick.  The standard three-kick combo now finishes with a spinning kick that does massive damage.  Very useful against the final bosses.

Interestingly, this system is not seen in other home ports of the game; in those you have all your moves available at the beginning.

The first two stages are pretty simple; enemies don't pose much of a threat, and hazards are usually limited to a few thrown sticks of dynamite and a pit or two.  When stage three rolls around, though, things get a lot tougher.  Enemies throw knives (which chop off a good third of your health bar), they duck attacks more frequently, and they often appear near pits just to knock you in as soon as you jump over (although you can avoid this if you're quick to side-step).  The toughest part begins when these two show up, though:

Two Abobos at once, and there's no pit to save you this time.  Just use your jump kicks or the elbow smash until they're defeated

I'm not sure whether it's due to a cruel programmer or a bug in the game, but traveling to the right after beating them will take you back to the start of the stage, which you'll have to fight all the way through again.  Instead, you'll want to enter the cave the Abobos emerged from.

Falling stalactites and some good ol' platform hopping.  Just try to stay away from the edges of the platforms; it's easy to fall off them.  Stay centered, and leap straight up from the first platform to reach the highest one, then leap once that platform is at the farthest point to the right to reach the ledge.

Platform hopping, boulder-dodging, and another Abobo scuffle, and you're still not even done with level 3

Level 4 is the toughest stage of the game; not so much for the fights (make no mistake, they're plenty tough) but because it's more of a large obstacle course than a conventional stage.  You'll dodge bricks jutitng out of a back wall, fight tons of enemies, and do quite a bit of platform-hopping.  On top of all that, there's a gauntlet of every enemy from the game awaiting you at the end!

Don't waste your energy fighting this Abobo; ignore him and climb up the cliff wall to the left

Lots of climbing to do.  The Williams in this area will just keep coming, so don't bother fighting them.  Just knock them down with jump kicks and then move on.

Doing battle with two of each enemy, then Machine Gun Willy, then...

Your own brother, Jimmy Lee, is the final boss of the game.  Quite a twist from the original Arcade version, where he would be controlled by the second player as you took on the enemies in the game.  As can be expected, he knows all of your moves, and can utilize them to great effect.  He's actually not very hard, but there are two things working against you - you'll have to face thirteen enemies before him (including the very deadly Machine Gun Willy), which can easily wear down your health.  There's also the fact that the same 199-second timer is counting down during all of these fights; run out of time and you'll lose a life.  And should you be unfortunate enough to die before beating Machine Gun Willy, you'll have to start the entire gauntlet over again.


Here's a bug you can exploit for easy experience.   In stage 2, after climbing down the ledge from the fence on the right side, two Rowpers will appear.  Lure one nearby the girders in the background, then climb back up the fence and walk all the way back to the left.  Now walk back to the right and the Rowpers will have vanished.  Jump down and swing at where the one near the girders was standing; it will register as a hit and you'll gain points and experience.  Keep swinging until you've maxed out your level!

Now for some boss strategies:

: Just use jumpkicks in the early stages; 16 hits should fell them.  Later on, you can elect to stand with your back to him and elbow him as he gets close; you'll probably take a hit or two with this method, but four hits of your own will fell them.  This is also very helpful for saving time on the final gauntlet.
Chintai:  If you really want to duke it out with him, just kick at him until he's felled.  An easier method is just to go back down the tower once he appears; once you climb back down the ladders and scroll him offscreen, you'll finish the stage.  When you face him again later, just use your kicks followed by a hair pull -> knee -> throw combo.  Two of these should drop him.
Machine Gun Willy:  Definitely the toughest fight in the game; you'll want to preserve as much of your health as possible for this fight.  As for now to beat him, don't try to go toe-to-toe with him or he'll just shoot you for 4-5 units of health.  The best tactic I've found is highlighted in the images below.

This technique takes a bit of practice, but properly done you can beat him without getting hit!

Jimmy: He's got all your moves, can't be grabbed, and he's good at countering your elbow smash.  No fancy tricks here, just kick at him from as far away as your reach will allow.  When you knock him down, get just close enough to kick him again once he gets back up; get too close and you'll end up trading blows, too far and he'll just jump-kick you.  He'll probably get in a few hits, but if you have at least half a health bar left over from the previous fights you should be able to outlast him.  If you have an extra life, this becomes a cake walk; if you die against Jimmy you will skip straight to him, and you'll have a full life bar and timer.

Thanks to Sly Dog Studios' hint video for some of these strategies.

Rating: 6/10

One-line Synopsis:  Still fun nearly 20 years later in spite of its unforgiving difficulty.

©2007 Spoony