Review by Aganar
"This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sign of polish"
Now when we think of the beat-em-up genre, we think of a dead genre that died because of its lack of innovation over the years. Well, for the most part, that's true. But, some can beg to differ. Double Dragon was the first beat-em-up around, and even now it still remains among the best. The game style was groundbreaking for what it did. The only problem is that all other games simplified what made it so great, and this no one has been able to make one quite as good yet.
The graphics for the time were very stunning at some points, and ok at other points. While the main enemies you fought on the main screen merely looked ok, the bosses looked really great. Abobo was very detailed, as were some of the later bosses. The single-player design seemed a bit rushed. I'm sure they could've let more than two enemies come on-screen at once (but perhaps it was for difficulty reasons).
If however you were at all disappointed with the main mode's graphics, then the multiplayer mode will be sure to satisfy your thirst. The multiplayer mode allows you to fight using the single-player characters. But now, they look 10 times better. The characters are now huge, resembling the size of characters you would see in Final Fight. They are also now extremely detailed. Smaller characters that were bland in the original mode now have much better, and more colorful pixels to them. For Abobo, since he was already so huge, he is just ported over (come on, who DIDN'T want to play as Abobo?). Overall, this makes the graphics excellent. My only complaint is that they are rather glitchy at times.
For American and European gamers, the story will make little to no sense. Out of the blue your brother decides to knock out and kidnap your girlfriend. So, you go to get her back...I guess. In the original, the story was a little different. Instead of the implied modern age where the game took place, it was instead in a post-apocalyptic future. The Lee brothers were the last of their clan, holding the knowledge of very ancient powers. The other gangs decide they want it, so they kidnap Marion (Billy's girlfriend). It's something that you would expect, but what are you going to do? Only RPGs really need a story.
Now we reach how the game actually plays. In some ways, it’s some of the most groundbreaking and interesting styles that modern games have still yet to rival. Basically, Billy just roams through the streets, beating up anyone that gets in his way. When you come across an enemy, you attack him. At first you either punch or kick him until he dies. Going through the entire game using just those moves you will find boring. But what makes it so much fun is the RPG elements they throw in. After you kill enough of the guys, you learn a new move!
Once you beat up enough people, you can now do a jumpkick. After some more, you can do a roundhouse. After some more, you can grab a guy but the head and put him over you knee. After alot more, you can eventually jump on someone when they're down and kill them. What's more interesting is that the cheaper the moves are, the harder it is to learn them. So, if you just use punches and kicks, you'll learn all the moves at a decent rate. If you use only punches, you'll have almost all the moves learned by the end of level 2. But, if you use nothing but jumpkicks, it might take longer. And if you use items, it takes extremely long. Thus, it encourages you to use basic moves and not be cheap at combat.
Another interesting aspect is how to fight everyone. When you see a bunch of enemies coming at you. You can try to take them head on with only punches. You can jumpkick one and kill the other one while he is down. Or, you can pick up a box and throw it at one of them. In different areas you use the environment to your advantage. In an area with low roofs, you'll use a move to uppercut the enemies, thus making them hit it and instantly die. When you face your first Abobo, you can try to attack him head-on, but it won't work too well. So, you can get him onto the rollers and try to knock him off the edge. When you face the second boss, you can try to fight him or knock him off. Or, if that doesn’t work, you can just run away, and you'll still pass the level!
When I think of any NES game, this is always the first one to pop into my head in terms of music. The title theme ranks somewhere on my top 20 favorite songs of all time. The theme for stage one ranks slightly slower. And the rest of the songs are all on there somewhere. The few short tracks it has still demonstrate that you can have an amazing soundtrack as long as you just have good quality in the songs. The sounds fare out pretty well. None of them are particularly high quality, but they accomplish their goal. They make you feel like you are beating the crap out of some gang member.
And, to further prove the game's level of polish is the multiplayer. To compensate for the fact that Co-Op was taken out for the port, they added this little area. Simply known as ''Game B'', the multiplayer allows you to do an one-on-one face-off against a character of your choosing. Choosing the Lee character will allow you to face-off against a Lee, controlled either by the computer or a second player. In the multiplayer mode, it is like a combination between fighting game and beat-em-up. The Lee's control just like they do in the game, complete with all of their moves. But, both characters have life bars. You take turns exchanging blows until eventually one dies. You are allowed to play as any enemy in the game. Wills, Lindas, Abobos, all of them are playable. More interestingly, all have their own fighting style! While there isn't much of a difference, this was an amazing feat for something on the days of the NES. While besides that the replay only extends to the fun of playing through the game again, the Game B mode alone should suffice.
Overall, even now this is an amazing game. Still accomplishing what no other beat-em-up has managed to successfully do, combining beat-em-up with RPG and a tiny bit of platformer in some levels, this remains the best one around. With the release of Viewtiful Joe, there might finally be a game to dethrone it. We shall just have to wait and see.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/30/01, Updated 09/12/03
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