Double Dragon! What a legendary game. Realeased in 1987 by Technos Japan, but distributed under the Taito name in Western regions. It was a spiritual successor to Renegade, and is seen by many as the first good co-operative scrolling beat ’em up.
Double dragon spawned a plethora of home ports, including the Sinclair Spectrum and Atari ST versions, which I spent a great deal of my youth playing. There was even a *ahem* film, in 1984. In the loosest way possible.
But this video is here for comparison purposes. Namely to compare the original arcade version of Double Dragon against 2 more recently released editions in the guise of Double Dragon Trilogy, available on Steam and Double Dragon Neon available on an array of modern platforms.
So let’s delve in…
From the off, you’ll notice that the games feature the same starting environment. Your girlfriend is punched in the gut and kidnapped by a gang of Westside story type thugs, who then go to enormous trouble to prevent you from reaching her. Why they didn’t just kill her in the first place, or kill either brother is confusing. It seems that they’re eager to send swaves of camp thugs to their death first, in a kind of cat and mouse game. Also whilst we’re on this point, who’s girlfriend is she? Standard assumption presumes Billy, as he’s player one, but things get pretty dark & murky at the end of the game.
The arcade port suffers from severe amounts of slow down due to the underpowered processors, lacking the ability to handle multiple sprite refreshes at once. This is even more apparent when one of the large ogre type guys pops his head out. The game almost becomes unplayable at certain points and feels like your wading through treacle rather than playing a fast paced game. This version is running under emulation, but the slow down is exactly the same as you would have experienced in any good arcade during the late 80s.
The slowdown is absent from Double Dragon Trilogy… you also get a lovely high definition health bar at the top of the screen.
Double Dragon Neo has gone even further down the Greese/West Side story route, with the characters appearing to be almost piss taking in appearance. It builds on the original look of the characters and actually, I think works pretty well. Even the overtly sexualised whip girls fit in pretty well, wobbling boobies and all.
Double Dragon Trilogy is essentially an arcade port with a few nice menu screens, wide screen formatting and a few tweaks here and there, including the ability to change the difficulty and Story mode which allows you to begin from any given level. All 3 original games are included (hence Trilogy), although the second game tends to re-use a lot of features from the first, including level design – although the baddies have obtained some nice new gimp outfits. The third game tries to expand on the earlier two with “home made” voice introductions, zombie like walking and dozy enemies.
Whilst we’re on the subject of level design, Neo seems to take an apparent twist into outerspace at the end of the second level. Unexpected, but, yeah, quite nice. Makes a change to get out of the atmosphere once in a while.
The original game and trilogy feature all your favourite Double Dragon components, such as the constant double knockouts, the AI lacking enemies (and the conveyor belts). Occasional dancing on the mesh walls, whilst you frantically try to get off. Dodgy collision detection. Dodgy jump detection (I swear, I’ve spent days of my youth on this bridge). Sloppy, slow control response times. Odd sound effects. Characters who decide they need a sudden nap. Enemies who never fall the way you want them to. Dodgy collision detection. Dodgy collision detection. Oh, did I mention DODGY COLLISION DETECTION.
Neo, is a very clear modernisation of the original format, and although it’s a clear departure from it’s original incarnation. They haven’t gone too far. There’s a selection of additional moves, which help to add variety to fights (rather than endless punching). The graphics are hugely different, but yet capture some of the original charm and you can now pick up cassette tapes to give you special moves and power ups. The girl still gets tied up, but this time by what appears to be Skeletor’s older brother. Oh and also, you can opt to have a robot brother, if that tickles your boat.
Neo has received some mixed opinions, with some firmly in the “not like” camp, but then, a lot of people seem to really enjoy it. And I for one, fit into the latter camp.
Now, we’re all familiar with the end of the game. You fight tirelessly alongside your brother in order to save, what appears to be your shared girlfriend, but then at the end, you both decide to kick the shit out of each other in order to have the girl, as clearly you’re both tired of sharing, but not of fighting. So there you go. You kill your brother, for some bird, who will probably go off with one of the villains anyway, but hey, that’s life.
Plus, both brothers appear to be both back in the sequels anyway… Clearly death isn’t the handicap it used to be.
Check out the accompanying video here…