Thursday, 5 August 2010

Double Dragon: The Fist Whisperer

Waaay back in 1987 Technos Japan developed the now legendary arcade game Double Dragon, a fighting title that would inspire other computer brawlers for years to come. And like Green Beret before it, this was one of my early pixelated 'loves'. (Steady on...worried ed.) I remember first seeing the cabinet (through starry eyes) in the arcade that was on Swansea marina. And so blown away was I by the great graphics and cool fighting moves that I regularly skipped school and jumped a train to Swansea just to play it.

Photobucket ♦ the famous intro screen ♦

The story was simple; twin brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee battle their way through the Black Warriors gang in order to save Marion, who curiously enough was BOTH the siblings love interest. (Hmm I bet conversation was interesting when those two hit the pub!)
There were four stages in all - City Slum, Factory, Woods and Bosses Hideout and players could either go solo playing as Billy, or a friend could join in as Jimmy in the two player cooperative mode. Doing it this way added extra moves like one could hold an enemy while the other used him as a punchbag. Neat.
A few things made this a fabulous title for me. Firstly it looked fantastic, characters were chunky and there were enough different types (whipcracking girls, green hulks etc) to keep it from getting boring. Even details like advertisements on brick walls impressed no end (see pic below.) Then of course there were the moves. Simple punch and kicks but also headbuts, grabs plus the ability to pick up bats, knives and whips. It was all very new and exciting back then trust me.

Photobucket ♦ check out the Scoop mini ♦

If you were successful in getting to the Boss Hideout at the end (and beating the Boss naturally,) one of two endings were triggered. If you had been playing solo then all would happen is Marion would fall into your arms and everything would be tickety boo, disappearing into the sunset and all that. If players had been playing in cooperative mode however then after beating the Boss, Billy and Jimmy fought each other for the honour of taking the delightful Marion's hand. (Some more interesting pub chatter between these two, after the blood dried of course!)
It was, and still is, a wonderful arcade game which inevitably got its fair share of conversions onto home computers. ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Sega Master System, Gameboy, the list goes on and on. And well it should because Double Dragon stood out even during a time when other future classics were jostling for prime space in the arcade halls.
You can still see the inspiration of it in this current age of ever powerful consoles, just look at the scenario mode in Tekken 6 for example, pure Double Dragon gameplay. Everytime I play this mode I smile to myself, remembering the golden era of videogames when thinking about playing arcade quality games in the home was a distant dream. We owe a lot to Double Dragon, it helped shape a genre.

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