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Double Dragon

This is the cover for Double Dragon, released for the arcade, many classic systems, and the VC.

Double Dragon is a game released in 1987 and distributed by Taito Corporation, released for all the major consoles for the time, like the NES, Atari consoles, and Sega Master System, as well as created in an arcade version. The game follows Billy Lee, and his brother Jimmy in the Arcade version, who go on a mission to save their common love interest Marian, which forces them to fight to the death over her at the end (WHAT?). Anyway, the game is a beat 'em up feature moves like punch, kick, and jump, then encompassing advanced moves like grab, elbow strike, and jump kick. If health runs out, or if you fall into a pit, or if time runs out, then you lose a life. The NES version has no continues, meaning you have a set number of lives.

I shall first say that I don't own this game in any form, but rather I've played the NES version at nintendo8.com. The reason for this is that the arcade version of Double Dragon is not only a favorite of my dad's, but also a favorite of my game reviewing hero and inspiration, the Wiiviewer. In fact, it's the second of two arcade machiens he actually completely bought. This made me very much want to play the game, and I see why it's so famous in gaming history. With this review being my 15th one, I decided to make it a special game, so here it goes.

The game starts universally with a guy backed by some other guys who walks up behind Marian, socks her in the stomach, and carries her away. Yeah, real nice, guys! The first thing you always see before even playing the game or anything is a woman getting sucker punched in the gut. Talk about a weird intro.

Anyway, that's not what the game is about. And I'm going to be referring to the NES version, as there's no other version I've played. You start out in Mission 1 with only the ability to jump, punch, and kick. However, as you progress through missions, you get more advanced moves to correspond to the more advanced enemies. Despite commentary that the game's controls are too awkward, mine worked without a hitch, and the need to be strategic about punches and kicks against every enemy (especially bosses, who require serious craftiness) make the game really engaging. It's not easy, either, because a variety of enemies will respond with the same moves as you, and will use their own weapons against you.

Now there's a cool aspect to this game: the weapons. So far, I've come into whips, boxes, clubs, and throwing knives, all of which you can use yourself after beating it off of its bearer. This can make everything a whole lot easier and add a real "bad dude" element to the gameplay, which is quite fun.

Now for the problems: there have been a few steps down in this game from the arcade version. For one thing, the character designs are different, and they're pretty terrible, especially for the main character. For another, the NES version has no multiplayer option, but it does have a duel option, which is pretty great. However, co-op play would be universally good. A third big problem is that you fall into pits really easily. If you even land next to a ledge, you fall and die. This makes it punishment to jump across ledges, which you'll necessarily have to do to progress.

The big thing about this game isn't exactly a bad thing, depending on your tastes, but this game is, quite honestly, racy. I mean, the characters are stereotypical 80's ghetto, with the main characters wearing vests without shirts, and sporting crazy haircuts. There are also very blunt and violent weapons. I mean, the whips and clubs are very "gangsta," and if someone is hit with a knife, then there's a burst of blood that results, the point is, this is not a little kid's thing. I'd say either version is suitable for kids at least 13 years of age, or older. However, the graphics make it tolerable, and it detracts...not at all from the fun of playing the game.

In the end, this game is fantastic, maybe the best beat 'em up that ever existed. You can get many versions of this, like playing an arcade version, playing on a classic system, playing the Game Boy Advance version, playing the re-released Game Boy Advance version on the Nintendo 3DS, or even getting it on the Virtual Console for 500 Wii Points. No matter how you do it, you should totally play this game. It's cool, and fun, and you won't regret the decision.

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