Double Dragon Is 30 Years Old

Released into arcades in June 1987 – Double Dragon became a big hit for publisher/developer Technōs. It was the first arcade game I ever completed and today, the game still sparks off fond memories growing up as a gamer in the 80s.

Right here – I’m going to take a look at the entire Double Dragon franchise over the last 30 years as well as some of the more infamous ports and spin-offs the series has offered us for three decades.

Double Dragon

Double Dragon

Telling the story of brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee. Double Dragon was a simple beat em’ up with a simple plot. Bad guys called The Black Warrior Gang turn up, punch Billy’s girlfriend -Marian in the stomach and kidnap her. Playing as Billy or Jimmy… or both with a friend – you had to fight your way through four stages of various enemies and bosses. You’d even find numerous weapons to use in your fight to save the girl. The final stage is the gang’s hideout where you eventually come up against the gang’s leader, Willy. Take out Willy, save Marian and you are a winner… except if you played 2-player where an unexpected twist has brother fight against brother.

Double Dragon was a smash hit and was soon ported to pretty much every game’s machine in the late 80s and early 90s. The NES, Master System, Game Boy, Atari Lynx Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC all had their own versions of the game. There was even a port on an unlicensed cartridge for the Mega Drive released in 1992. But the cream of the crop, top of the heap was the Atari 2600 port – it was… interesting.

Double Dragon 2600

The success of Double Dragon meant a sequel was inevitable, but who would know the franchise would still be alive 30 years later?

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Double Dragon II

The sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge was released in 1988 and to be quite frank – it was more of the same with a few bells and whistles. This time around The Black Warriors Gang and their leader, Willy don’t kidnap Marian. Willy outright murders her in cold blood. So of course Billy and Jimmy set out for revenge. Double Dragon II: The Revenge really is little more than just a graphical upgrade. The gameplay itself remained the same, save for a few minor tweaks and improvements. The game even re-uses a lot of the same enemies from the previous game.

Once again, the game was ported to pretty much every popular games machine at the time but sadly, no Atari 2600 port.

Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone

Double Dragon 3

1990 saw Billy and Jimmy Lee return and this time – they are joined by Sonny (whoever that is). Yup, this sequel brings with it several new ideas to the Double Dragon franchise. Not only is it simultaneous three player but the graphics have been given a complete overhaul and several new moves have been introduced. The plot this time involves the Lee brothers and Sonny (still no idea who he is) having to travel the globe in search of the titular Rosetta Stones. Starting in the United States before heading to China, Japan, Italy and finally – Egypt.

The game also featured a very unwelcome addition. You know how modern games have those dreaded ‘micro transactions’ – those things developers include to milk every last penny out of the player? Well Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone had this feature long before they became the norm today. This game featured item shops on the levels where you could buy new weapons, items, power-ups and even new characters… only you had to use real money to buy these and each item would be the same cost as a single credit. So if you wanted to make any progress in the game, you’d have to spend some serious real cash. This feature was removed from the later Japnese version due to negative feedback.

And yes, there were ports to the numerous gaming machines at the time too. Plus there was an alternate game called Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones released for the NES in 1991. This was not a port of the arcade game, but instead a whole new game made just for the NES and yes – this is where the whole ‘Bimmy’ thing started too.

Super Double Dragon

Super Double Dragon

This one was an exclusive for the SNES and fourth game in the franchise… though not actually Double Dragon IV – that explanation is coming up later…

The plot of this one is – well, there is no plot. Lead programmer; Muneki Ebinuma revealed in 2004 that this game was never finished before it was released. Super Double Dragon was supposed to feature cut-scenes telling a story. The story involved Billy and Jimmy investigating a criminal organisation known as the Shadow Warriors. The gang has been kidnapping various martial artists. Billy and Jimmy were tasked with fighting their way through seven stages as they rescue the missing martial artists before facing the gang’s main boss – Duke who was to have been revealed as being a childhood friend of the Lee brothers… but the story a lot of the game mechanics were never included in the final product due to time constraints.

Super Double Dragon is a very impressive beat em’ up in many ways. The fighting mechanics are pretty awesome as not only can you punch and kick, but you now have a block button and if you block just as you’re being attacked, you’ll grab your enemy in an arm/leg lock and continue to beat the crap out of them too. The weapons have been improved and updated over previous games too and some of the scenery is interactive. But you can also tell that the game is unfinished and lacking in so many areas – plus its painfully slow and sluggish. Its a shame because you can tell there is a great game here. The Japanese version (Return of Double Dragon) differs slightly and is ‘better’ than the Western version and I’d recommend playing that one instead if you can find it.

Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls

Double Dragon V

By the mid 90s – any and everyone was trying to cash in on the massive success of Capcom’s Street Fighter II. There were suddenly one on one, tournament fighting games everywhere and Double Dragon wanted in on the action too. Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls was released in 1994 and based on the animated Double Dragon TV series that aired around the same time. It was pretty standard stuff, Street Fighter II only not as good.

Double Dragon

Double Dragon Neo Geo

Yup, its just called Double Dragon and no its not a remake of the original. This 1995 released game is yet another Street Fighter II wanna-be. Inspired by the movie version of the game (so a game turned into a movie which is then turned into a game) as it takes plot elements, characters and locales used in the movie. This was also the last Double Dragon game made by original developers – Technōs before they went bust.

Released for the arcades, Neo Geo CD and Play Station. This Double Dragon ended up being a disappointment as it just didn’t measure up to the sea of similar (and better) fighting games around at the time. Plus, Double Dragon fans were thirsty for a proper Double Dragon game – not another Street Fighter II clone.

Double Dragon Advance

Double Dragon Advance

The franchise lay dormant from 1995 until 2003 when Double Dragon Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance. This one was a remake of the original arcade game, only given a graphical overhaul as well as update the move set to include fighting mechanics taken from some of the series’ sequels over the years. The plot is the same as it was in the original with you taking on the gang that kidnapped Marian. Four new stages have also been added to the original ones as well as several new enemies to punch and kick. This was the kind of game fans of the series had yearned after for several years and Double Dragon Advance is a pretty damn good Double Dragon game – well worthy of the name.

Double Dragon Neon

Double Dragon Neon

A modern retelling/reboot of Double Dragon released in 2012. This game is very tongue in cheek as it really plays up to its 80s setting and uses self-parody as its main source of humour. Yet it still manages to retain that classic 80s arcade feel and this one is definitely a must for any old school Double Dragon fan. Not an easy game to get on with at first – but once you unlock a few upgrades and get used to the fighting mechanics, this game is a pure blast full of retro goodness and gameplay.

Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons

Double Dragon II Wander

A remake of the original arcade game Double Dragon II: The Revenge – Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons is awful. I made the mistake of thinking this was a sequel to Double Dragon Neon… its not. This game is a clunky, unresponsive, and just an absolute mess. Its ugly to look at and even uglier to play. Not worth your time at all and is an insult to the Double Dragon name.

Double Dragon IV

Double Dragon IV

Okay – so now things are going to get confusing. This game released in 2017 is the official fourth game in the Double Dragon franchise. Released twenty seven years AFTER Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone and twenty three years AFTER Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. But it gets worse as Double Dragon IV is not even a sequel to Double Dragon 3 (either version) but in fact a direct sequel to the NES port of Double Dragon II instead. Confused yet?

As you can see for the screen shot, Double Dragon IV goes for a retro style and look based on the NES versions of the original games. The plot is pretty simple – The Black Warriors Gang from the original two games team up with an all new gang called The Renegades to finish off Billy and Jimmy Lee once and for all. In typical Double Dragon fashion, you punch and kick enemies in the face and take out bosses spread over several different stages. A distinctly average Double Dragon game that leans too much on nostalgia and not enough on gameplay.

1987 – 2017

So there you have it – three decades of face punching action from Double Dragon.

Double Dragon Logo

But before I end this retrospective, there are a few other Double Dragon games and spin-offs I want to give quick mention to.

1989s U.S. Championship V’Ball (aka; Super Spike V’Ball) for the NES featured both Billy and Jimmy Lee as playable characters. Arcade game WWF Superstars from 1989 had Billy appear in a cameo role. Battletoads & Double Dragon which was released in 1993 was a crossover game featuring characters from both titular franchises. 2002s Rage of the Dragons released for the Neo Geo is a one on one fighter that features Billy and Jimmy Lee as playable characters. And in 2013, Double Dragon Trilogy was released for  iOS, Android and Steam – a collection of the first three arcade games with a few minor tweaks added.

Well that’s me done then. Thanks to Billy and Jimmy Lee for the gaming memories. – I’m off to play some Double Dragon Neon.

Double Dragon Neon Characters.jpg

Why don’t game – movie adaptions work?

SuperMario movie

Yes, I’m going to be talking about “that”…

So I was researching for my Double Dragon gaming retrospective and looking over what this gaming franchise had brought to us. Aside from the obvious games, I finally got to the Double Dragon movie and that got me onto this topic here…why don’t game – movie adaptions work for the most part?

Now there are the odd and very rare exceptions I admit. As there are a few pretty decent movies based on games or even movies inspired by gaming as whole. But for this I wanted to highlight a few of those films based on games that were just terrible and try to work out why?

So lets just dive into the very first mainstream movie based on a game…

Mario movie

Super Mario Bros: Holds the distinction of being the first movie based on a game…and often said to be one of the very worst too.
Based on the Nintendo franchise of the same name and released in 1993. Super Mario Bros was a critical failure with many reviewers detesting the film. During an interview with The Guardian, Bob Hoskins was asked; “What is the worst job you’ve done,” “What has been your biggest disappointment,” and “If you could edit your past, what would you change?” Bob replied; “Super Mario Bros” to all three of the questions.
Movie fans hated the film, game and Mario fans hated the film…nobody liked it.
The tagline was; “This ain’t no game.” Very true, it was hardly a film either.

Still the failure that was Super Mario Bros didn’t stop more films based on games coming.


Double Dragon: The film that lead me to write this article. Released in 1994 and (obviously) based on the popular game series.
I actually never saw this film before deciding to write this…yes that’s right, I actually watched this film just to do this. It was not worth it, aside from a few notable names, this has nothing to do with the game series. The effects were pretty decent but the plot and dialogue were just plain terrible.
I really, really tried to find a favourable review of this film but the best I could find was a 2 out of 10 score. Again, that was the best one I could find.

Next up is another movie based on a fighting game.


Street Fighter: No, not that awesome Sonny Chiba film. This one was based on the hugely popular Street Fighter II and released in 1994. This one starred Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Belgian martial artist turned actor with a very thick Belgian accent, playing the “all American” Colonel Guile…yeah, I’ve lost you already eh?
It also starred the amazing Raúl Juliá in his last big screen performance before his untimely death. That is how bad this film is, it killed Raúl Juliá.
I was a big Street Fighter II fan back then and was really looking forward to a film version…this was just plain terrible and an insult to both Street Fighter fans as well as film fans. Having to endure this film was worse than being Hundred Hand Slapped by E. Honda.

Seeing as Street Fighter had a movie, so did its main gaming rival, two in fact.


Mortal Kombat & Mortal Kombat: Annihilation: Released in 1995 & 1997 respectively. Yes I’m tackling both of these abominations at the same time. Now I’m fully aware the first film holds some merit among game fans and is liked by many. Personally I think it’s a load of old arse gravy with the sequel being even worse, and that’s some achievement.
There was even a third film planned, but it was never made due to the poor box office of the other two films. So there is a silver lining there, we were saved from another terrible game based movie.

You know what I feel was the main problem with all of these movie – game adaptations? The very simple matter of that these games didn’t have much plot to hold a movie.
Super Mario Bros games were always about a Princess being kidnapped and having to be saved by Mario.
Double Dragon was about your girlfriend being kidnapped and you having to rescue her.
Street Fighter II was about some fighters from around the world punching each other in the face.
Mortal Kombat was about fighters from around the word (and even different dimensions) punching each other in the face.
See what I mean, there is no plot to base a film on. These overtly simple plots may work in games but not in films. But of course, some game – movie adaptions tried to add plot to the already existing one with varying success.

Films like; Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and it’s sequel; Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Which used the pre-existing game IPs but added to them and they turned out pretty decent.

But the flip side to that coin is when they would take a game IP and change it so much, you wonder why they even bothered to use the IP to begin with.
Films like; Resident Evil, Hitman or Max Payne. Were films which took basic elements of the games, but changed everything else so much that the films did not represent the games they were based on. Of course, this does not make them bad films in of themselves. It just leaves you asking why bother using a known IP if you are going to change things so much it no longer resembles the IP you are using?

There are even directors who have forged a career from making bad game – movie adaptions. I give you, Uwe Boll.
Does this man really need an introduction? With films like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark (and a sequel), BloodRayne (and two sequels), In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Postal, and even Far Cry. Uwe Boll has made more games based films than anyone else and even managed to attract some famous names to appear in his films like; Christian Slater, Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, plus others.
Uwe Boll has never made a good game based movie, he’s infamous for his terrible directing. Yet he just keeps making them and attracting stars too.

But even though this sub-genre of films never seems to please anyone…they keep on coming with more game based movies.
Films based on Price Of Persia, Silent Hill and even Need For Speed. But it does not end there, we have a film reboot of Hitman: Agent 47 a well as Warcraft, Angry Birds (really, Angry Birds?), Assassin’s Creed, Minecraft (I love Minecraft…but a movie?) and plenty of other game inspired movies coming over the next few years.

Games have changed over the years. From simple plots like Mario having to rescue a Princess to multilayered stories of Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect, etc. This means at least there is more meat for films to be based on, but that does not mean these future game based films will be any good does it?
But then there are still those games that simply do not have a plot but are still being turned into a movie…


Seriously, Angry Birds…the movie?

So what are some of your favorite game based movies to love or hate?
Comment below.


Double Dragon – Arcade

title screen

Little Bit of History: Released in 1987. Developed by Technos Japan and published by Tatio. Double Dragon was originally developed to be a sequel to Technos earlier game, Renegade. But during development the game, it was decided to make an all new IP and Double Dragon was born.
Double Dragon was ported to every popular game machine at the time from the Atari 2600 to the Amiga 500.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: You play as Billy Lee in single player or with Jimmy Lee when played in Co-op as you fight the Black Warriors gang with the main goal of trying to save Billy’s girlfriend Marian who is kidnapped during the game’s into.

Little Bit of Character: Along with the two playable brother characters Billy and Jimmy Lee (renamed Hammer and Spike for the American release). There was also plenty of NPCs such as Marian who is Billy’s girlfriend and gets kidnapped at the beginning of the game.
Various enemies:
Linda Lash: was a female character that used a whip.
Abobo: was a recurring sub-boss throughout the game.
Williams: was the most common and basic enemy in the game.
Willy: was the main and final boss of the Black Warriors gang.

Little Bit of Influence: While not the first scrolling beat em’ up, this game certainly popularised the genre and laid the foundation for the direction the genre would go in for decades. The game went on to spawn several sequels, spin-offs, crossovers and even an animated TV show, a movie and even a Marvel published six part comic book. It has also gone on to be remade and rebooted several times

Little Bit of Memories: I’ll always remember this as the very first arcade game I ever completed. I even remember where, it was in Barmouth, Wales in the middle one of the three arcades that used to be on the sea-front while on a family holiday. It was also the first NES port I played at a friend’s house.

Little Bit of Playability: The arcade version is still a good, pointless romp and still very playable today though some may find it dated. But with such a rich legacy, there’s bound to be another Double Dragon game you may find more to your taste. My personal favorite was Super Double Dragon for the SNES which added a lot more variety and interaction to the game. Or there is the more recent Double Dragon Neo.
But for me the arcade original will always hold a special place in my heart and yes I still find that version good fun to play today.

Original poster