Rory On October 27, 2003 at 5:15 pm

Your girlfriend has just been punched in the stomach and kidnapped by a bearded thug with a machine gun. What are you gonna do? You’re going to get on your campy blue top, get a bowl cut and then kick the crap out of an endless amount of similar looking thugs, THAT is what your gonna do! And in 1987, that’s just about all people really did. Thanks to the popularity of Mario and chums, the arcades were slowly fading away into the occasional one off, and they needed something that could breathe new life into the now seemingly pointless activity of leaving your house to play games. Enter Double Dragon; a game, which seems like just another beat ’em up in the crowd, but soon proves it’s something a little more special.

What set it apart were the subtle the complexities riddled throughout the game, the first of which is the ability to get weapons. That’s right, if one of them ugly hard men (or women, as the case may be) happen to be carrying a knife, a bat, a barrel, a boulder or a whip, a quick couple of punches would make them drop it, giving you the chance to dish out some pain. Secondly, the fantastic soundtrack they managed to squeeze out of the hardware, the game is packed with classic, catchy tunes, which have got to earn the prize of some of the best game music ever. Thirdly, the still unbeaten 2-player mode. Which allowed you to "accidentally" hurt your teammate to gain the upper hand, as well as the surprisingly satisfying fight for the girl at the end. And last but not least, the amount of moves at your disposal. Okay, so there wasn’t THAT much, but what game at the time could boast the ability to do all the traditional fighting game moves liking kicking or punching, as well as cheap head butts, and the ever handy elbow, which are only a few of the dirty tricks you can pull of.

The characters were big, detailed, and varied in comparison to the other po-faced fighters out there, and the protagonists Billy and Jimmy were pretty much an olden-day Ryu and Ken (of Street Fighter fame), despite predating them by many years. Within the army of generic thugs was a true videogame hall of famer. A man no other computer game character could ever come close to. Yes, it was Abobo, whose popularity should have definitely been exploited. His disproportionately skinny legs and over-sized head are quite simply the fondest memories of any videogame I’ve ever had, and the image in my head shall remain with me until the grave.

A gazillion home conversions and a couple of board games later, Double Dragon returned to the arcade seen with "The Revenge", a slightly upgraded, semi-sequel to the original. Despite it being an obvious cheap cash-in, the NES version managed to become a completely different, and more polished game. Gamers were taken completely off guard by the atrocious third game in the series, "The Rosetta Stones" in 1991, which bore little, if no resemblance to any of the other DD games, and managed to somehow become mind-numbingly boring and slow. Mysteriously, the NES version again came out better, and almost completely different. Thankfully, things began looking up when Super Double Dragon hit the SNES, as it proved the magic was still there, as well as becoming the best scrolling fighter ever to grace the system. Despite it’s success, things were becoming quite apparent that Billy and Jimmy’s popularity were fading, and Tradewest. Who held the rights to the first game, were stuck with a license that wasn’t really up to scratch. What do you do with a slowly dying game series that is going nowhere fast? Why, you tack it on to a completely unrelated game of a similar genre, that’s what you do! Tradewest managed to convince RARE to do a Battletoads game with the Lee brothers and a selected few of the games enemies tacked on for the sake of sales. Surprisingly, the game wasn’t have bad, and in a way it worked, the Dragons were on their way back to stardom. As the god-awful cartoon series gained popularity, Tradewest decided to get their sister company Leland to do a game based on that. Not surprisingly, the game sucked, and instead of being a beat ’em up in the style of earlier games, they opted for the typical "tournament" style game, a la Mortal Kombat. By the time the movie was out, Technos, the developer of the original game, had finished their own Tournament fighter, to coincide with its release. It proved relatively popular in Japan and South America, but it was becoming quite apparent that the games popularity was well and truly over. The only other game since was the "Unofficial" Neo-Geo game Rage of the Dragons, which borrowed a few of the characters from earlier games, with some slight name changes (Abobo became Abubo, and Billy and Jimmy’s last name was changed from Lee to Lewis). Hopefully, if the upcoming GBA remake proves successful, then this won’t be the last we see of our heroes (or Abobo).

Among the oddities that Tradewest pumped out in an attempt to create interest for the series was a Marvel comic-book which saw Billy and Jimmy turning into "super-heroes" as opposed to true martial artist, a forgettable, incredibly corny cartoon series, and what is probably the greatest film ever made. That’s right, the Double Dragon movie is fantastic, despite having bad choreography, dialogue and effects. What makes it so fantastic is the fact that it has Alyssa Milano and Robert Patrick! And not only that, but Alyssa Milano force-feeding Abobo Spinach! It really is that great!

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