Left-to-right scrolling, beat ’em-up games were a staple in the arcade landscape of the 80s and 90s. Titles like Double Dragon, Cadillac and Dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Golden Axe were monster hits and have become classics in the beat ’em-up genre, but one in particular deserves a next-gen reboot.
The arcade game was released in 1987 by Japanese company Technos. It was later ported to home consoles like NES, Gameboy, Atari and Sega Master System. The game was a huge commercial success and set off the Golden Age of beat ’em up releases that littered the late 80s and 90s. The story of Double Dragon in the original arcade version saw twin brothers Billy and Jimmy fight through the Black Warriors Gang to save Billy’s girlfriend, Marion.
The gameplay gave players the pleasure of kneeing enemies in the face and using baseball bats and knives to attack the Black Warrior Gang. Various martial arts techniques like basic punches and kicks and more complex techniques such as hair-grabbing moves or the famous elbow punch were also part of your arsenal. When playing with another player, one can assist the other by grabbing their partner’s opponent from behind.
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The game was so successful that a television cartoon was developed in 1993 and a live-action film in 1994. The premise of the animated series was based on the ported NES version. The show’s premise is that the protagonist’s brothers are separated at birth. Billy is raised by an elderly martial arts master known as the Oldest Dragon, and the evil Shadow Master raises his brother Jimmy as his second-in-command, the Shadow Boss.
As a result, the Lee brothers oppose each other as adults. When the Shadow Master betrays Jimmy, he renounces his evil ways and joins his brother as a Dragon Warrior. During the series, the brothers recruit allies in their war against the Shadow Master and his henchmen. The futile search for their father, John Lee, is a subplot throughout the series.
Reboots and New Releases
Double Dragon (Neo Geo) was an updated version of the older versions. The 1995 update was an attempt to tie into the release of the Double Dragon film released the previous year in 1994. Double Dragon (Neo Geo) was released for arcades but was soon made available for consoles like the PS1.
The game attempted to upgrade to the more popular one-on-one fighting games of the mid-nineties. The beat-up genre struggled to compete with popular games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. Technos decided to jump on the bandwagon and released Double Dragon (Neo Geo), their own classic one-on-one fighting game.
The game’s popularity waned in the 2000s, but various game developers released new titles under the Double Dragon name with mixed results. The latest release is 2023’s Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons. It is for home consoles, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC and PlayStation. Double Dragon Gaiden has a classic gameplay in the old-school beat ’em-up style.
Double Dragon Gaiden is a solid new game, but a next-gen franchise reboot would have been better. The old school beat ’em-up gameplay and pixelated graphics could have been given a rest, and a more modern approach should have been embraced. The animated series was criticized at the time. Still, it had an interesting story which could be used as a basis for a rebooted Double Dragon that utilizes modern graphics and more sophisticated gameplay.
Double Dragon was released in 1987.
It was one of the best beat ’em-up games from the 80’s and spawned many clones.
The game has had its ups and downs but needs to be rebooted with modern graphics, more sophisticated gameplay and a better storyline similar to the Double Dragon animated series.
Does Double Dragon need a modern next-gen reboot, or should it continue as an old-school beat ’em-up video game?