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Double Dragon – Game Boy

Double Dragon – Game Boy

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy

Developer: Technos Japan

Publisher: Tradewest

Release Date (NA): 1990

Genre: Beat ‘Em Up

Nerd Rating4.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Double Dragon: A game that was once highly revered in the arcade scene. If you were a coin-op hound like myself, then you clearly know that Double Dragon was the baddest of the bad – and that’s “bad” in a cool way, folks. This original beat ’em up was released in 1987 in arcades and saw early ports to NES, Master System, some Atari’s, and numerous other home consoles! Soon after, Double Dragon was ported to Game Boy, which is the game we’ll be playing today, ya heard?

In 1989, Nintendo unveiled the creme-de-la-creme of portable gaming with their handheld Game Boy system, and it wouldn’t take long before numerous other big players would follow suit. Ever heard the saying that “shit rolls downhill?” Well, this sort of applied to games during this era. Not always, but sometimes. Arcade machines were big and strong and could handle a lot of power, right? So these awesome games would be released in arcades, then a smaller and [typically] inferior version of that game would get ported to a home console system. And lastly, an even smaller and even more inferior version of that already inferior home port would be ported to a handheld gaming system like the Game Boy, Game Gear, TurboExpress, Lynx, etc……………. WELCOME TO DOUBLE DRAGON ON GAME BOY.

Double Dragon is a beat’em up game, so the premise is extremely simple and needs little explanation. But for those unfamiliar with the genre, you run around the screen, typically in left-to-right side scrolling fashion, punching, kicking, and beating up hordes of enemies. The general purpose of the game is to fight your way from one side of the stage to the next until you face a “level boss.” Beating that boss gets you to the next level. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Finishing all enemies on screen in order to advance to the next screen is a commonplace feature of the genre and Double Dragon is no different. While Double Dragon may have been released at a time when the genre was still in its infancy, playing it today clearly shows that numerous other developers borrowed heavily from its style, concepts, and premises. So it could be said that the game was influential, but I cannot attest to that personally. I am purely speculating based on experience in the industry.

What the fuck the story is supposed to be is beyond me. Without having the manual or game case in hand, which is something I must say that I do not own, we are left to wonder why we roam the streets with grandparent speed and childlike strength. The protagonist, whom I am told is Billy Lee, has two speeds: stop and WHAT THE FUCK SLOW. Not only does he move around the screen quite lethargically, he also punches with the power of a preschooler taking a nap. That is to say that he is extremely slow and weak and just… just… UGH. You may be wondering why I’m setting the bar so high for an almost 30 year old Game Boy game. But I tell you, ladies and gentleman, it is because some games just should not be made. Mortal Kombat comes to mind. The Game Boy is just not strong enough to handle the style of play for the fighting game genre or the beat ’em up genre. It just doesn’t work. But as bad as Double Dragon‘s execution is, there are a few positives worth noting.

Firstly, the animation and graphics are pretty superb. They’re not flawless, but they look pretty damn good on the classic dot-matrix screen! Background level animations are crisp and easily decipherable from the foreground (something that not all early 1990s games can say), and sprite animations aren’t so bad either! Surprisingly, in only rare moments would I get my character mixed up with the enemy, but in other moments, I couldn’t even FIND my character AT ALL. This is partly because the quasi-3D layering would cause your character to go in and out of visibility if an enemy or boss is right on top of you. Frustrating indeed.

Secondly, the music and sound effects are mostly solid. My esteemed colleague ZB (he’s an incredible writer and avid retro gaming enthusiast, I encourage you to explore his articles on Nerd Bacon) is a big Game Boy fan, and he tends to appreciate most Game Boy music much more than myself. So whenever I am judging the score of a game like this, I try to put myself in his shoes and see if I can hear what he might hear. Of course the quality is absolute shit. It’s a Game Boy for Pete’s sake! But all things considered, Double Dragon‘s score is actually not so bad. It is mostly forgettable as there isn’t a single catchy tune to be found, but it isn’t bothersome either.

So as you read through my review of the game, you can see that it’s mostly negative. But for all the things that I hate about Double Dragon, and the fact that I strongly believe the game probably never should have been made, I cannot argue with how the game functions. It is a solid game. The level designs are decent, the animations are good, the sound is good, there are no major bugs or glitches that get me trapped in a wall or whatever, and the game does progress and is playable. So all-in-all, it IS a video game and it does what it should. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

Overall, Double Dragon for Game Boy is a shoot and a miss, Shaq style. The developers obviously have the skills and experience, but they don’t make all the free-throws. Taking on a project like this probably wasn’t very easy, but they put forth what I believe to be a genuinely decent effort. I cannot discredit or bash Technos Japan for this turd-pile of a game because they made the most of what the current technology allowed. But at the same time, I absolutely can, and will, bash them for thinking this could work out. There is no denying that Double Dragon is slow, boring, and monotonous. The enemies all feel the same and the limited move-set (kick, punch, flying kick) literally remove all strategy and put the game right into the “button-masher” category. I spent only $5 on Double Dragon, but that’s a Big Box Lunch at Hardees and I probably would be happier eating that. Damn I’m hungry right now.

Nerd Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.


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