Two years after Double Dragon was ported from the arcade to the NES, it came to the Game Boy. For those that don’t know, Double Dragon is a classic brawling beat’em up that has you playing as Billy Lee fighting against waves of gang members. This portable version loosely follows the NES version and sticks to the great NES art style. The stages (missions) feel quicker even if some are extended if not new just for this port. There’s nothing ground breaking here, but it does still feel fresh and like a real transition between the first and second Double Dragons for the NES.
The art isn’t the only thing that stays close to the NES version, but its the fantastic music as well. Its not perfect, it feels a little blurry and wavy at times, but that’s the Game Boy hardware for you. The mission interlude music is notably gone along with any graphics for the mission title cards. Some of the music feels played out of order.
For anyone that needs a story, its as simple as its always been. Your girlfriend Marian was punched in the stomach and taken away by William and other Shadow Warrior goons. You’ll then plod through to the end where you’ll take on Willy to get her back. That’s love for you. You’ll face a man with a machine gun unarmed. Not to mention the hundred men and women you’ll punch, kick and throw to their demise. They picked the wrong girl to kidnap.
The game is simple and fun to play. It stays true to the NES, using B to kick, A to punch and pressing both simeltaneous will perform a jump kick. This jump kick looks as if you’re hovering. There are no unlockable moves or attacks, instead you’ve got them all unlocked from the start. Punches turn into an uppercut. Kicks turn into a roundhouse. You can still hair pull enemies, knee them in the face and throw them over your shoulder, but these throws look lack luster if not glitched. You’ve even got a back elbow to use when an enemy sneaks up behind you. The only maneuvers that seems to be missing are the headbutt and the ability to mount your opponents. They’re so easy that most of them are dead by the time they hit the ground for the first time.
This isn’t an easy game, you’ve got three lives with every 20,000 points giving you an extra. Every new level will refill your health and you’ve got plenty of it. The big problem isn’t the enemies, its the death pits, Abobo and punishment for death. Every death doesn’t restart you where you were, it sends you back to where you entered the level. In the first level its not an issue, because its broken into parts. By the third level, its a daunting task to restart the entire level again. Losing all of your lives will start you all over from the first level again.
Double Dragon will take you from the mean streets, through a construction zone, through the woods and all the way to the Shadow Warrior’s secret fortress. The city streets have been altered, the ladders and glitches have been taken away. The end has a room with a death pit, before a different area with Abobo waiting for you. The construction zone feels unique since its 2D for the most part. It now relies on ladder climbing and gap jumping from conveyer belt to conveyer belt. There’s even an elevator that takes you to where you were before you had to climb up a ladder to get to the elevator.
The third mission with the woods follows closer to the arcade, at the end you’ll jump down to a bridge before climbing up a rock face and entering the doorway to the fourth mission. You’ll also find a bridge gap you’ll need to jump over. Its pretty interesting how the game has remixed the enemies, so you’ll see Lindas on the bridge with you. You can even get one or both to dive into the water to their demise. The fourth mission is a cave section from the NES game complete with falling stalagmites and lava gap jumping. From there, you’ll climb up the side of a mountain and into the Shadow Warriors fortress.
Even the Game Boy version Double Dragon blends 2D side scrolling with full belt scrolling. The further you make it into game, the more you’ll see an influence toward Double Dragon 2. The final level especially feels like the first level from Double Dragon 2.
All of your favorite enemies are here, but you can only take on one type of enemy at a time due to the Game Boy’s limitations. Lindas are weak and now come with whips and bats. Artistically, Lindas have changed their look. They now wear short skirts and have pony tails. Williams can now carry bats and grenades instead of dynamite. One of the nice new features is carrying a bat from enemy to enemy. Rowpers will carry barrels and rocks to hurl at you. Chins can carry swords and jump when you throw them in order to land on their feet. Its a nice change. These enemies are relatively easy, its Abobo that’s tougher than ever. He’s got the reach advantage and he just doesn’t go down. He can take a jump kick to the face and still stay up. He’s a beast in this game. He’ll also catch you in mid air and punch you into oblivion.
If you can have one brawler on the Game Boy, this is it. The music and graphics make it feel on par with the console even despite the smaller screen. Including new and extended levels is also a big selling point why people should play this in a sea of Double Dragon ports.