Gaming Impossible: Double Dragon


About three days ago, I received a memo from upstairs. I was told I was getting a new responsibility.

Great! I said in the meeting that followed. Does that mean you guys will start paying me?

Nope, The suits told me. You have a new job.

Their “job” was to make me play through the hardest old school video games ever made — and attempt to beat them. Mind you, this isnt me playing games that suck. You guys have the Angry Video Game Nerd for that one. My job was to take gems, well remembered games and see, if after all these years, maturity, and body fat accumulated if they could be beaten after they made us break controllers years ago. Apparently the decision came from them after they saw this video:

Yes that is me playing at SA Gaming, and it took me mere days to do that.

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I still write this in dark corners, where the janitor hasnt been in months, and they never bring me Friday Starbucks.

Apparently part of my job description is to allow my peers to see my miserable, because now I have to revisit my childhood playing some of the hardest games ever made. Our first game is Double Dragon. No, not the arcade game. Were doing that wimpy NES port that everyone said was awesome until two years ago when they realized its awful. This is Gaming Impossible.



This might suck…

  • Lives: 3
  • Continues: None
  • Levels: 4
  • Stage most get stuck at:Stage 3

Double Dragon is probably the first beat em many in the NES generation had access to. As far as the arcade is concerned, Final Fight walked in and did everything so much better they may as well stop trying.

Well they kinda did. Super Double Dragon (made for the Super Nintendo) was the last thing I saw, though there could be more games Im not aware of. Well, besides that awful Street Fighter knock-off that came later.

As for the story. Well, here watch this:

Thats pretty much it.

The problem with Double Dragon was while it was the first, or at least the first to do it right, it wasnt the best. Much like Karate Champ was the first good fighting game until Street Fighter 2 arrived, Final Fight did everything DD did, but better. With that said, the arcade version of DD chomped down many of my quarters and probably still would. It’s a classic in any regard.

The NES port however, is a different story. For one thing there is no 2p co-op like the arcade. Instead you went alternating players a la Super Mario. If player one makes it to MISSION 2 (yes the MISSIONS are written in all caps), player 2 could be stuck in MISSION 1. Theres the games first strike. Strike 2 is the level design; you have to navigate through some annoying platforming segments to proceed. This isn’t a platformer, you’re required to press both ‘a’ and ‘b’ simultaneously to jump. Finally, the game gives you two lives and no continues-at least 2continues would be adequate for a game of this size. The good news is I have four stages to beat. Bad news? Ill probably die in the fourth stage.


THE MISSION(as ordered by the suits at GIDN)

  • Attempts allowed: 10
  • Attempt Definition: All lives exhausted.
  • Outside assistance (YouTube, Not Allowed

Attempt 1

If memory serves me right, Double Dragons movesets arent available from the start. You accumulate hearts and with each heart a move unlocks. You cant even uppercut until you gain enough experience for the level. With this knowledge in mind I set out trying to get as many experience points as possible to build up my moveset.

See those hearts? I need a lot of those. My goal is to only use punches and kicks until they are maxed out. I should have enough moves to plow through enemies then.

Now you get experience points only by melee attacks. Using the weapons dropped off by the goons yields nothing. So once I picked up the first weapon available, a whip from the Mohawk chick enemies later to be known as Linda, I dropped it as quick as possible and went back to hand to hand combat. You also get more points using punches instead of kicks. I found this out by MISSION 2. Problem is, landing a stream of punches is easier said than done. Regardless, by using this method, I wound up with my whole moveset by MISSION 3-and lost my last life thanks to that stupid pair of Abobos who drill through the cave.

Attempt 2

Punch, Punch, Punch. Boy this game is boring when youre farming experience for your special moves. By level 3 I got everything maxed out, which is good. Of course by the time you get to that point, I was up against the pair of Abobos again and down to one piece of energy. After that life was used, I kicked the crap out of them and headed into the caves.

This is where DD gets really frustrating. The only way to jump is by pressing both a and b simultaneously. Simon Belmont from Castlevania thinks Billy Lees controls are stiff. So why am I bitching about this? Because the caverns require me to make this jump:


Billy: “This is bull.”


Gee thanks. My first instinct is to try and hop to the far right platform and ignore that middle one. Imagine the obscenities when for some reason Billy stopped going forward and fell downinto one of the lava pits.

My next life didnt fare that much better.

Attempts 3 and 4

Until MISSION 3, DD has been a fairly consistent and balanced game. The challenge does rise but it never gets to frustrated measures. Then MISSION 3 shows up and does what NES games do best-make you break controllers.

I got back to the caverns, all three of my lives intact and lost oneagain to the stupid platforms. My next life I managed to get over them. How? I dont know. I initially fell down and landed on the cliffs above the lava pit and beat up some goons to get back to where I started. Then I made it over. From there I wound up in a weird waterfall area with guys throwing sticks of dynamite at me.

Keep in mind, I dont have any way to move down to dodge these, and ducking is not a control option. So lets look at this normally. Ive got thugs on each end, with explosives they can throw, and I have no way of dodging them besides well placed punches.

While I did make it through here, I found myself again at a platform section and died. Twice.

Boot, reload, died in the same area. Again.

Attempt 5

Somehow(I dont know how) I made it out of the caves with one life left and into a section of ladders and rooms where I beat up a garrison of Lindas. Of course then I heard a door open, but no idea where to go to. Jumping around, with only one life left, I frantically looked for an opening into this phantom door. That was until I found myself here:

Notice those ridges above me? That’s a ladder, there’s one on every ledge…except here.

Yes, I have no way up, and Im stuck here. Game over. Back to the beginning.

Attempt 6

Ive come to the realization after these five attempts that these guys level up with Billy Lee. I base this solely on the fact none of them can jump kick until Billy can which is when he gets his third heart.

I also have come to the realization that the backspin kick, the last ability you earn and replacement to the roundhouse is next to useless since everyone can simply dodge it. So who needs to max out hearts that early? Im just gonna delay this difficulty spike and see where it gets me.

Armed with this knowledge I again trekked through Double Dragon. Only this time I could enjoy the game a bit more. No longer left with sole punches until level 3, I kicked my way through and picked up every weapon I could find.

I wound up getting the jump kick towards the end of level 2, which means there is no way I can delay the difficulty spike Im getting. Regardless, I made my way through that bloody stage where I was left with no way but a simple death into the final MISSION: MISSION 4. And I was promptly introduced to this:

And what a great idea it is to give me these little bricks that stick out and hit mewith no pattern. Thanks, Tradewest!

Oh and another thank you for unleashing the Chintais. But armed with knives. Who chuck them immediately.

Chintai, I can’t really express how much you suck.

Yeah, this must be the last stage. After losing a life beating up Chintais, I wound up losing another to Abobo a few feet later and finally ended up in this dojo of sorts. Now I dont know how many goons this place has, but I beat all of them up

…and I continued beating them up until my timer ran out.

Are you kidding me? The game just throws this crap at me for the hell of it. Up until now there was some foundation and some challenge, now its just stacking everything against me.

I got four more attempts to finish this thing.

Attempt 7

I failed to even make it to the last stage due to MISSION 3s love of platforming and screwing me over. Once again I died thanks to those three platforms moving around. After falling off them I went through the usual barrage of enemies to put me back on the same area. Unfortunately when I began dodging the cavern spikes that were falling, my controller locked up for some reason and I got whacked good. This turned into a combo of sorts for the environment because each time I got up, another spike dropped to drain my energy.

Shortly after that, I was killed falling into lava (mistiming pressing both a and b at the same time).

My last life was taken by Abobo. By this point, with no lives left, I knew I wasnt getting much further anyways, so I kinda lost on principle.

By now the descent into trying to beat this game has taken its toll on my soul. Double Dragon isnt impossible in the sense it cant be beaten, its just flat out annoying that its hard for the wrong reasons. This isnt fun. At all. Fighting Abobo is a chore, platforming has no place in a beat em up, and the controls suck.

Attempt 8

Before we go on with this let me make one good clean statement: Abobo, I hope you go to hell. No only that, I hope that when you reach hell, the devil chains your steroid injected body to flame metal and you have to carry a large globe on your shoulders for all eternity. You also have to take 10 lashings with a seat belt every 10 seconds for all of eternity.

This is Abobo. I hope he chokes on his protein shakes.

Ahem. Now that thats out of the way, I lost a life to the Abobo duo in MISSION 3, if you get to these two with half a life bar, youre screwed. I was no different. They slapped me around, cost my life and even with a full life bar, they knocked the crap out of me to two life pelts left.

Now, there is a way to beat them untouched-just jump kick the crap out of them. The problem with this is simple: it takes 15 minutes to kill them. I dont know about you, but I dont want to be jump kicking for one, let alone two for over 15 minutes.

My second life came at the cost of falling into the lava in MISSION 3.

And I again died thanks to that garrison of thugs in MISSION 4. The good news is I died with 54 seconds left. So maybe, MAYBE I almost had them all dead.

Attempt 9

I once again found myself with a full life stock going into the caves of MISSION 3 and was promptly killed by those pesky Chintais roaming the beginning of the level.

It didnt help matters much once I hit MISSION 4 to lose yet another life to those jerks. Which brought me back again to the final gauntlet that I inevitably have ran out of time on.

I got a good groove with these thugs finally. I found a good door just above a pit of water (instant death) and started jump kicking away once they came in, plunging them into their watery graves. The ones who somehow cleared the gap and landed on the platform meant for me to advance on were dealt with swiftly. I was going great.

Then the timer ran out. No not almost there. I ran out of time. Fighting thugs. Who knows if I would have been on the last one or last five? I still had to find the damn door. In any case, I ran out of time fighting a generic trash character, especially when I had a groove going.

Is there an end to the assault of these guys? I dont know. Possibly the ones who have seen the end got a buggy cart that didnt make this drop of enemies endless.

All Ive found is what was once a cool frantic idea to be flat ridiculous in execution. By now I know the game pretty well and SHOULD be losing lives to a cheap final boss. Not some stupid sadistic programming technique forcing me to fight a million copies of the same generic enemy before times runs out. Oh and you have to find the exit before time runs out. You know, after you kill the generic enemies.

Attempt 10

I hit game over in the MISSION 3 caverns.

Final Thoughts

Double Dragon caps out the fun by the middle of MISSION 3. From there, the game gets difficult for the wrong reasons. Try playing Final Fight in the vein of a 2D side scroller with no isometric plane to walk around on to see what Im talking about. Once the game gets onto the cavern levels, it goes into overdrive and simply isnt fun anymore.

The games actual projectile and level design earn it no points either. Spikes fall from the cavern ceilings with no pattern while Pieces of the MISSION 4 wall slide out to nail your character with no way to prepare or even predict it. Make matters worse, when your character gets hit by one of these projectiles, hes very well a sitting duck for more as they will continue to pound away randomly and there is no way to dodge them.

But the biggest failure is the fact that I pretty much ran out of time three times in the last stage. Even for old school video games, you really gotta be jerking around to run out of time in ANYTHING. It goes to ridiculousness when I run out of time killing the same enemy over and over again.

But the big question is the challenge. Did I complete it? Hell no. I didnt even come close. Upon checking youtube I realized I was in the final stretch, but I can only guess if we went to 25 attempts that I would be tangoing with the boss a few times. I still dont think Id beat this.

This game is beatable. Ill give it that. Its not something that will take a lot of time, but you wont feel very rewarded for it. Its not even like the NES Battletoads where you can look cool blazing through it after youve mastered it.

In short, NES Double Dragon, I hope someone collects all the copies of you and puts you in a landfill next to Atari E.T.

Author: Pat Holloway View all posts by
Patrick Holloway is a video games journalist with a wealth of knowledge about the industry. When he's not reading up on every news bit on the internet about the gaming industry he's lifting weights. He likes grilled salmon sushi.

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