Double Dragon was the landmark that everyone had been waiting for. The graphics were bright, colourful well animated and smooth and the sound contained some of the most legendary game music ever to be composed as well as some amazingly meaty sampled punch and kick sound effects which really added a lot to the impact of the game. Double Dragon's main feature though, was the addition of the simultaneous 2-player mode where you and a friend could play on screen at the same time fighting the baddies (or each other) together. This idea was revolutionary at the time and added an element to the gameplay that just wasn't present beforehand.
Technos went on to make two sequels, the innovative but not-so-very-different Double Dragon II: The Revenge (or Double Dragon 1.5 as I like to call it) and the bunglingly awful Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stones. The sequels never topped the first game's action gameplay but they did both have amazing music. It's easy to see why Double Dragon was so popular at the time and has lasted so well. It's 'guy' appeal is almost overwhelming and it's a tough game to crack too. Later beat em' ups appeared which offered bigger graphics and more impressive moves but for a down and dirty street fight with scars, grubby fingernails and teeth that really bite you just couldn't, and still can't go wrong with Double Dragon.
In 1988 Techmo entered the field with their offering and the second in the holy trilogy. Not only did they take the scrolling beat 'em up formula one step further but they unknowingly started a Nintendo Entertainment System revolution as well. Ninja Ryukenden was released in October 1988 in Japan under the name Shadow Warriors in Europe and Ninja Gaiden in the U.S.. The game did reasonably well and took the concept of Double Dragon where players 1 and 2 control a blue and red ninja respectively and go around more grubby urban settings kicking ass to try and foil a prophecy by Nostradamus (what?).
Konami hit the fun button in 1989 with the Teenage Mutant Ninja (Hero....whatever) Turtles arcade game. Strikingly good visuals and sound for the time, the game offered a then unheard of simultaneous FOUR player mode in which you could control all the Turtles on screen at the same time and although an obvious cash in on the Turtles craze and very much a shallow coin guzzler with not much skill other than frantic button mashing which produced what seemed like random moves it was good fun nonetheless. Konami later updated the engine and cabinet for The Simpsons arcade game which in all respects was really the same game in different garb.
It's hard to describe just how revolutionary Final Fight was at the time but a good example is a comparison with Gang Wars, another scrolling beat 'em up also released in 1989 by SNK. Put side by side you can see the huge leap forward that Capcom made and how far ahead of the game they were. Gang Wars is essentially a Double Dragon clone with similar sized sprites and moves and although it's a fun enough game it looks incredibly dated when next to Capcom's monster despite being released the same year.
In 1991 they changed the face of the beat' em up genre once again and probably for all time......
NEXT - Part 3: The Competition Stormblast
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.