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It's Been 30 Years Since Billy and Jimmy Lee Double Fisted The Dragon

Double Dragon

Ever overhear your Grandpa mumble about how time flies? Back in 1987, it all sounded like another run of worldly advice from the squeaky rocking chair in the corner, but not anymore. In the blink of an eye, 30 years have now passed since you and I were down at the arcade playing the newly released co-op fisticuffs game, Double Dragon.

Baby Jeebus, 30 years! Thinking back it does seem like a life time ago when you breakdown all the advancements we have made, particularly pertaining to video games. So what made Double Dragon and its iconic fist pumping twins the Lee brothers so damn awesome?

Firstly, It Was A Team Effort

Nothing cements fond memories more than packing a couple of knuckle sandwiches and hitting the road with your bro to save the love of your lives (yeah, plural). Double Dragon was arguably the first co-op beat 'em game to get all the action just right. It integrated a key set of ingredients that added a new flavour to the evolving palette of gamers that had their taste buds tingling. It did this by cleverly incorporating a mixed bag of attributes that added variety and complexity to an '80s backdrop of stylized violence and limitless whoop-arse.

It's like Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China and Karate Kid's Daniel Larusso somehow managed to sneak onto Paradise Island to explore their love of hide the sausages with an Amazonian. The result is now stuff of '80s legend. A pair of lovesick brothers who make Kung Fury's mastery of the headband arts look like a single child's attempt to feel loved and included.

What really made Double Dragon standout in the crowded aisles of the gaming arcade was how it differed the from the usual competitive adversarial formula. The arcade games were always bigger, louder and more exciting, but with the Lee brothers a new landscape of team based ferocity had emerged. Of course, you could still choose to play against a wider group of people in other games, however, when all the showboating was out of the way, there was nothing better than standing alongside your best mate in a well rehearsed session of fisting the dragon. Double Dragon had successfully demonstrated there was real merit in a two player co-op game that had people coming back for more.

Secondly, Kick-Ass Move Sets

No matter your fighting style, Double Dragon had your favourite pain delivery system covered. The game had a diverse range of smack down fighting combinations that continued to evolve over the series. With the three buttons in Double Dragon the everyday essentials were there, such as:

  • Punch
  • Kick
  • Jump

But if you wanted to turn it up a notch and save Marian from the slimy clutches of the Black Warriors, there were some additional dirty tricks to even the odds. The option was there to bring out some schoolyard favourites that instantly won respect from any would be bully. You could choose:

  • Head Butts
  • Elbow love taps
  • The old grab them by the head and slam a knee in their face, or last but not least
  • Flip them over and throw them down into the dirt where they belong (unfortunately, no tea bag)

Oh, good times. What was even better about the PvE in the game was the ability to accrue weapons and objects throughout the levels. which only added to the mayhem. Just like in real life, when facing over sized, shirtless muscle heads throwing oil drums, boxes, and rocks at you, it's time to appropriately fight back just like your action heroes from the big screen.

Jack Burton: Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it."

Take it they did, but the Lee brothers also made use of their surroundings to gloriously hit back with their own assortment of objects and weapons found throughout the game, including:

  • Baseball bats
  • Whips
  • Drums
  • Knives

Who knew that those early childhood knife throwing practice sessions of lobbing Grandma's silverware would ever come in handy for the Lee brothers? No longer aimed at careless mailmen or sleeping grandparents, their skills with any weapon was indispensable to overcoming the waves of clueless gang members along the way. Ready and waiting, their calloused grips fused with the multitude of weapons to deliver righteous 8-bit justice against those who stood in your path.

Lastly, The Final Fight

Like any great story there should always be an unexpected twist at the finale. Double Dragon was no exception to this rule and had a twist straight out of Chubby Checkers's play book. It goes like this: After overcoming all the odds, you're left staring at the podium of success and realize there is only space for one Lee brother. Awkward!

With their single-minded focus to save the girl, the Lee brothers never thought about the old "three's a crowd" rule. Unfortunately for the Lee brothers, Marian was a one guy gal. Their strong round house bond as brothers had prevailed where others would surely have failed, and now that bond was to be broken. Like two charging locomotives fueled on adrenaline powered love, it was now time for the final boss fight: The Lee brothers face off. This amazing WTF moment at the end took the final bragging rights back to the PvP arena to conclude the game. Too good! If you did chose to hog the game and go alone, the final battle was still there, only it was only you verses a carbon copy wanabee. Yeah, not really the same.

The Dragon's Wings Were Eventually Clipped

After the critical acclaim of the arcade version, Double Dragon later became a "must have" item on many platforms including the NES and Atari 2600.

At its peak, Double Dragon was made into a movie that sadly represented its less than perfect transition into the modern world. Originally, the Lee brothers marked a key milestone of change and innovation that people lived for. The problem for the game was that nothing really jumped out in a similar fashion and its success plateaued. Other developers continued to give it a crack with new adaptations still being released on PC and modern consoles to this day. In the end though, it's hard to emulate '80s old-school perfection in a modern era far removed from the arcade.

Originating from our love of games such as Double Dragon, the years (and money) invested in button bashing has seen our interest in gaming only grow and grow. As the years pass by and the knees continue to weaken from overzealous shuffling to '90s dance music, the epic battles of the Lee brothers will live on.

Did you love playing Double Dragon, too? 

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