Double Dragon

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Double Dragon title screen (arcade)

Double Dragon (spelled in kanji as 双截龍) is a classic beat 'em up series initially developed by Technos Japan Corporation, who also developed the Nekketsu Kouha: Kunio-Kun series. The original game was designed by a man named Yoshihisa Kishimoto, who originally conceived the game as a Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun sequel using the localized version (Renegade) as a basis. The game was heavily influenced by martial arts films, especially those of Bruce Lee's such as Enter the Dragon. The recently released Double Dragon Advance was planned by Muneki Ebinuma, who previously designed Super Double Dragon and was also involved in Double Dragon '95 as a fight choreographer.

The series stars twin brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee, who are masters of a fictional martial arts called Sou-Setsu-Ken (双截拳) as they fight against various adversaries and rivals. Double Dragon has had several sequels and has been ported to several different platforms. Due to the popularity of the game series, a cartoon and movie adaptation have also been produced.



  • Billy Lee - The hero of the series. Billy began his martial arts training along with his brother at an early age, mastering several fighting styles and techniques as he grew up until he reached adulthood, when he became the Sou-Setsu-Ken succesor. Since he's the main character, Billy's role is often assigned to the first player and usually wears a blue outfit. He had blond hair in the original Arcade versions, but was subsequently changed to brown hair in the main home versions. According to the instruction manual in the Japanese version of Super Double Dragon, Billy is a master of the Southern-style of Sou-Setsu-Ken, which teaches flexible techniques. Billy's favorite weapon is the nunchaku.
  • Jimmy Lee - Billy's older twin brother and the assistant instructor of their dojo, where they teach the Sou-Setsu-Ken art form to students. In the original Double Dragon, Jimmy was secretly in love with Billy's girlfriend, Marian, a rivalry which would lead to a battle between the brothers at the end of the game. Jimmy's role in the series is usually that of the second player and wears a red outfit. He originally had brown hair in the arcade versions, but was changed to blond hair in the home versions. He was also given a different hairstyle to set the character apart visually from Billy. In Super Double Dragon, Jimmy uses the Northern-style of Sou-Setsu-Ken, which specializes in strong techniques. His preferred weapons are the bo and kali sticks.
  • Marian Kelly - Billy's girlfriend. The earlier games originally conceived Marian as a female martial arts instructor, but her abilities were rarely shown and she usually played the role of a damsel in distress within the games. Later games in the series made her into a policewoman and then as a leader of a positive street gang, based on her portrayal in the Double Dragon cartoon and movie respectively. Her canonical full name, Marian Kelly, is revealed in the Japanese version of Super Double Dragon (Return of Double Dragon) through the manual, although she also bore the surnames of Steele, Delario and Martin in the various adaptations outside the games.
  • Abobo - A big, strong, muscle-bound thug and arguably the series' most recognizable villain. Abobo first appeared as the first stage boss in the original Double Dragon. Since then, various head swapped and palette swapped versions of the character have appeared through the series, such as Bolo, Oharra and Mibobo (the official name of the Green Abobo in Double Dragon Advance). He was also a playable character in Double Dragon '95 and is the only villain from the actual games that has appeared in both the Double Dragon cartoon and movie.
  • Willy - Leader and "Big Boss" of the Black Warriors and the final boss of the first Double Dragon and of the arcade version of Double Dragon II. Unlike other enemies in the series who fight the Lee's with martial arts or melee weapons, Willy is armed with a machine gun. His gang is renamed the Shadow Warriors in Double Dragon Advance.
  • Mysterious Warrior - In the NES version of Double Dragon II he is the leader of an armed group (sometime referred as the Shadow Warriors in the localized versions) which includes the remnants of the Black Warriors. He uses the deadly fighting style of Gen-Satsu-Ken (幻殺拳), an evil counterpart of Sou-Setsu-Ken.
  • Duke - In Super Double Dragon, he leads the Shadow Warriors and is a former childhood friend of the Lee brothers.

Double Dragon Game Series (official games)

Double Dragon (1987)

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Double Dragon (arcade)

The arcade version of the game was originally developed by Technos released in 1987 and distributed worldwide by Taito (who are often mistakenly credited for creating the game). The original Double Dragon was one of the earliest beat-em-ups or side-scrolling fighting games in which a player fights against a swarm of adversaries using martial arts or other close-combat techniques. Set in a post-apocalyptic version of New York, the goal in Double Dragon was to rescue your character's kidnapped girlfriend, Marian, from a gang known as the "Black Warriors." A single player would play as the game's hero, Billy Lee (in blue, who earned the unofficial nickname of Hammer by Taito), while a second player could join in as his brother, Jimmy Lee (in red, nicknamed Spike by Taito). The enemies in the game would use several techniques against the player, including the usage of weapons, which during such a case the enemy could be disarmed and have his or her weapon taken by the player. There were total of four stages or "missions" in the game, each with a different boss waiting at the end of the stage. The leader of the Black Warriors and the final boss in the game was Willy, who fought using a machine gun against the player. If two players manage to beat the game together, the game would force both of them to fight against each other and see who would win Marian.

Technos Japan developed their own home versions of the game for the Famicom/NES in 1988 and Game Boy in 1990. Both of these versions were localized and published worldwide by a video game company named Tradewest (a subsidiary of LeLand Corp.), which also earned them a worldwide license for the Double Dragon brand (excluding Japan). The NES version in particular took various liberties with the game. The level designs were redone abit (more platform-oriented areas such as a cave and a mountain were added), a learning system was added (player could no longer perform all their techniques from the start, but had to earn them through experience points) and most notably of all, two players could no longer play simultaneously in the main game, but instead they had to alternate turns. Jimmy Lee, the character originally assigned to the second player in the arcade version, appears as the final boss after the player defeats Willy (the explanation provided by the developers explained that Jimmy was the true mastermind behind the Black Warriors and Marian's kidnapping). To compensate for the lack of a proper 2-Player Mode, Technos added a new versus mode featuring large-sized characters in which the player could choose between the Lee brothers and five of the enemies in the game (the mode was limited to "mirror matches" however).

The Game Boy version of the game was based on the NES version, however the learning system was dropped and the player no longer fought Jimmy at the end of the game (despite the misleading information Tradewest provided in the manual of the localized version).

In addition, due to Double Dragon's popularity, various licensed versions of the game has been produced by different companies over the years. Sega managed to get a license directly from Technos Japan to produce a version for their Master System game console. This version was very close to the arcade game and has sometime been compared favorably over Technos Japan's own NES version.

Tradewest themselves handed out the license to various western developers such as Accolade, Virgin Games and Telegames, resulting in creation of various home versions for various platforms such as the Sega Genesis, Atari 2600 and Atari Lynx over the years, although most of them were usually seen as being of pretty poor quality. A common trait between these versions is that even though they were intentionally based on the arcade game, they often used the (loosely) translated storyline and character information for the packaging and manual of the localized NES version (such as depicting Jimmy as a bad guy) from Tradewest, which they reused despite the discrepancies between the arcade and NES versions.

In 2004, Million Corp. (the current copyrights holder of the Double Dragon) handed the license to Bandai's wireless division to produce a Mobile Phone version of the original Double Dragon.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge (1988)

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Screenshot of Double Dragon II (Arcade)
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Box cover of Double Dragon II for Megadrive (the NES version was censored due to the skin Marian is showing)

Due to the success of the first Double Dragon game, an arcade sequel was made by Technos in 1988. The premise of the game this time have Billy and Jimmy going after Marian's killers, who is murdered right in the beginning of the game. The Arcade version was essentially an updated version of the first game, although the conventional punch and kick control set-up was abandoned and replaced in favor of a two-way attacking system (inspired by Technos Japan's previous beat-em-up, Renegade) in which the functions of the attack buttons depended on the direction the character was facing. Many of the returning characters were given major facelifts (some more noticeable than others), while Billy and Jimmy traded their original blue and red outfits for black and white respectively.

Technos Japan developed a home version for the Famicom/NES (released at the end of 1989) just like did with the first game. This time, the 2-Player simultaneous mode was kept (Jimmy's betrayal in the first NES version of the game was conveniently ignored), with the option to turn the friendly fire on or off, however even more liberties were made in this conversion. Cut-scenes were added which served to narrate the storyline through text and static images, the stages were completely changed (with the NES version featuring twice the amount of stages of the arcade version) and new enemy characters were added (Willy, the main bad guy in the arcade version was removed and a nameless character takes his place as the main villain and the new end-boss). The NES version also featured a different ending in which Marian is restored to life. The worldwide publishing rights for the NES version went to Acclaim this time, who made a few minor changes made to the localized version.

Technos Japan also made a Game Boy version of Double Dragon II in 1991, which was unrelated to the Arcade and NES versions and was published by Acclaim for the western market. This was actually a heavily localized version of the Japanese-only game, Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun: Bangai Rantou-hen, with the game's graphics and sound altered to fit in with Double Dragon's style.

Licensed adaptations of the game were made for the Sega Mega Drive by Pal Soft (based on the arcade version) and for the PC Engine by Naxat Soft (based on the Famicom version). Neither of these versions were released outside of Japan. Even though Tradewest lost the worldwide console rights to Acclaim, they still managed to keep the PC rights for themselves and thus they ported the game to various PC platforms with Virgin Games' cooperation.

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (1990)

In 1990, Technos released the third game of the series. The arcade version of the game was not made in-house by Technos, but instead Technos contracted another company (East Technology, makers of Silent Dragon, Operation: Wolf 3 and Gigandes) to develop the game for them. The premise of the game has the Lee brothers going on a world tour in search of the Rosetta Stones with the help of a fortune teller named Hiruko . The engine from the first two Double Dragon arcade games was not used, but instead East Technology remade the game from scratch with a new engine, revamped graphics and a 3-Players co-op mode (the third player controlled Sonny, a previously unseen third member of the Lee brothers). Its most notable and controversial feature allowed the player to purchase power-ups at certain shops by inserting additional tokens (credits) to the machine. Player could purchase new characters (which would serve as extra men when the player's character dies), weapons (they could no longer be taken from enemies like in previous games), energy (up to 150% the default amount), attack power (which actually increased your character's speed and agility) and tricks (the whirlwind kick and a special overhead technique would be unlocked for the player). Double Dragon 3 was not as popular as the previous two titles partly because of this feature, although it was only included in the US and Worldwide versions of the game. A later Japanese version of the Arcade game dropped the shopping system altogether in favor of a more conventional character select mode, in which the player could choose between the four character types presented in the game (Lee, Chin, Ooyama and Urquidez brothers) from the very start. The player began with all their special moves as default techniques as well and weapons were merely found lying on the floor, waiting to be picked up by the player.

Once again, Technos Japan produced a Famicom/NES version of the game in 1991, although this time it was developed internally by Technos themselves. The premise of the game was kept, but several major changes were made to enhance the gameplay. The player now began with an optional weapon which could be used anytime in additional to your character's primary fighting method (although it had limited uses), while additional characters could be played as in addition to the Lee brothers after defeating them as bosses (the player could now change characters anytime during gameplay). Once again, Acclaim published the NES version outside of Japan and made some major changes in the localized version (released under the title of Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones), most notably increased difficulty and a completely altered storyline.

Acclaim also made their own home versions of Double Dragon 3 for the Sega Genesis and Game Boy based on the Arcade version under the title Double Dragon 3: The Arcade Game. Both of these versions are generally seen as poor in quality. In addition, Tradewest produced ports of the Arcade version to PC platforms, similar to the ones they did for the first two games.

Super Double Dragon (1992)

Released in 1992 for the Super Famicom/SNES platform, Super Double Dragon (originally titled Return of Double Dragon: "Sleeping Dragon" has Awoken in Japan) was the first true Double Dragon title made specifically for the home market. The game played similarly to the first two Double Dragon games, however the player could now block enemy's attacks and grab their fists and a Power Gauge was also added which allowed the player to perform special techniques by filling the gauge while holding the shoulder buttons. One of the most unique aspects of Super Double Dragon involved the Lee brothers' appearances (the characters now head-swapped, making them more distinct) and their techniques, in which their basic techniques differed from each other (the Japanese version explained that Billy and Jimmy mastered different factions of their martial arts-style, Sou-Setsu-Ken). Technos Japan developed the game internally and the worldwide publishing right was once again handed to Tradewest. Despite the nearly simultaneous release, the localized version by Tradewest was based on a much earlier build than the Japanese version (which featured more music, refined gameplay and the latter half of the final stage, missing in the localized version).

The developers originally intended to include cut-scenes similar to those found in the NES versions of Double Dragon II and III, but they were left out due to time constraints despite the fact that most of the necessary data was already inserted to the ROM. As a result, the policewoman Marian (who is mentioned in the game's packaging and manual) never actually appears in the game, while the main villain, Duke, had his backstory left a mystery (he was originally written to be a former childhood friend of the Lee brothers).

Double Dragon (1995)

Also known as Double Dragon '95, this was a competitive fighting game released for the Neo-Geo platform in all three formats (MVS, AES and CD-ROM). The game was produced as a tie-in for the Japanese release of the Double Dragon live-action movie and thus various aspects from the game (such as Billy and Jimmy's transformation technique) were derived from the movie. The game played like any typical fighting game at the time, with the most notable features being the lack of specific punch and kick buttons and a charge meter for super moves which required less capacity as the player's energy decreased. There were up ten immediately playable characters and two unlockable bosses. Billy, Jimmy, Marian (who was now a female gang leader like in the movie), Abobo and Burnov were the only immediate characters from the previous games, with Burnov (a fat masked man originally from Double Dragon II) being the only character not featured in the movie. A revised version of Koga Shuko (the movie's antagonist) served as the game's final opponent, with Duke (the main villain in Super Double Dragon) was reimagined as Koga's bodyguard. The rest of the characters were made specifically for this game.

A PlayStation version of this game was released in Japan by Urban Plant.

Double Dragon Advance (2003)

Developed by Million Corp. (a company founded by ex-Technos employees) for the Game Boy Advance and published by Atlus. Double Dragon Advance was a remake of the original arcade version of Double Dragon which featured new stages, techniques, weapons and enemy characters (most of them derived from the subsequent) in addition to those found in the original game.

Unofficial Games

When Tradewest received the worldwide license for the Double Dragon brand, the company was initially involved in nothing more than merely localizing Technos Japan's home versions of the original for the NES and Game Boy (and later Super Double Dragon) or producing their own versions for other platforms. However, as the years went by, Tradewest eventually began taking more liberties with the license, lending the Double Dragon brand to various tie-ins such as comic books, a cartoon series, and a motion picture (see Double Dragon Adaptions), as well as any merchandise spun by those products. Eventually, this led to the production of two Double Dragon games without Technos Japan's direct involvement, essentially making them unofficial installments.

BattleToads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team (1993)

Developed by Rare under contract by Tradewest (who also held the exclusive worldwide rights to the Battletoads license) and released in 1993. The game was initially released for the NES and was followed by versions for the SNES, Genesis and Game Boy, although they're all virtually identical (excluding superficial aspects). The game features Billy and Jimmy teaming up with the Battletoads to fight off the evil attack on earth made by Colossus, a large battleship. The game mechanics and style heavily favored Battletoads' more comical style in contrast to the darker and serious mood of the Double Dragon games. The Double Dragon characters in this game (particularly the villains) were very out of character: the boss named Roper was actually a misnamed Willy and the "Shadow Boss" was nothing more than a character by Rare created specifically for this game, despite being touted as the Double Dragon's main adversary. The characters of this game were mostly from Battletoads series.

Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls (1994)

Based closely on the Double Dragon animated TV series that was airing at the time, this "fifth" installment in the Double Dragon series was a competitive fighting game developed by Tradewest's parent company, Leland Interactive Media. Double Dragon V was critically panned by both critics and Double Dragon fans for its poor presentation, cartoon-based graphics (in contrast to the more realistic look and tone of the actual games in the series) and completely derative gameplay. Double Dragon V was released for the SNES, Genesis and Atari Jaguar platforms, with each version generally recognized as becoming progressively worse.

While Double Dragon V is not an officially-recognized game in the series, the game shares a similar concept with Technos Japan's own Double Dragon '95; they were both competitive fighting games produced as tie-ins for co-existing adaptations of the series. It is probable that Double Dragon V served as Technos' basis for their own Double Dragon fighting game.

Rage of the Dragons (2002)

A Japanese/Mexican co-production between Noise Factory and Evoga, Rage of the Dragons was originally conceived as a sequel to the Neo-Geo version of Double Dragon, but the rights were unavailable to the developers. As a result, Billy and Jimmy had their surname changed to Lewis and Abobo was renamed Abubo. The game was a competitive fighting game which featured a tag-team system similar to the one found in Capcom's "Versus" series. However, Rage of the Dragons is a Double Dragon game by association only.

Double Dragon Adaptations

Due to the popularity of the Double Dragon games, Tradewest lent the brand name to various tie-ins in the US, including adaptions of the game in media outside of the games themselves. Unfortunately, these adaptions strayed from their source material and were very unpopular as a result, with the Lee brothers often depicted as superheroes who inherited their powers from artifacts such as swords or amulets (depending on the adaption) instead of being skilled martial artists like in the games.

Comic Book

During the latter half of 1991, Marvel Comics published a six-issue limited series (22 pages each) based on Double Dragon. This was the first of several Double Dragon tie-ins produced in the US under license by Tradewest. Written by Dwayne McDuffie for the first four issues and by Tom Brevoort and Mike Kanterovich during the last two issues. In the comic, Billy and Jimmy were the inheritor of a supernatural force known as the "Dragon Force" and the first twins to share this power. Their main adversary in the comic was a demonic mob boss named Nightfall, who was previously a close friend of their parents and was responsible for their mother's death. The comic also featured Marian as a policewoman, a role she would later take in Super Double Dragon, as well as in the cartoon series. The most humorous or saddest aspect of the comic book, depending on how you look at it, was the introduction of Billy and Jimmy's long-lost father, a character by the name of Stan who bears the likeness of Stan Lee, although Stan's full name is never mentioned in the comic.


The Double Dragon cartoon was produced by DiC Entertainment and ran for 26 half-hour episodes between 1993 and 1995. The premise of the show had the Lee brothers separated at birth, with Billy being raised by a wiseman known as the Eldest Dragon. In contrast, his brother Jimmy was raised by the evil Shadow Master to become his right-hand man. As a result, the Lee brothers met each other as adversaries after being reunited as adults. However, by the end of the second episode, Jimmy is betrayed by the Shadow Master, which leads the brothers to set aside their difference and fight against the greater evil. The Lee brothers made use of magical swords which contained special powers and added dragon masks to the brothers' outfit. During the course of the series, the brothers recruited allies in their war agasint the Shadow Master. The voice of Billy and Jimmy were provided by Michael Donovan and Scott McNeil respectively.

Live-Action Movie

In 1994, a live-action Double Dragon movie was produced starring Mark Dacascos as Jimmy Lee and Scott Wolf as Billy Lee. It was directed by James Yukich and written by the team of Paul Dini (of Batman: The Animated Series and others) and Neal Shusterman. A review of the movie by the Washington Post was not complimentary.

The Jackie Chan movie Twin Dragons (1992) includes "Double Dragon" as an alternate title, according to the IMDB, although it is completely unrelated to the video game series.

See also

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