Double Dragon is a post-apocalyptic beat'em up in which the Black Warriors have kidnapped your girlfriend Marian in order to get you to teach them the secrets of your martial art Sou-Setsu-Ken in exchange for her. Well, that one sentence is actually more backstory than the original arcade game gives.
It just opens up with some Black Warriors and Marian. She seems to be a rather dumb broad as she just stands there as someone from a group of menacing-looking thugs approaches her and then punches her in the stomach. What else was she expecting? Then a garage door opens, and you -- Billy Lee -- and, if there's a second player, your twin brother -- Jimmy Lee -- emerge.
Interestingly enough, even though this is supposed to be post-apocalyptic New York, you two apparently have an awfully nice-looking sports car, and the leader of the Black Warriors, Willy, has a machine gun. You'd think a post-apocalyptic world wouldn't have the infrastructure to keep automobiles in such good condition or manufacture ammunition for modern firearms. There are even wanted posters for what appears to be two members of the Black Warriors even though there is no government to give or back up the money you'd receive for turning them in. Anyhow, moving on to the game itself...
After you emerge from the garage, you are attacked by Williams. You can use him as an opportunity to practice the various moves in the game: punch, kick, jump, jump kick, spinning jump kick, head butt, grab, knee, throw, and the infamous elbow punch. Yes, the infamous elbow punch. You see, the villains in this game seem to abide by the rules of chivalry and quite sportingly won't attack you from behind. Since the elbow punch lets you hit behind yourself, this enables you to take free shots at the enemy. In fact, you can rely on this attack exclusively all the way to the end. This is enough to make one wonder why Billy and Jimmy bothered to master an entire martial art when they could just use one move over and over to victory.
Before long, Williams is joined by another Williams and two Ropers -- one black and one white. This reveals two interesting facts about the Black Warriors. First, its warriors can be black or white (or green as you eventually discover). The other is that it mostly consists of people who, for some inexplicable reason, look identical and behave identically to some other member. If you read information not included in the arcade game, you even find out they all have the same name. Did the apocalyptic catastrophe that happened before the game's story begins happen as a result of a cloning experiment gone horribly wrong? This has the nice effect of making profiling easy. Just assume everyone you encounter is a member of the Black Warriors and attack ASAP. No need to worry if he or she is possibly an innocent bystander. Think self defense and all that. In any event, this section of the game is a breeze, particularly if you use the elbow punch.
In the next section, another Williams comes down from upper walkway to fight you. The first Linda in the game later comes out of some double doors. She looks like a dominatrix, and, if you get her whip, you can whip her into submission. As you go down further, some gigantic guy will smash through wall like the Kool-Aid Man. He's the game's first Abobo, and he can dish out more damage than most others and take more too. Be careful not to let him pick you up and throw you. He's soon joined by a bat-wielding Williams from the right side of the screen. You can show them you won't play ball by knocking the bat out from Williams and then using it to give them each a grand slam.
And here you finally reach the end of "mission" 1 (level 1). You first encounter another Roper, but what's notable about him is that he apparently has an unlimited supply of knives, and he's not afraid to throw them. There's a Williams not too far behind. The knives do a good deal of damage, and, if you're skilled enough, you can throw just one to take out both Roper and Williams simultaneously. As you go further right, you notice this humongous cat who seems content to sit perfectly still and is indifferent to the fact that people are fighting to the death in front of him (her?). Unfortunately, you can't do anything to or with the cat. If only you could use him as weapon! Further right, there are barrels lying around. They can be picked up and thrown. It's not long before Mr. T (Bolo) makes an appearance. He fights much the same way as Abobo, and he's apparently supposed to be the boss for this level. If you go far enough right, one more Roper shows up, and he can pick up and throw barrels at you. You can defeat Bolo without making Roper appear, but you get more points if defeat both of them. That's really good in this game because you get an extra life for the first 30,000 points you get and then an additional one for every 60,000 points thereafter. In real life, fighting more people than you need to will, at best, needlessly wear you down, but, in Double Dragon, it makes you capable of taking more punishment.
At the beginning of mission 2, you walk over from the alleyway to some industrial plant. Yes, this is post-apocalyptic New York, but there's apparently an industrial plant in working order. A notable thing about this section is that this where dynamite is used for the first time in the game. A Roper and a Williams will appear, each carrying dynamite. If they throw a stick at you, you can pick it up and throw it back at them. Better yet, if you move a certain way, you can actually get them to walk over their sticks of dynamite, and they'll get themselves blown up! However, it's still better to beat them the normal way if you can since you get more points that way. Later, two Williamses show up, one with a bat. You can make them and the last enemy here, a Roper, fall into the pit if you maneuver correctly or knock them into it, but you don't get any points for doing that.
When you get close enough to the green doors in this section, the elevator will activate, and a random mix of Williamses, Lindas, and/or Ropers will emerge. You could climb the ladder to the top since there's less room there for the enemy to surround you, but they rarely follow you up there. Apparently, they're willing to fight to the death, but they're afraid of heights. Since each section has a time limit, it's best not to bother trying. Some conveyor belt goes into some dark hole, and you can hit enemies onto the belt and send them to their doom. But you get fewer points for doing that, and they might do the same to you, so it's not advised. Anyhow, once you've beaten two of the first three enemies, two more will emerge from the elevator. Once you've beaten your third enemy, a lift will rise at the bottom of the screen, and a new type of enemy, Jeff, will be on it. He seems to be able to do all the same moves you can, so it's not clear why the Black Warriors want to learn the secrets of Sou-Setsu-Ken from you so much when he already seems to know them. He's definitely harder than any of the previous enemies. Once you've defeated him, you'll discard any weapon you're carrying and then go on the lift and get taken down to the next mission. Why throw your weapon away? Well, you apparently have complete confidence in your ability. If you're fast enough, though, you can toss it off the edge, where it will fall to the next mission, before you overcome your doubts.
Since this level -- mission 3 -- has all the same enemies and mostly the same weapons too, what's worth mentioning the most here is how long it is and where it is. This is the only part of the game where you can easily run out of time if you don't watch it. It also mostly takes place in a forest. Not long after getting off the lift that takes you to this mission and then clearing the first section, the industrial part abruptly gives way to a forest. People in big cities generally need to drive a long way to reach a forest, but here it's right smack dab by the city with no transition. Maybe enough of the city has decayed that nature has taken over a lot of it. The most annoying part about this part is the bridge. You need to jump over a gap in the bridge, and it's not clear where exactly the gap begins. You can fall through it even if you appear to still be on the bridge. However, you better not start jumping too far away from the gap because then you won't make it. Interestingly, falling into the water is instant death. Your character may have a super-hero-like ability to defeat wave after wave of enemies, but he can't swim. Well, that or the current is way too strong for him even though water doesn't appear to move. Doing a jump kick to get over is recommended as you seem to jump further.
Towards the end, you reach some cliff. You'll die instantly if you fall off. The two most menacing enemies you'll have to contend with are two Abobos who will try to pick up the two boulders lying around. It's recommended that you throw the boulders off the cliff if you can so that they can't be used against you. Be careful about hitting an Abobo carrying a boulder, though, as he'll probably drop it on you. Once you clear this section, you'll have to go off the cliff to the next section. For some reason, doing that will no longer kill you. If you jump kick off, your landing will even be soft. Again, you can throw whatever weapon you have off the edge for use in the next part if you're fast enough.
Once you go off the cliff the previous part and land on the platform here, the enemies turn turn out to be more of the same. You'll first encounter two Jeffs who are just like the earlier Jeff but have brown skin, orange hair, and a differently colored outfit. It's good to know cloning technology makes it easy to achieve diversity through color modification. After them, there's another Roper. After climbing up the cliff, you'll see a boulder to your left and a Williams to your right. You may want to use the boulder on the boss later, but he'll be able to use it against you too. After dispatching Williams, another Jeff will appear.
Finally, the double doors will open, and out will emerge the only green member of the Black Warriors -- a particularly nasty Bolo, who seems to have taken a cue from the Incredible Hulk more than from Mr. T. If you've brought the boulder with you, now is definitely the time to use it. You can also use the small platform to protect yourself somewhat from him. Once you've beaten him, you get a whopping 8,000-point bonus. The double doors finally open to the Black Warriors' lair. Almost there!
All right! We're finally in the Black Warriors' lair! How exciting! Well, actually, if you thought having to jump over some bridge gap with no clearly defined boundaries was bull shit, you've seen nothing yet! The bricks in the wall will come out without warning and hit you if you aren't careful. There's no way to know this, and there's no way to know when they'll come out except through experience. This is classic trial-and-error game play! I have to admit, though, having the wall attack intruders is one way to make sure they'll never see it coming, so maybe it was worth the expense for the Black Warriors after all!
You then have to get past some spear-wielding statues while having to contend with a Williams, a Roper, and another Williams and making sure not to far down enough to land on the spikes. Having spikes in your lair seems like something that would too much of a safety hazard for your fellow gangsters to be worth it. The gang does seem to be able to get its hands on some really impressive technology like animated statues that can ably move spears back and forth, though.
Once you get past all that, you'll come face-to-face with not one but two Bolos smashing through the wall. The main advice here is: Don't get caught between them!
Ah, the final confrontation! When you enter this area, you are greeted by a Williams, a Roper, and an Abobo. You also notice Marian dangling from a rope attached to the left wall. She does nothing, so my advice here is to remember one theme of this game: chivalry.
That's right; as it turns out, there are three Jeffs and the leader of the gang -- Willy -- waiting up in the balcony to the right. In keeping with the theme of a bloodthirsty gang upholding the code of chivalry, however, they sportingly won't attack you all at once. Three against one is OK. Four against one can be OK even if one of the four has a machine gun as long as the gunman is apparently too out of shape to do much else besides firing a gun. Five against one is just too low for them, though. Even four against one is considered unsporting if all four on one side are fit. Because of that, you should whittle all three of them down but not to the point where any of them dies and then dispatch the one who's giving you the most trouble. Abobo is physically the toughest, but he won't use any of the weapons lying around because he's much too sporting to give himself that much of an advantage. He already towers over you for crying out loud! Whether you choose to dispatch him first or Williams or Roper, the newly defeated guy will be replaced by one of the Jeffs, who jumps off the balcony. Focus on dispatching him while being careful not to accidentally kill of the other two. He'll be replaced by a second Jeff. Repeat the process.
Once you've defeated the second Jeff, the third Jeff will jump off the balcony too, and Willy go through the route that leads to the double doors. Apparently, he's not fit enough to jump off balconies. Once this starts happening, try to dispatch two remaining non-Jeff henchmen as fast as you can so that you can focus just on Willy and the last Jeff. Thanks to his machine gun, Willy is quite tough, but he only ever fires in one of two directions, making it easier for you to close the distance on him. Unfortunately, his aim is true since whenever a bullet hits you, it will apparently always strike a vital organ because you will always die instantly in one hit this way. Fortunately, he's sporting enough to never shoot at point blank range. He will always try to back up and stand outside your range of attack before firing, so you can use that to your advantage pursuing him. Also, being the least fit member of his gang, the only two other things he can do besides shooting are kicking and machine-gun whipping. Once you've defeated Willy, the double doors will open up on their own, and any remaining gang members will run away. They be chivalrous, but they have a sense of self preservation.
If you're playing on your own, the game ends here. If there's another player, however, the two of you will fight to the death for Marian's love. Yes, even though she's apparently going steady with Billy, if Jimmy manages to kill him, she will not only have the presence of mind to automatically untie herself, something she apparently couldn't even attempt moments earlier, but she will also so totally not be horrified at all that you've just committed fratricide by killing her beau and will honor the results of the duel she had no say in by giving you a great big kiss. Clearly, Billy and Jimmy only love her for her looks.
Whoever gets the kiss, though, you will be told, "May you live happily forever," and then the game cuts to the credits. And there you have it -- the original Double Dragon. It's a fun game but also silly one, and the ending seems to create continuity errors for Double Dragon 2. Billy and Jimmy fight to the death over Marian, but they both appear in the next game. You are told, "May you live happily forever," but the second game opens up with Billy needing to find a new girlfriend. Well, more on that in the next part when we cover Double Dragon 2: The Revenge!