In the case of this retrospective, the focus will be on the original arcade version due to the plethora of ports released in the years following.
During the mid-80’s, video games began to ripen with several developers experimenting and understanding the essentials in delivering a successful title. From Sega’s Outrun, Taito’s Darius, and Konami’s Salamander, these had been risky games, yet returning with financial and critical success. Additionally, inspiring others to improve and expand upon these titles. Namely, there was one small company establishing this within the Beat em’ up genre, Technos Japan, a company formed by members of Data East (Burger Time, Crude Buster, and Magical Drop series).
After the completion of Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun in Japan), demand for a follow-up began. Rather than create a direct sequel, series producer Yoshihisa Kishimoto inspired by his love for the films Mad Max, Enter the Dragon, and the anime/manga series Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star) decided to produce a co-op beat em’ up with a more cinematic approach, Double Dragon.
Double Dragon, developed by Technos Japan and published by Taito was released on Arcades in Summer of 1987. The game follows 2 brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee on a quest to save Billy’s girlfriend Marian from the Black Warriors. The Lee Brothers traverse through 4 levels fighting their way among the toughest of the Black Warriors members, including Williams, Linda, Willy, and Abobo. Personally, the enemies seem inspired by The Warriors though it might be myself thinking this comparison. Likewise, there’s an Easter egg from another game appearing in the first level, the car used in Road Blaster, another title Kishmoto worked on. However, there is a twist in the end of the
game when playing with a friend…
Graphically, there is a fantastic display of colors used to display the detailed sprites. Notably, the backgrounds throughout the game. Particularly, no two backgrounds are the same in comparison to other games. I applaud the efforts Tecnhos placed inside the game. The rich colorful graphics are a testament to why Double Dragon stands above the rest.
However, I met the gameplay with mixed results. Notably, serving as a technological and spiritual successor to Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun), Double Dragon inherited the former’s button layout, 4-way joystick and simplicity. Furthermore, there are hidden attacks initiated when combining the jump button with either kick or punch button. Additionally, the Lee Brothers move at a quick pace, giving players a rapid advantage in deciding attack moves. Nonetheless, the AI is cruel and merciless. Equally, there is a significant amount of slowdown present throughout the game resulting from the multiple 8-bit microprocessors inside the hardware.
Despite the mixed gameplay, the unfavorable portion of the game stems from the music. To begin with, I agree that the music is memorable, yet during the playthrough I felt as though there was something off about the composition and unbearable for my ears at moments. Yet, there is an arranged soundtrack, which in my opinion is a superior arrangement, with its 80s production, which I grew loving after listening to the tracks repeatedly.
Overall, Double Dragon launched the Golden Age of Beat em’ ups influencing such classics such as Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fight. Improving on Renegade, DoubleDragon’s enduring legacy is the game’s ability to cooperatively play together.
Additionally, various sequels and spin-offs were released varying with quality from the great Double Dragon II and the ill-fated Double Dragon V.
Recently, a sequel, Double Dragon IV (Based of the NES chronology), which I found personally to be an insult to the DoubleDragon fanbase despite several original members including Kishmoto working on the title. The game serves as a disgraceful example of companies cashing in on people’s nostalgia.
But in the end, even with the multiple issues I may have with the franchise, there is no denying its legacy as a classic. All in all, Double Dragon resides as the one of the greatest beat em’ ups created.
Cars, one of man’s greatest creation. Some prefer something affordable, accommodate families, or show off stating, “Hey, I received a load of money or just borrowed an unconsidered amount to buy this and now acquired massive debt.” Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of owning a luxurious sports car? But have to push that dream aside simply because being an adult means you have a great amount of responsibility in your shoulders.
Can you imagine it, The dream car, your best friend in the passenger seat, and not a single worry in the world? Driving around the world from the comfort of your car. The American pastime seemingly long forgotten.
Luckily, there’s a game that helps remedy this certain itch! 30 years ago, Sega made this dream into a reality. A game that not only inspired people to take a glimpse into the sweet life while raising the standards of driving games. Whether consumers wanted to pass some breezes, splash some waves, or enjoy the magical sound of rain showers. There’s only one way to remove this bothersome itch, Outrun.
Released in 1986 by Sega by the extraordinary talent that is Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2. Previously responsible for Hang-On and Space Harrier a year before. The 3rd game in Super Scaler series, Outrun revolutionized the racing genre since it’s début back in 1986.
Inspired by the film The Cannonball Run, where individuals compete in a cross-country race across the US. Planning to unofficially adapt the film into a game,Suzuki met some unfortunate setbacks as someone ruined the fun and mentioned that the scenery in the USA was dull, which is a clearly deceptive on their part. As a result, focusing his attention to the scenery of Europe. Driving across Europe and recording the scenery during his drive. Thus, serving as inspiration for the world of Outrun. “I started out from Frankfurt, where I hired a rent a car, and I installed a video camera on the car. Driving around Monaco and Monte Carlo, along the mountain roads of Switzerland, stopping in hotels in Milan, Venice, and Rome, collecting data for a fortnight.” Suzuki, a sports car fan, caught glimpse of something over at Monaco, a Ferrari Testarossa. The latest model of the luxury Italian automobiles from Ferrari.
Astonished by this discovery, Yu Suzuki returned to Japan to test the vehicle out himself. According to certain sources, members of AM2 squeezed to a privately owned Testarossa to record and take notes programming every bit of data into the game.
One of Outrun’s attractions was the game’s fantastic soundtrack. Composed by the legend Hiroshi Kawaguchi, the game offered players with 3 different radio stations which was unheard at the time. “Passing Breeze”, the fusion influenced song that’s the overall mood inspires a laid back ride across the world. “Splash Wave”, the popular rock influenced song for those who enjoy extreme speed and a sense of adventure! Finally, “Magical Sound Shower”, the Latin based song for those who want something a little refreshing while driving around.
In addition, Yu Suzuki emphasizes that Outrun is not a racing game, rather a driving game where players simulate experiencing driving a sports car across luscious tracks. Likewise, it’s understandable to refer to it as such. The objective is to drive across 5 different stages before the clock runs out. Yet, the challenge derives from the player’s driving abilities. At the end of each level, the player can turn left or right at the fork. The left side being easier to complete and the latter poses a grander challenge. There are 5 endings to the game depending on where the player travels too. Punishing players that drive recklessly with a quick game over.
Coinciding with other arcade titles, Outrun’s captivation relies on simplistic gameplay. Yet, mastering will take time and money (well back then). Hence, requiring a sheer amount of memorization in order to finish the stages as quickly as possible. Making sure players avoid other drivers along the road and efficiently turning to avoid hitting obstacles.
Alongside other Super Scaler titles, Outrun offered multiple cabinets to differentiate the player’s experience. From the deluxe cabinet based off a Testarossa, moving alongside the player turns. But good luck finding a working one these days! Next, the standard cabinet offers a Ferrari without wheels, and the upright cabinet features a mere steering wheel and shift stick which is possibly what’s left of the working cabinets. I won’t lie, I simply love the time and effort Sega put into designing their cabinets. Further indicating that Sega genuinely cared about the player’s experience making sure they’d return for more.
After all, the game’s success caused Sega to release many home versions. Depending on what the consumer owned, they were either blessed or received some poor excuse of a port. Starting off with some honorable mentions before moving into the highly regarded translations.
First off is the Master System port, a suitable place to start for those looking for an excellent racing game on the Master System. The roads in the game are choppy due to the weaker hardware in comparison to the System 16. Additionally, offering players with an FM-based soundtrack requiring modifications to the Master System.
Next, the PC Engine port is an impressive port considering being on a non-Sega system. Also quite possibly the best 8-bit port out there (16-bit/8-bit who cares it’s personal preference on what the PC engine was) having the full features of the arcade faithfully ported over. One minor issue I have is a humming noise from the engine while driving undoubtedly irritating, but thankfully turning it off remedies this complaint.
Following is the Genesis/Mega Drive version, which for the time was a regarded port. This version offers a new music track exclusive to this version “Step on the Beat”. There are some major issues in this port, including the decision to use a dark color palette, making it seem like the developers did not understand the Genesis/Mega Drive’s architecture or were instead careless enough not to improve this. Besides this also based off the Japanese version, ironically though, the PC engine port features the Overseas layout. How exactly did that happen? Thankfully the color issue improved thanks to Pyron, releasing a patch making the colors brighter hence, bringing this closer to the arcade original. Releasing this to a plethora of platforms, including the Sega Smash Pack for PC, Wii Virtual Console, and Steam.
Moreover,moving into the 128-bit generation, there is a satisfying version included in Shenmue2, Yu Suzuki Game Works, and Outrun 2. At first glance, setting itself off as an excellent translation of the game.Unfortunately, this is not the case as the audio is off due to issues with the emulation. Even more, the Ferrari logo changed into a generic logo due to legal reasons. Other than that, I think this version of the game plays fine. However, if you happen to come across this version go ahead and give this a try if the sound and the minor graphical changes does not bother you.
Finally, the ports released on the Saturn and 3DS among the best, if not, the definitive options to experience Outrun at home or on the go. Beginning with the Saturn version developed by Rutubo Games under the SEGA Ages collection is the definitive home version. Not only is this arcade perfect, the developers went out of their way to make this a fulfilling experience featuring the option to choose between the Japaneseand Overseas layout, a wonderfully arranged soundtrack, and smooth 60 fps mode. Yes, 60 frames per second! Enabling this is pure eye candy. However, the U.S version does not include the arranged soundtrack being packed along with Space Harrier and After Burner II into a single disc.
All things considered, the Saturn port is stunning, at the same time the 3DS version is on par if not, surpassing the Saturn version. Developed by M2 under the 3D Sega Ages collection. Obviously, M2 were not intending to release a cheap port as member regarded this as “the climax of the series”. M2 included a great amount of time and quality into reintroducing Sega’s classics for a new and returning fans alike. Giving players a multitude of options to experience the game in different formats including: 16:9 widescreen, original 4:3, or emulating the deluxe cabinet, rotating screen, noise, and etc. Additionally, the game has a garage mode where players can customize their vehicle to their liking and choosing from the Japanese or Overseas layout like the Saturn port. Returning from the Saturn version is the ability to choose between the original 30 fps or 60 fps. Finally, a highly regarded addition to this version are two NEW songs. “Cruising Line” composed by Manabu Namiki (Battle Garegga, Castlevania Rebirth, and DoDonpachi Daioujou) is my favorite of the new tracks feeling like a follow-up to Passing Breeze and feeling like a scrapped idea from the original release. “Camino a Mi Amor” the other track having Latin influenced setting also sounding reminiscent of other mid-80’s Sega arcade titles including Turbo Outrun, Shinobi, and Thunder Blade. Unfortunately for purists, the Ferrari Testarossa is no longer there since Sega no longer has the license to use Ferrari vehicles at this time.
Equally as important is an unofficial version for the PC, Cannonball, a modest homage to the movie inspiring the game’s conception is essentially an emulator that fixes the bugs from the arcade ROM. Enabling certain features like faster frame rate, scanlines, and Japanese/overseas layout. Though the sound emulation is a little off, a fine choice for those craving to experience Outrun on the PC. By the way, did I mention this is free?
All in All, 30 years later, Outrun is one of the utmost influential racing games of all time. There’s something about its simple yet diverse mechanics. Profound than nearly a majority of the competition at the time. Letting the mind wander off and play pretend. Becoming one of Sega’s more well-known IPs, receiving many spin-offs and sequels throughout the past 30 years, some in particular including Outrunners, Turbo Outrun¸ and Outrun 2. Yet there hasn’t been a new entry in the series in well over a decade. Indeed, a punishable crime for neglecting fans of such an incredible IP! To Yu Suzuki and the wonderful folks over at SEGA AM2, thank you for creating such a wonderful game that has inspired countless memories over the past 30 years.