Here, at the start of the Fustian Gaming Challenge, I was hoping for a randomly chosen game with some kind of cultural clout. Super Mario Bros, Mega Man, Castlevania, Final Fantasy: something that has some deep significance in gaming history. It didn’t even have to be particularly retro: Halo, Last of Us, Bioshock, just something with a little extra oomph for the occasion. If I’m going to be writing about video games often, I would like the series to start with something worthy of a grand opening.
And Random ROB chose… Double Dragon. For the Sega Master System.
At least it’s a retro game, right? So I sat down and played Double Dragon, and a miraculous thing happened.
Double Dragon (for SMS) is kind of a turd. It’s 2-Players (right there on the box!), which is a step up from its NES brother, but a polished turd is still a turd. It’s a Beat ‘em Up, which is a genre that flourished in the 90s mainly due to wonderful licenses (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons spring immediately to mind), but in the early days of the genre, it was two guys fighting the same four guys over and over and over again. Here’s generic guy, Wannabe Nightwolf, generic girl, and Abobo. All of the characters have the same abilities: shuffling, punching, and jump kick susceptibility. Billy and Jimmy, our heroes, have the same skills, except they substitute their jump kick susceptibility for jump kick distribution, which allows the Double Dragon(s)(?) to fight through the streets with the greatest of ease. How many streets? I have no idea.
See, Double Dragon is a battle of attrition. You’ve seen every enemy and obstacle for four levels by the time you complete the first half of the first level. Abobo busts through a wall midway through Level 1, proudly showcasing his midboss power, and then the final boss of Level 1 is… Abobo… with a deeper tan. And he’s in a parking lot, so he doesn’t even get to go all Reagan on another piece of masonry. Lame. The boss of Level 2 appears to be a dismal palette swap of Billy Lee, while the boss of Level 3… I’ve completely forgotten at this point, despite the fact that I played the game not but an hour ago. I think it may have been the rare Chernobyl Abobo, but the details are foggy.
You can’t “beat” Double Dragon without succumbing to boredom, and if you claim you can, congratulations, I’d love to hire you as my new chief of stamp licking. I reached Level 4 before I finally encountered a new “trap” (a door ornament that tried repeatedly to poke Billy with a stick), and that was after nearly a half hour of gameplay (“gameplay”). Unfortunately, this was also about the time I ran out of credits (continues for you whippersnappers. “Credits” hearken back to the days when video games were an unending money pit where you couldn’t even purchase new outfits for your protagonist’s horse). I had been playing fast and loose with the game, taking my share of lumps from the generic gang, and fell in battle about midway through Level 4.
And an amazing thing happened: I wanted more credits.
Double Dragon is monotonous, the same thing repeated ad nauseam, and, when I lost the ability to progress further, I wanted more. I wanted to get to the final boss (probably Abobo: Code Red), I wanted to rescue Marian. I wanted to play the game, which I found tedious, even more. It’s a damn sickness.
And, maybe, that is the most appropriate start to the Fustian Game Challenge. As some of you may know, I’ve started in on this venture because I wanted an excuse to write about video games, and needed a sort of “focus”, so I’m not just randomly writing about the Top 25 NES Games or some other such been-there, trite blogging event. On the other hand, I decided on this course of action because I own something like 2,000 video games, collected over the course of 25 years, and I wanted that to “produce” something. Why do I have so many games? I want to say something like I truly believe in games as art, and I’m building my own library, and it’s all about games preservation or something or other, but the truth? The truth is that I’m always going to buy one more game, try one more cartridge, pop in one more disc, because I’m never going to stop, and I’m always going to want to see the final boss, always looking toward a finale that is forever unreachable. It’s tedious, it’s never ending, but, God help me, I just want one more credit.
And now you’re along for the ride. Stick a quarter up by the screen, I’ll let you have next game.
FGC #1 Double Dragon Quick Facts:
- System: Sega Master System
- Number of Players: 2
- Amount of Flicker: Obscene
- Forgot to mention that time Billy and an enemy punched through each other for a couple minutes: Yes, but there’s a .gif
- Did You Know? Marian was played by Alyssa Milano in the Double Dragon movie. Also, there was a live action Double Dragon movie. It made over two million dollars that could have gone to starving orphans or something, but, no, Double Dragon movie. I saw it in theatres.
- Would I play again? Well, apparently.
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Fighter’s History for the SNES. Look forward to it!