For many fans of retro gaming, Double Dragon is at the top of their list. Amazingly enough, everyone's favorite game was far from perfect. Double Dragon was filled with programming errors and glitches, both big and small. While most of these were harmless topics of conversation, a select few were capable of giving the player an unfair advantage or even disrupting game play altogether. Nearly twenty years since the game's release, these flaws are still discussed among its hardcore followers. This article is an attempt to document each and every programming error of the original Double Dragon, although it can never be confirmed "one hundred percent complete." Screenshots and detailed instructions on activating the glitches are included.
The oldest and most common of all the glitches is also the easiest to perform. In fact, normal game play made this visual error impossible to avoid. Simply perform the hair-grab maneuver on any enemy in the game and proceed to knee his face in repeatedly. After the final knee (and only for a split second), Jimmy appears on the screen as if you're performing the move on him. This is more than a simple mix up of enemy graphics with Jimmy's, since as seen in the included screenshot, Jimmy appears on screen at the same time as the enemy. This glitch works exactly the same in two-player mode, meaning that Jimmy could be in two places at once, if only for a fraction of a second.
The "Frozen Kick" is another easily discovered glitch. It can be performed using any object you can kick (oil drums, boulders and boxes). Approach the object and press the kick button, but instead of releasing the button, keep holding it. Your character will remain frozen in the kick position until you release the button. During this time, your character will not react to attacks and will be completely invincible. You can hold the pose until another character picks up the item, at which time your player will return to normal. As seen in the screenshot above, Abobo pounds away at Billy with no effect.
Bring Mission 1 oil drum to Mission 2
This is more of a way to trick the game than an actual glitch. Before leaving a mission, the game forces players to drop any weapons they're holding. However, it is possible to carry the oil drums from the end of Mission 1 into Mission 2. Defeat Abobo close to the right edge of the screen so you have enough time to perform the trick. As soon as you deliver the final knockdown, pick up an oil drum and walk to the right edge and keep facing right. When the mission ends and you drop the barrel, it will roll right over into Mission 2 with you and will be available for use. This trick can also be done by kicking the barrel into the next screen, however, the barrel will disappear if it travels too far off screen.
Suicidal enemies (Mission 2)
Here's a dirty way to waste a couple of Black Warriors at the beginning of Mission 2. Once you've defeated the first bad guys, get as close to the pit as possible at the bottom of the screen. Any enemies that come from the right at this point will jump straight down into the pit, instantly killing themselves. Those who want to get through the screen faster can lure earlier enemies up to the block above the pit, then quickly escape to the bottom right side of the pit and watch the enemies jump to their doom. It seems the enemies in Double Dragon are aware of the pit only if they can touch the edge of it. If only they were as talented as the enemies in the next programming oversight, they wouldn't have to worry.
Anti-gravity enemies (Mission 2)
Once a boss is defeated, the remaining bad guys always walk off the screen in an attempt to escape further punishment. In Mission 2 you can achieve a mildly amusing glitch because of this. Let as many of the bad guys live as you possibly can before Jeff shows up on the platform. Once he arrives, battle him on the platform while staying as close to the bottom edge as possible without falling to your death. Enemies will move onto the platform to aid Jeff in the battle and once you defeat him, they'll walk away as usual. However, they won't bother moving off the platform first. They'll simply walk on air until they vanish off the left side of the screen.
Purple box (Missions 2/3)
The purple box glitch is done similarly to the previously mentioned oil-drum trick. It is a bit more time-sensitive however. After delivering the death blow to Jeff at the end of Mission 2, you need to quickly grab the box and walk onto the platform Jeff came up on. If you're not quick, you won't make it, so it's a good idea to have the box close to the platform before defeating Jeff. Make sure you're facing right on the platform and stand close to the right edge. When the mission ends, your player will throw the box into the air and it will fall to the ground of Mission 3 (with quite a big bounce). Once you travel down the platform and Mission 3 begins, the game's color palette will change. The box turns purple and you can use it all you want. This one can be very difficult, so it may be a good idea to use two players. Defeat everyone but Jeff, then let one player stand on the platform with the box while the other player defeats Jeff.
Invisible hole (Mission 3)
At the beginning of Mission 3 you can easily wipe out the first small wave of enemies by exploiting this glitch. Just stand on the platform and use the hair grab to throw your opponent to the left. Your opponent will fly over your shoulder as normal, but instead of landing on the ground, he'll simply continue to fall until he vanishes off screen. You can also perform this trick by attacking the enemies and making them fall to the left. If they are close enough to the edge, the result is the same. It's impossible, however, for the enemies to do this to your player or for one human player to do it do another. Apparently the programming is left over from the end of Mission 2; still a strange occurrence.
Vanishing boulder (Mission 3)
After defeating the enemies on the bridge in Mission 3, you'll climb the mountain wall. Once you arrive at the top, you'll notice a boulder. Kick the boulder to the left and off the mountain ledge. Once there's no solid ground under the boulder, it'll start to fall but won't go very far. The boulder will drop for only a split second before vanishing into thin air. Alternatively, you can pick up the boulder and walk off the ledge. Your character will vanish with the boulder, reappearing on the ledge with no boulder to be found.
Gold boulder (Mission 3)
This glitch is very short and simple, but it's a programming oversight nonetheless. Just make sure one of the boulders stays in view at the end of Mission 3. Once the green Abobo is defeated and the Mission ends, the color palette changes turning the boulder gold. You never get time to use it however, unlike the purple box in Mission 3.
Walk up the wall (Mission 4)
In Mission 4 it's possible to walk up the wall at the second doorway (as seen in the screenshot). This is one of the more mysterious occurrences in the game, and my theory is that there may have been a secret way to enter the door in the early developmental stages of the game. If this is the case, the developers didn't do a great job of thoroughly removing the programming. If this isn't the case, then maybe Double Dragon still has a few secrets to explore. In either case, the glitch currently serves as nothing more than something to see. To achieve this, start in the middle of the door and press the directions "up" and "left." If it doesn't work, try moving a little to the left or right and try again. With some trial and error, you'll soon be able to scale the wall. Continue to hold "up" and "left" and watch as the player jumps about three levels up before taking one final jump and falling off the screen. If you want to play with this glitch, it's a good idea to activate the "infinite lives" dip setting on your arcade machine or MAME emulator. Maybe someday we'll discover that this leads to a secret area...
Get onto Willy's balcony (Mission 4)
Of all the Double Dragon programming misfires, this is the rarest and most difficult to perform. It's also a bit complicated, so I've divided it into sections. When I first heard about it at http://rygar.info/a4e/dd/rumor.htm, I was sure it had to be a myth. Recently it was brought up at the Double Dragon Dojo forums, and I had to try for myself. Lo and behold, the trick works: You can get onto Willy's balcony at the end of Mission 4. The advantage of this is that you can avoid fighting the wave of enemies and go straight for the kill of the big boss. Getting up to the balcony in the first place is the trickiest part.
Getting up to the balcony
Rule number one: don't kill Abobo! He's your only ticket to the top and if you kill him, you'll have to start the entire game over and try again. The trick is getting Abobo to stand with his back against the wall just under the bottom of the balcony (see the screenshots). Jump (and only jump, since jump kicks could accidentally defeat him) continuously until he finally crouches. There's about a 50-percent chance that he'll throw you when he gets up. If he doesn't, keep trying. Don't jump over him, or you'll end up on the other side of him, making the throw useless. Just jump straight up while close enough to make him duck. This can get very time consuming and frustrating. The other enemies will attack you, and Abobo will be very uncooperative and even ignore you at times. Eventually you'll get it right and Abobo will throw you straight up, landing you on the far left ledge of the balcony.
Once you're up there
Don't move left at all, or you will fall. There is a downside to the balcony trick: You can only get as far as the far left barrier of the balcony. You can't actually get farther right and "into" the balcony itself. This makes any attempt at reaching Willy's gun impossible (it's a logical theory that there's no programming in the game to make using the gun possible anyway). However, you are close enough to jump kick Willy, activating his movement programming. It's virtually impossible to defeat Willy up there (I can't do it), but a well placed attack will send him to the floor where you can follow him down for the kill.
If you activate Willy but fall before getting him to the floor
If you should happen to fall while you're up there, just repeat the Abobo throw trick. It will be harder to get Willy to the floor if you don't get him on the first trip because after you activate his programming, he moves around and even starts shooting. He'll end up in a position that prevents you from hitting him and you'll have to keep jumping down and repeating the trick until you can catch him in the right place again. Waiting on the balcony edge for him to reposition doesn't work since he'll just walk in place. Also, keep in mind that once you've activated Willy's programming, he will not come down of his own volition, no matter how many enemies you kill, so Abobo must stay alive until you've got Willy down on the floor or the game just won't advance and you'll have to reset.
A few more tricks
I started this article with a few glitches in mind and now
that I'm finished, I realize that there are many more programming oversights
than I could have imagined. A few more tricks and glitches exist as well. According to
www.klov.com, in a two-player game, if one player loses all his
lives just before Jeff shows up at the end of Mission 2, Jeff will not show
and there will be no way to advance in the game. Another trick listed at
KLOV suggests that it's possible to achieve unlimited lives at the end
of Mission 2. Player one should get Jeff into a full nelson when he's low on
energy and the other enemies have been defeated (and the timer stops). Player two should be able to use the whip to strike Jeff indefinitely and
after about twenty minutes, his score will reach 99,950. Every hit player
two lands for the rest of the game should get him an extra life. There are
still more strange errors in the game. One that stands out are the Mission 3
holes. Sometimes enemies will fall next to the hole and vanish off screen,
and sometimes when a knife is dropped on the right edge of a hole, it will
glide horizontally until it disappears. Plagued with glitches and
programming oversights, Double Dragon earns its forgiveness by being an
awesome game that has become a classic favorite for millions of gamers. Double Dragon just has something special about it that can never be tainted,
perfect or not.