The Way of Double Dragon Advance
By Muneki Ebinuma for Game Kommander
Back in 2003, even before Game Kommander posted its feature on what the true version of Super Double Dragon would have been like had it been finished without the time constraints, the now-infamous video game website posted a full-blown commentary by the planner of the newly-released Double Dragon game, Double Dragon Advance. Muneki Ebinuma, the same man responsible for the creation of Super Double Dragon, explained in great detail his experiences during the development of Double Dragon Advance. We are happy to post this translated article of Mr. Ebinuma's experiences, and hope that American (as well as other) Double Dragon fans will gain a deeper understanding of this series and what it took to create and evolve.
The article was originally posted in Japanese on Game Kommander's website. The original Japanese version of the article can be read at:
Special thanks should be given to Game Kommander for granting the Dojo permission to translate and reprint their article.
Game Kommander - http://www.ne.jp/asahi/hzk/kommander/
Back in the old days of the arcade and NES, video game magazines were often filled with coverage of “secret codes” and “hidden characters” as well as other so-called “features” such as how to get extra lives and similar bonuses. I really wanted to put such features in this game, which are sorely lacking in most modern games, but we ran out of cartridge space during the latter half of development… . What remained of those secret techniques became the three kick techniques, the “upper kick,” the “back kick” and the “tae kwon do kick.”
For the “upper kick,” we tried to adjust the input method to make it as easy to execute as possible and I have no excuse to why we didn’t make it easier. We originally planned that if you struck an enemy with this technique, he or she would sometimes fly high off screen only to land on another enemy.
Similarly, the “back kick” is not an easy technique to perform and we didn’t have enough time to fix it either. This move was originally meant to be used by the enemy, but it became an annoyance during the second half of development and was never put in.
We planned to use an original animation for the “tae kwon do kick” when performed against Burnov, mimicking the battle between Kenshiro and Heart in the manga and anime series “Fist of the North Star,” in which Billy’s kicks or Jimmy’s punches would be ineffective. Jimmy’s rapid punch attack was not added in the final game for the same reasons as one would expect.
We had plenty of other materials and ideas we wanted to put in, but they couldn’t be added into the game due to time constraints. Being a kicking fan myself, we left out the “arm grabbing kick” since we had already put in a technique like that.
Traps and obstacles
Even though this game focuses primarily on fighting, it’s still a side-scrolling action game, so there have to be elaborate traps for the player to encounter while he moves further into each stage. Defeating enemies using geographical features is a big aspect of this game as well.
Many of the popular traps from the arcade version, such as the “moving walls” and “spear-stabbing statues,” as well as other “retro”-style traps, have been rearranged so that you can now plan ahead and pass through them without having to gamble on whether you should pass through or not. There are also places in the game that are hard to pass through without running your way through or even using the “running jump.”
You can no longer walk and drop yourself into the water, but you can still fall if you’re thrown or if you miscalculate your jump. You can also fall and be skewered by the spiked floor. Indeed, this was a huge emphasis in making this “Double Dragon” game as Technos-like as possible and I burst out in a fiendish laugh during development. I think most side-scrolling games only center on this aspect.
One of the new enemy characters is Steve, who was originally modeled after actor Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Super Double Dragon,” where he specializes in kicking techniques, although it seems our designer has been watching “The Matrix” too many times because Steve’s design is very similar to the Agent characters. Personally, the Van-Damme movie “Double Impact” was a favorite of mine.
Kikuchiyo (whose name is spelled Kikucho in the English version) is named after Toshiro Mifune’s character in “The Seven Samurai.” He looks like a feudal-era warlord who originally started off as a serious samurai but gradually evolved into something of a joke character like “Ken Shimura’s Bakatono.” Since the plot is set after a Nuclear War, Kikuchiyo was written to be the leader of a Samurai gang that wished to bring the ruined world back to the feudal era.
The main rivals this time are the “Five Emperors” (the five Masters of Gen-Setsu-Ken, known as the “Five Tiger Generals” in the Japanese version) led by Raymond, who were originally meant to invoke the image of the “Five Animals Fist,” a style used by Jackie Chan in his films. The five assassins were meant to represent the following animals: the “Dragon,” the “Snake,” the “Tiger,” the “Crane” and the “Leopard,” while their techniques represented “wind,” “shadow,” “strength,” “lightning” and “phantasm,” but those aspects were roughly cut.
Raymond takes his name from Raymond Chow, the founder of the Golden Harvest movie production company in Hong Kong. He originally looked like actor Steven Seagal, but his appearance was gradually changed and now he looks more like Japanese pro-wrestler Umanosuke Ueda.
The other members of the “Five Emperors” are Yang Zheng-Li (the one with the head band), Wu In-Sik (the bald one), Anderson (the one with the forelocks) and David (the one with long red hair).
Additionally Chin Taimei is now called Chen Wang-Yu. His bald counterpart is named Chen Yuan-Gui.
As for rejected characters, we had Bolo and Abore, as well as the Right Arm from “Double Dragon II.” We also had plans to include Baker, the swordsman from “Super Double Dragon,” as well as a character we eliminated from “Super” called Steiner, who wielded a Beretta and a Parker. And then there was Kobobo, a small macho guy with Abobo’s face who could easily be defeated with a low kick.
We couldn’t record Chin’s battle cry in this game, nor Burnov’s laugh, and there was other stuff we did that we had to cut out (Abobo’s arm folding pose was one of the things that remained).
There are four new stages in addition to the original stages from the arcade game. Stages 3 and 4, the Chinatown and Truck stages, are based on stages from “Super Double Dragon.” Mission 6, the “Cavern,” is based on an original stage from the NES version of the first game, but we made the place look more like a dungeon with some traces of a movie set.
Mission 7, the Fortress, was inspired by a cliché in many 1970s kung fu movies, in which the protagonist would usually have a fight to the death against a foreign bodyguard working for the lead antagonist. We planned to make the player fight against a hired martial artist before fighting against Willy, but decided to construct a new stage just for the battle against Raymond.
We originally planned the stage to be only one large floor, where several pupils arrive to fight the heroes, something that invoked the image of “Smash TV” or the end of the first stage in Capcom’s “Commando,” but drawn in an eastern flair. Then I decided to throw in a few fire-breathing dragon statues like the ones seen in the second stage of “Kung Fu Master” (released as “Kung Fu” for the NES), which was one of my favorite arcade games. Then we thought there weren’t enough spiked beds like the ones in the NES version of “Double Dragon II.” So in the end, we expanded the stage to make it more like the latter half of the NES “Double Dragon II” by making it into a side-scrolling stage where you have to jump over spiked beds.
The beginning of this stage is filled with the infamous instant-death spiked beds from the NES “Double Dragon II,” which one must avoid falling into. You can also use that to your favor and throw enemies over there. The end of the stage is a battle against the “Five Emperors” in a showdown between rival martial arts schools.
If you play the stage, you’ll probably notice a strange gap in the middle of the passage. Its original purpose was to suck the player in, causing him to fall below the screen. But then we thought it was a bit overboard (even for a “Double Dragon” game) and we removed it.
The people who played through this part were yelling at the screen “This is overkill! Don’t go there! This is awful! This sucks!” I would’ve liked to have kept the trap and seen people react to it and say, “This is an unfair trap! Damn bastards!” It would’ve given the game an old-school feel (back when people would often yell at the screen)
Looking back, you’re more likely to slip up on a trap in most retro games if you haven’t memorized the game yet. Perhaps I could’ve added some hint to make things less complicated.
Moreover, looking at the stage now, it’s a little somber compared to the very sparkling and gorgeous look of the arcade version of “Double Dragon II,” so I’m slightly disappointed. But this stage is filled with my affection for the NES version, so it is still my favorite stage in the game.
The first detail that struck me the most in any stage was the billboard for the game “Kunio-kun” (the Japanese version of “Renegade”) in the first stage of the arcade “Double Dragon.” I wanted to preserve the billboard and poster from that stage, as well as other details in the game such as the cardboard boxes marked “TJC” as much as possible.
The third stage, “Chinatown,” has various Chinese characters in the background. A sign at the end of the stage reads Táng Shān Dà Xiōng (“The Big Brother from the Tang Mountains”), which is the original Chinese title of Bruce Lee’s debut movie “The Big Boss” (originally distributed in the United States as “Fists of Fury”), a movie which Bruce Lee trained really hard for during production. Another sign atop a dojo says Wing Chun (“eternal spring”), a Southern style martial art from Canton, China.
The end of the stage features artwork of Bruce Lee doing his famous fighting stance from “Game of Death” on the back of a truck. The entire town was drawn to have a classic 1970s or 80s kung fu movie feel.
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