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The Way of Double Dragon Advance 

By Muneki Ebinuma for Game Kommander
Translated by Johnny Undaunted
Associate Editor

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 - 

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For my own self-indulgence, I insisted on sticking with the original compositions since we couldn’t get Kazunaka Yamane (the composer of the first two “Double Dragon” games and “Super”) to do new music and I didn’t want the soundtrack of the game to end up like “Double Dragon 3” or the Neo-Geo game, which didn’t sound anything like “Double Dragon.”  The Mission 1 Theme from the arcade “Double Dragon” brings back a lot of memories, and another classic tune I really like is “Roar of the Double Dragon,” the Mysterious Warrior’s theme from the NES “Double Dragon II.”

When I was doing “Super Double Dragon,” I asked the senior staff member who was in charge of “Double Dragon II” for the NES, “What request did you make when you asked (Yamane) to the compose the Mysterious Warrior’s theme?”  He simply told me that the only request he had was “to make it sound cool.”  The initial sample he came up was so good that it didn’t need to be redone.

Following his example, I simply said without memorizing a word, “Can you please do a cool tune like the Mysterious Warrior’s theme from Double Dragon II?” when it came to doing the theme music for Duke, the final boss in “Super.”  Unfortunately, the scene that the tune was composed for was not included in the released version of the game.

For the GBA game, I first started by giving the music composer a video play through of the arcade “Double Dragon” and the NES “Double Dragon II” (including the endings of both games) and gave him a list of instructions of what I wanted for each tune.  As a result, he told me, “The original music is really cool, so we’re going to do arranged versions of the music that don’t stray too far and are just as good.”  My intuition at the time was, “Eh, this won’t turn out to be good.”

Moreover, using the master samples would’ve taken too much memory, so we had to make versions that didn’t too much memory and compared them, since the scale was obviously going to be different.  I asked, “Which of the tunes can we use high memory versions of?” But of the numerous tunes we composed, we “couldn’t even use half of them.”  It was highly important that our score captured the charm of “Double Dragon.”

Tunes that we planned to use included the cavern theme from the NES “Double Dragon” for Stage 6, as well as the unused tune from “Super Double Dragon” that was intended for the underground passage.  We also planned to reuse Duke’s Theme when you fought against the other four members of the Emperors prior to fighting their leader, Raymond.  It’s a real shame we couldn’t put both of those tunes in the game.  There were also lots of tunes from “Double Dragon II” I truly wanted to put in the game but couldn’t use.

Two players co-op

During the development, we came up with the idea of a very funny combo that could be done with 2-players called the “heading match!”  Although I must say it’s a bit difficult to pull off, it’s amusing to perform nonetheless.

First, one of the players must strike an enemy in mid-air with a headbutt.  Then the other player must strike the enemy back with his headbutt. (How many loops can the enemy take in mid-air?  Abobo usually dies in less than eight loops!)  Our Director and Advance Coordinator during development, Tomoyuki Matsumoto, who had an illustrious career working on pro-wrestling games for a certain high-profile developer, laughed out loud when he saw that.  There were numerous other combos, such as having one-player strike the enemy in the back with the Hyper Uppercut while the other sends him flying with the Hyper Knee.  It was an interesting and very fun development process!


We were inspired by a movie pitch Bruce Lee wrote before his death titled “Southern Fist, Northern Leg,” although the setting also ended up completely resembling “Fist of the North Star” again, surprisingly enough.  The essence of “Fist of the North Star” and “Southern Fist, Northern Leg” were partially put into the original’s story, but those elements were arranged so that it would feel like a “warrior’s way” movie that Bruce Lee and Hong Kong Martial Arts movies were pursuing before his death.

The outward appearance has an image similar to the Walter Hill movies “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire,” but its heart is extremely Eastern, as I really wanted an atmosphere similar to Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon,” as shown with the dialogue and characters.

The cut-scenes were made so they wouldn’t be too elaborate.  The text was already inserted during the early stages in case we couldn’t put any of the artwork in since I didn’t want to release another game where the plot and ending were left unexplained like in “Super Double Dragon.”

Since “development” is part of a story composition in a game, the idea was to bring everything together cinematically in one product.  After all, a really good production requires lots of time and capacity.  The NES version of “Double Dragon II” is well liked around here for its drama.


In the prologue of Bruce Lee’s movie pitch for “Southern Fist, Northern Leg,” there’s a part that says “as civilization grew to become more material, genocidal weapons such as poisonous gas and bombs were now being used by criminals around the world.”  Dynamite was in fact a weapon in the original arcade game, so we increased the number of times it can be thrown on-screen by the enemy to emphasize its presence.  Most of the development team preferred the increased number after adjusting it during the tuning phase, so we left it like that.

I truly wanted to add in poisonous gas, as well as modern arms such as guns.  They wouldn’t kill you in one-hit like in “Ghosts ‘n Goblins” and “Renegade” since they would slowly drain away your energy instead, but we avoided adding them since we were afraid they would change the whole feel of the game.  I also had plans to add the ability to stock up on knives, but unfortunately we didn’t do that either.

Discarded ideas

The originally proposed plot was composed of two portions.  The first portion would’ve taken place before the war.  We planned to put an aged teacher in Chinatown, as well as a cut-scene showing a battle of schools between Raymond, Hong and Wong, and then the master would then fall ill and die of sickness.  The teacher would then say, “You only live once in a lifetime, so don’t gamble it in a life or death struggle.  When such a times comes, use the secrets.  But don’t use them excessively.”

There would be a prologue where there would be intruders all over the dojo and the goal would be to resist Willy and his thugs as they “enter the district” while preventing them from completely destroying the place.  After that, there was part where one must escape from a city about to be bombed during the nuclear war.  The final chapter of this portion would finally display the “Double Dragon” title and it would end with Marian being kidnapped, remaking the opening of the first arcade game! At least, that was the plan.

After being told, “Hey! That’s too long! Look at our budget, memory and schedule! We can’t even make a back-up!”  I had to abandon this plan and start anew.

There were a few interesting game modes planned as well that we had to abandon.  There was a “Marian’s Escape” mode, where she manages to free herself and must escape from her captors during the final scene, as well as a “Renegade Abobo” mode, where Abobo turns face and helps Marian escape from her captors.  The only idea that did survive was the 1-Player Double Dragon mode.

We also had the idea to put in the three guys from “Combatribes” (Berserker, Blitz and Bullova), as well as an appearance by Marian during Survival Mode in intervals between every 20 opponents.  The idea was to have your character catch up to Marian get a kiss from her, restoring a portion of his life!  That was another interesting idea we had to cut. Nevertheless, it’s a relief we somehow managed to complete the game at all.

Enemy behavior patterns

I think it was interesting that we used a pro-wrestling game as an image.  As the player’s life energy goes down, the player is less likely to use defense or countering techniques, leaving him with a sense of defenselessness.

Although we had the idea to make enemies actually change their attack patterns depending on how you fought, we didn’t implement it.  For instance, if you attack an enemy at his feet, he would then walk more slowly and would be unable to perform kicking techniques, and if he did they would do less damage than normal.

There also would have been a number of actions in which, after hitting an enemy’s vital point, the enemy would make an over-reaction to express his pain, but that idea was also cut.

One technique we wanted to include would be one that would break an opponent’s arms or feet.  The techniques would have been extremely special maneuvers that would break an enemy’s limb if the timing was done right, making the enemy scream and run away on sight.  I truly wanted to implement this, but unfortunately couldn’t.

We also wanted to include more deadly weapons, especially lots of Chinese-type martial arts weapons, but the only one we actually put in the game were the double sticks.  I also wanted to add the ability to pick up a second nunchaku after disarming the enemy and have the character wield a “double nunchaku.”

Other features we planned to include were “specific techniques for Billy and Jimmy,” “actions performed based on your environment, “kung fu competitions,” “enemies that fought in pairs,” and even the ability to “taunt,” but time and capacity wouldn’t have allowed us to do this and we didn’t want to stray too far from the original arcade game.  So we eliminated most of those ideas and only added the ones we could realistically put in the game.  I think we did excellent work on the game without straining ourselves too far, considering that we can’t be hotter than old times, but we can’t be ice cold either.

Aspects of the original that were not added this time

The arcade version of “Double Dragon,” from the garage at the start of the game until the entrance of the hideout, was simply one large form of scenery!  I was very impressed by this design choice.

The entire game up until the ending occurs in only two takes!  It is a very cinematic technique that is hard to pull off, and surely there weren’t many games that used this production style.  Almost all of the stages are connected, giving the game a peculiar sense of realism, and the player a sense of self-immersion as the game gives an extended outlook of the game’s universe while playing.

After completing a stage, the player’s character enters an automatic transition period as he walks into the next stage, with not cut-off or interruptions.  I wanted to recreate this in “Double Dragon Advance,” but we encountered several setbacks and decided against it in the end.

And then there’s the enemy’s “taking steps back.”  Those who are good at playing the arcade version of “Double Dragon” should know this, but when you approach to punch or kick an enemy, he would somehow narrowly avoid having the attack connect (since he’s take a step away from the attacking range).  Although it might seem possible to hit him simply by approaching, you must push the joystick toward the enemy and then attack to actually land a hit.  If you do the jump kick, which leaves your character jumping in a parabolic arc, the enemy would retreat at the same speed to avoid the hit.

Having the enemies avoid attacks by being quick on their toes is unusual for games of this type, but is seen often in Technos’ arcade games, which gives them a strange difficulty setting and a unique feel while playing them.

Because we had to consider the image of the NES version as well, we eliminated both of these aspects of “Double Dragon” from the remake, even though I wanted to put them in, and we gave our product a new feel that would also appeal to fans of the NES version as well.  Despite these points, I still think the game managed to be pretty faithful to the arcade original.

Although it is not an exact reproduction of the arcade “Double Dragon,” we did not end up deviating completely like the team that produced “Double Dragon II” for the NES, and the development process was very fun for me.  Moreover, there was also an inceptive to add many new ideas to this product.  Thanks to our staff, we managed to do so much with only 32 MB.  This was the greatest development process I was involved with.

A message to all Double Dragon fans

The 1987 classic “Double Dragon” has not been seen in consoles released during the past few years.  For me, it was a very moving, dramatic story.  I want to give thanks to “Double Dragon” fans over the world reading this article for their support and for giving the series “one more chance.”  Our staff would like to express their gratitude from our hearts to you for keeping “Double Dragon” alive in your memories.  Without your support, we wouldn’t have completed “Double Dragon Advance.”  Please continue to cherish “Double Dragon” forever.  It’s a series I value and appreciate very much as well.  And it is this kind of appreciation that made this all possible.

- Muneki Ebinuma

December 30, 2003


The initial sprite designs of Billy and Marian for the game.

These are the original sprite designs for Billy and Marian that we drew as a test at the end of 2002.  The lead designer had the idea of allowing the player to select a female character after completing the game once.  Although I really did love these designs, we set them aside when we decided to return to the series’ roots and use the arcade version of “Double Dragon” as a basis.


This article is a copyright of Game Kommander.  Permission was granted specifically to the Double Dragon Dojo to reprint the article.  Reprinting the article without permission from Game Kommander is prohibited.