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Double Dragon Arcade Version vs. Genesis Version

By Larry Petit


After visiting this site nearly every day, collecting far more versions of the various Double Dragon games than should be allowed and going out of my way to get the LCD games, I decided it was time to give back to the DD community.  As you may guess, the original arcade version of Double Dragon is my all time favorite game, and like other DD fans, I like to find the port closest to the arcade.  Naturally, the closest I found was the port to the Sega Genesis by Ballistic (a division of Accolade). 

So what did I do?  I got some emulators, played the games extensively and tried to note every little itty bitty detail between them.  After all, we want arcade perfect, don't we?  Although the two versions are very, very similar, there are a few differences.  I'll try to note them all, but should you notice any that I missed, please email me and I'll try to get this updated.  Please note that I'm really noting how the Genesis version differs from the arcade, since I think we've all played the coin-op at one time or another.  I will note how it's different from the coin-op, but when I say something's different, you should see it as the Genesis version.

Let's start with the general stuff, then we'll work our way through the missions.

The Characters:

All the characters are here, but some aren't right.  Let's take it one by one (NOTE: The Genesis version uses almost no palette switching.  Except in the case of Roper, Billy, Jimmy, Jeff, and the green Abobo, there was none that I noticed).

Billy Lee: Billy looks pretty much the same in both versions, except his eyes aren't blue and right after you attack, he'll reposition slightly differently from the coin-op version.

Jimmy Lee: Same deal.

Marian: Marian has been given a makeover.  Her head looks completely different, and it's really not for the better either.  Right after she gets slugged, her hair flies up, and it looks like she has a huge forehead.  What the heck, Ballistic?

Williams: Williams looks pretty much the same in both versions.

Roper: Roper looks the same, and is the sole character that uses actual pallet switching on a regular basis in the Genesis version, going from lighter skinned to darker skinned.

Linda: Linda has, like Marian, been given a makeover.  She now wears a light blue uniform instead of the purple one from the arcade.  She also has lost her frizzy hair in favor of a more general cut.  I don't know why Ballistic felt the need to do this.  Maybe they had been hitting the sauce?

Abobo: Bolo looks the same, but there's no Abobo sprite.  Bolo stays the same the whole way through, except the green one does show up at the end of Mission 3.  What's up with that?  He doesn't even have his original beard and Mohawk!

Jeff: Jeff is here, but now he's just a pallet swapped version of Billy/Jimmy.  The heads are the same.

Willy: The same in both versions.


The graphics in general are similar in both versions, but the Genesis version looks much richer then the coin-op.  As in the case of the Genesis' Ms. Pac-Man, this is a port of an arcade classic that actually looks better than it's original version.  Apparently the Genesis is much more powerful than the arcade hardware of 1987.


The music is superb in both versions and both sound identical, except they are composed differently.  But both sound great.  I have no complaints.

Sound Effects:

The sound effects are pretty poor in the Genesis version.  The punches and kicks don't sound nearly as good as the coin-ops, and instead of the "Aarrrgh!" or "AHH!" of the arcade, they're replaced by a strange "OLF" sound.  This doesn't sound when the enemies die, but instead whenever they are near defeat and you hit them.  Linda makes a "FIFT" sound when she dies. Also, during boss music, there's an odd "WOOOOOOOOO" sound.


While they are basically the same between the two versions, they are much harder in the Genesis version.  You are constantly on the move.  These guys follow you everywhere and won't give you much of a clear shot.  This is especially apparent when you have a weapon.  The arcade's enemies are much easier (without sacrificing the challenge), plus they behave somewhat more realistically: moving away when you go to attack, then losing their footing and fall into the pit in Mission 2, etc.


All the weapons are the same in both versions.  However, the whip is much stronger in the Genesis version and you can actually see the enemy holding the knife.  Also in Sega's version, boxes and rocks disappear after too much use.  I didn't notice this in the arcade, but then again, I didn't really throw them over and over again.


All the same, but I didn't notice the ability to be grabbed or grab an enemy in the Genesis port.  I don't mean throwing the enemy over your shoulder, I mean where you would grab them by their arms, and your partner would slug them, or vice versa.  You also can't kick barrels like you could in the arcade, as far as I could tell at least.

General Game Play:

Game play remains similar in both versions.  You walk along and beat the snot out of anyone you see.  It's much harder in the Genesis version, as the enemies are beyond relentless.  They are neither as challenging or realistic as the arcade's enemies, but are instead plain frustrating.  I was able to master them, so it's not impossible, but then again, I'm just naturally good at fighting games.  One difference I was pleased with was that there was almost no slowdown in Sega's version.  There was one incident at the beginning of Mission 3 if you rush ahead to the right as far as you can.  It slows down, what with all the enemies on screen, as well as you and/or a buddy.  Still, you shouldn't rush ahead with this version's insane difficulty anyway, so in other words, there is basically no real slowdown.

Let's go mission by mission here and try to pick every little difference we can find.

It should be noted that unlike the arcade, the game doesn't scroll into the next mission.  It instead shows Billy and/or Jimmy walking off screen, and then reappearing on the next mission.  Also, the "Mission 1/2/3/4" message at the top of each new stage is much more detailed and nicer looking in Sega's release instead of the plain white message in the arcade's.  The "Go Ahead" hand is animated in the Genesis version.  The title screens are pretty much the same, except the title and logo fall down on to the screen on the Genesis instead of fading on like in the coin-ops.  Personally, I like the coin-ops more.  The high score screens are also different.  Remember, all these differences I note are in the Genesis version.

Mission 1: The City Slum

I noticed the most differences here. 

- Different font on the "English Tear" sign.

- Better sound when garage door opens (sounds of the door opening, instead of a car-like sound in the arcade).

- On the wall with the wanted posters, the arcade's pictures of Willy and Roper are replaced by stupid looking generic faces with the reward money message below them.  There is little difference between them, except one is slightly bigger than the other.  The "Sell" poster is gone completely.

- The trees in the background are different.  They no longer look like a big bunch, but instead look like they're standing one right next to the other.  The cityscape seems to be the same.

- The Scoop Moto. sign is way different.  It now only shows the car, with a purple background.  What is this?  Also, the Japanese Renegade sign is replaced with a second Scoop Moto. sign.

- There are broken bricks throughout the building wall.  These are absent in the arcade (rightfully so).

- There is no extra corner on the building like there is in the arcade.

- The cat on the trash can is changed for the better.  It now looks smaller and much more realistic than that big thing that appeared in the arcade.  There is also some additional garbage scattered around the garbage can that is not seen in the arcade.

- There's only one barrel to pick up and throw, instead of the arcade's two.

- The standing barrels are now all the same color, and look pretty much the same, instead of the arcade's differently colored, dented ones.

- The building to the far right on the barrel screen has no damage to it, and is bricked.

Mission 2: The Industrial Area

- The box you can pick up doesn't have "TJC" on it.

- There is less writing on the stacked boxes.

- The small grates on the wall are here, but seemed to be rearranged.

- There is no box to pick up when you get to the conveyor belt.

- The conveyor belt's wheel pulley thing is designed differently.

- The conveyor belt itself seems to move faster.

Mission 3: The Outskirts of Town

- The lift moves back up when you reach the bottom, instead of staying there.

- There are more pipes on the wall the lift goes up on then there are in the arcade.

- The wall to the right is made of brick instead of the plain wall of the original.  It also has no crumbling towards the bottom.

- The forest floor in the background actually has little flowers.

- The piece of railing on the other side of the bridge is missing.

- The fence is different.  It's longer and redesigned to look more broken up.

- The mountain doesn't slope upward right after the fence like it does in the arcade, it just goes up (granted, the arcade didn't really slope upward either, but it didn't just go up). 

- The mountain design itself is different.

- The platforms that extend from the mountain (before the second bridge) seem to be repositioned.

Mission 4: The Enemy Fortress

- The markings on the sides of doors are more detailed.

- The stones that would extend from the wall to smash you in the arcade are absent in this version.  We want arcade perfect, but it does make this Mission 4 easier.

- The animated flames at the top of the wall in the original are replaced by empty spaces.

- The cross insignias that are placed on the walls around those spear statues are replaced by one with a crown, with a small cross on both sides of it.

- The rock walls are redesigned.

- The Abobos that break out of the wall are farther apart and only one is close enough to knock into the spikes. 

- There are no markings on the floor right before you reach Marian.

- The skull signs by the door Willy walks out of are more detailed.

- Not a difference, but it should be noted that if you're playing with two players, you will fight for Marian at end.

- There are no credits when you beat the game.


Well, there's my comparison.  I'm sure this is not complete, but you know, it can get hard when you're paying attention to both the scenery and the fighting.  I tried to avoid sounds (with the exception of the garage sound), since they were pretty much all the same. 

Both versions are pretty similar, but like I said before, there some differences.  Of course the arcade version is the definitive release, but the Genesis port, even with it's frustrating difficulty, is a fun game to play.  I like to think of it as "Double Dragon- Champion Edition."  If you've mastered every other version, give it a try.  Kind of Like "Street Fighter II- Special Champion Edition", except Double Dragon wipes the floor with Street Fighter (Well, it wipes the floor with basically any other fighting game really, be it side scroller or tournament, Double Dragon is #1).

Anyway, I hope I've helped you if you've been considering getting a console version of Double Dragon, or just want a faithful arcade port.  The Genesis release is certainly my favorite home version, hopefully you'll enjoy it too, as it's as close to the arcade as you can get on a home console.  It actually surpasses the original in graphical quality.  Of course, you simply can't top the original arcade, but that's a given.