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Return of Double Dragon: Sleeping Dragon has Awoke
Console: Super Famicom
Developer: Technos Japan Corp.
Publisher: Technos Japan Corp.
Number of Players: 2
Release Date: October 16, 1992

Story | Codes | Moves | Characters | Credits | The True Story


By Johnny Undaunted
Associate Editor


With the success Technos Japan had with the original Double Dragon at the arcades and its two sequels on Nintendo's Famicom, there was very little doubt that a fourth game was in the works.  However, unlike the first three games, the fourth Double Dragon wasn't an arcade game and was done directly for Nintendo's back then-new Super Famicom console, mainly to avoid any complicated manner of porting the Arcade game to the SNES, but also to develop the game with more freedom.  The U.S. publishing was given to Tradewest and American Technos this time instead of Acclaim, probably to ensure a more direct translation.  However, Tradewest  wanted the game out earlier, so rather than waiting for Technos Japan to put the finishing touches on the product, the company released an incomplete version of the game called Super Double Dragon.  Between the release dates of the American and Japanese versions, Technos Japan made a few significant changes and dubbed the Japanese version Return of Double Dragon.  Although not everything Technos wanted for the game was added due to time constraints (such as a brother vs. brother ending similar to arcade version of Double Dragon that couldn't be added due to a bug), the version that was released in Japan was a far better game than what Tradewest threw at America.  To read what the full version should have been like, click on "The True Story" hyperlink above.

The storyline doesn't follow the continuity set by the first three games.  Instead, it's more or less a remake of the original arcade game.  It seems that Billy and Jimmy Lee have opened a new martial arts school in town and have quickly gathered popularity.  The other dojo in town, the Duke Dojo (secretly operated by the Shadow Warriors), isn't too happy about this. The bad guys kidnap a female cop named Marian Kelly, who is one of the Lee brothers' students, and will only release her in exchange for the Sou-Setsu-Ken Dojo.  So now itís up to the Lee brothers to save the girl and beat up the bad guys.

Graphics: A

The graphics are great, especially considering this is second generation Super Famicom software and all.  The characters may not be as big as the ones featured in games like Final Fight or Combatribes, but because of this, the stages are wider and the characters have several moves and frames of animations, which more than make up for it.  Not to mention a great variety of weapons and two-player cooperation.

There are several different missions and each of them are incredibly detailed.  You start the game in Las Vegas (for some strange reason), then you move on to an airport, a Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, the street slum, the mountain area and Duke's mansion.  The street slum is a homage to the first mission in the original Double Dragon and not only features a remix of the same tune, but a wanted poster of Abobo as well.  Some parts of the game take place inside elevators, stairways and even on top of a moving truck.  The final mission features two new areas missing from Super Double Dragon: a series of stairways and a spiked room where you fight every one of the previous bosses before confronting Duke.  My only gripe is how flat most of the stages are.  Most of the interactive environments consist of jumping on top of chairs and phone booths or bouncing over walls.  Some of the stages features obstacles like pitfalls, strong wind and even punching bags that can be use against the enemies, but they are very few and far between.

I noticed a few changes made with the game's graphics between Super and Return.  In this version, the sign that says "Real Beer" in Mission 5 is changed to "Sale Book" for some strange reason, and the fonts used in the Mode Select screen are different.

The only time Mode 7 is used is in the opening, which is used to rotate the Technos logo (an effect missing in the American version).  I think that's a waste.

Sound: A+

The audio of Super Double Dragon is made even better in Return of Double Dragon.  The punches in Return are more realistic than the ones in Super, and Billy and Jimmy have younger and more energetic yells than the ones they used in Super.  Everything else seems to be more or less the same though.  The music is played in a more fitting order in Return than in Super.  The original Double Dragon theme is now played during the title screen and during the final battle where it belongs (instead of the new theme played in Super).  Missions 1 and 3 now play new music not featured in the Super Nintendo version, and the tunes for Missions 1, 3 and 4 from Super are played in Return during Missions 4, 5 and 7 in that very same order.  You can actually listen to the American version's theme along with a new unused tune.  The former was original planned as a boss theme and the latter for an ending.

Enemies: B+

The enemies in Return are more or less identical to the ones in Super.  They are a bit easier to kill in Return than in Super though, but they are still very tough (especially in the Hard level, where they have a tendency to block your attacks) and cunning.  The enemy layout is a bit different in Return from Super though.

The ever-persistent Williams and Roper (not to be confused as Williams and Jeff) from the first two Double Dragon games are back.  This time they are the main authority figures of the Shadow Warriors. Williams is the one with the yellow jacket and army pants, while Roper is the one with the matching light pants, jackets and headband.  They are very weak, but can be quite irritating when they work with other enemies.  You get to fight several versions of Williams and Roper throughout the game.  Besides the regular ones, there are also dark-skinned versions of Williams and Roper (which are the ones that carry weapons), reverse-dressed Williams and Roper (with Roper using Williams's palette and vice versa) that aren't any different from the regular ones and a green-clad Roper that throw oil drums and rocks.  Joining Williams and Roper is a swordsman named Baker.  He comes in three different palettes (each one stronger than the last), but he is generally a weak enemy.  Jeff, a boss character from the original arcade game, appears here as a recurring sub-boss who plays mean tricks.  He is basically a total clone of Billy with a different palette, which is quite lame in my opinion (they should have at least give him a different face like they did with Jimmy).  He appears once or twice in missions one through five and disappears from the rest of the game afterwards.

Alongside the regular henchmen, there are also several boss characters as well.  Steve and Jackson are the bosses of the Missions 1 and 2 respectively, and recurring sub-bosses in later levels.  Steve seems to be some sort of martial artist, while Jackson is a former heavyweight champ, but they are very weak and predictable despite all of this.  The Sheng Long brothers, Foo and Pyo, are twin martial artists that are capable of twisting the player's kicks and have several deadly hand techniques.  They are very formidable opponents and are the Chinese counterparts of Billy and Jimmy.  You actually get to fight both of them together in Mission 3 of Return (unlike in Super, where you Foo first and then Pyo ).  McGuire is a clown-like fat man who has the ability to block the player's attacks with his stomach, but his most notable move is a Blanka-style rolling attack.  Carlem is a shade-wearing giant whose main attack is a middle kick called the "Leg of Death", but he is a bit of a weakling despite this.  Duke, the leader of the Shadow Warriors and the final boss, is an expert martial artist who has several moves including a spinning sweep kick and a rolling attack.  He is very tough with other enemies, but he can be easily beaten when he is alone.

Overall, the rogue gallery in Return is probably the most diverse in the series (the only thing missing is Abobo and the fact that some of the enemies could have been tougher).  The Japanese manual gives rather brief descriptions of each of the villains (alongside a full-color mug shot) and actually mentions a bit of their past and their personality ( i.e.; Sheng Long Pyo has a scar on his right eye as a result of a death match and Steve has an ability on gathering secret information).  Although it's not much, but at least it's something more than the brief move lists given in the Famicom manuals of Double Dragon I and II.  


Weapons: A

Like in the original Double Dragon, weapons can be classified into three categories: projectile-style weapons, large objects and conventional weapons.  Most of the projectile and conventional weapons in the game are carried by the dark-skinned versions of Williams and Roper or Jeff (although you do get to see a white Roper in mission two with an incendiary bomb).  The projectile weapons consist of knives, boomerangs and incendiary bombs.  Knives donít take half of the player's energy like they do in Super, but they still do a great deal of damage.  The boomerang has been made more useful in Return as the player automatically picks-up the boomerang when it comes back to him (as long as he is facing the direction where it's coming).  The incendiary bomb works the same way in Return as it does in Super.  You can actually trick the enemies into moving on top of the bomb when it explodes, killing most of them instantly.

The large items, which are the drum can and the rock, are carried by a green-clad Roper seen in missions four through six.  They pretty much work the same way they did in the original Double Dragon.  You also get to use punching bags in mission three as weapons.

There are two types of conventional weapons, clubs, which are usually used by the black Williams (although, you do get to see Roper carrying it once in mission three) and nunchucks, which are usually carried by Roper (although, Jeff also gets to use them in mission five).  The nunchucks are Billy's favorite weapon, while Jimmy prefers the club, even though I didn't notice any difference between one and the other when I use both characters with either weapon.  The conventional weapons are probably the best ones in the game though, but the nunchucks are probably the better of the two due to their long reach.

On a related note, you can actually pick-up weapons using either the Y or A buttons while standing over them (in Super, you could only use Y to pick up weapons), even though this can be a bit bothersome.  You can also trade weapons anytime you like, so that you don't have to lose energy trying to get rid of a weapon you don't like.


Controls and Moves: A-

In Return, you get to use all six of the Super Famicom/SNES's buttons.  The Y button is the punch button and A button is for kicking.  B is to block attacks and X is for jumping (which are a bit floaty in this game).  Holding the L or R pads will charge your Dragon Power Gauge (more on that later).  The basic attacks consist of several punch and kick combos and a few jump kicks.  One thing I should note is that Billy's and Jimmy's basic arsenal of moves are slightly different from each other.  While Billy uses flexible techniques like the backfist and the uppercut, Jimmy on the other hand uses strong moves like a straight fist and the hook punch.  It would have been better if Technos allowed the player to choose which character to use in a one-player game, but you can tag-team between the two characters if you like.  There are also other moves like the spinning jump kick and the diving jump kick.

When the enemy is dizzy (not squatting, there is a difference between the two), you can grab the enemy (enemies like Williams, Roper, Jeff, Steve, Jackson and Sheng Long) by the hair and do head butts, knee bashes or an over-shoulder throw (with the B or X buttons).  You can also grab your enemy's fist (only works with Williams and Roper though) and punch or kick him repeatedly or simply throw him.  Either way, if an enemy comes behind while your holding another, you can actually do a back kick by holding the opposite direction your facing and pressing A.

When holding the L or R buttons, the Dragon Power Meter will start filling.  If you press Y while the Dragon Meter is less than half full, your character will do a spinning backfist, while pressing A will make him do a spinning jump kick.  When the meter is more than half full, you get to do the Dragon Tail Gale Kick, which multi-hits five times (unlike in Super, which only hits once).  When the meter is full, your character will enter anger mode for a while and will be able to knock any enemy into the ground with his bare fists and kicks, as well as the ability to get up quickly.

Modes: A-

There are three different game play modes: one-player mode, two-player A mode and two-player B mode.  Like in Double Dragon II and III for the NES, neither player can hurt each other in Mode A, but in Mode B they can.  The option of hurting each player should have been left for the option menu (since a second player can join in during a one-player game).  The option menu (which isn't included in Super) allows you to adjust the game's difficulty level, sound mode and number of credits.  You can also listen to the game's music and sound effects.  The only problem with this is that you can have up to nine credits (which take you to the same exact spot where you die), making the game too easy.  That and ability to choose your character would have been nice, but it's still better than Super and you can actually move the cursor using the D-Pad.

Conclusion/Overall: A

Despite most of its flaws, Return of Double Dragon might as well be one of the best games (if not the best) in the series.  It improves upon some of the American version's flaws and turns an already great game even better.

My only gripe is how the game's ending leaves the player unrewarded.  While Super Double Dragon had something resembling an ending (just a bunch of text though), all you get in Return is the closing credits.  Technos should have delayed the game a bit and program a half decent epilogue for the game to go along the storyline given in the manual.  All of the previous Double Dragon Famicom games had endings, so why not this one?  Even Shodai Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun had two different endings and Combatribes for the Super NES (which came two months later) has a very cinematic end, so why not this one?  If you're a fan of the series or beatemups in general, you can't go wrong tracking down a copy of Return of Double Dragon.  If you're the kind of gamer who plays the game to see the ending, you'll be disappointed by Return though.

I recommend anyone to track down a copy of the game with the box and manual.  The cover art is possibly the best I've seen in a Double Dragon game and it's definitely better than the ugly artwork used on the American box.  The manual is light years ahead of the American version.  Not only is it in full color, but it features exclusive artwork not seen in the American version, including a mug shot of Marian in a police uniform.  The overall package (game, manual and box) are better than the American version.