Beginning with the release of Double Dragon in 1987, the Double Dragon franchise is considered to be one of the defining series for the beat-em-up genre. Since the arcade release of the original game, Double Dragon has spawned a popular franchise of eight games spanning across dozens of platforms, compilations, and ports. Additionally, the game's popularity has led to the publication of other media, such as a comic book, a TV show, and even a film.
With nearly every game in the franchise developed with input from Technos Japan Corporation, the Double Dragon franchise has influenced many of Technos' other games. As developers of the Kunio-kun franchise, the Double Dragon stars (Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee) have appeared in Super Spike V'Ball, WWF Superstars, and River City Ransom (as Randy and Andy, appearing in later games as Ryouchi and Ryouji). In addition, a fighting game that Technos developed for the Neo-Geo, titled Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer, features Burnov (a character from the Double Dragon games) in a cameo.
After Technos Japan Corporation's bankruptcy, the rights for the franchise were sold to Million, a company founded by former Technos employees. As current holders of the rights, Million has only developed one game in the franchise; the 2003 Double Dragon remake titled Double Dragon Advance.
The main series of Double Dragon consists of Double Dragon, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones, Super Double Dragon, and Double Dragon Advance. All of these games are traditional beat-em-up games based on the gameplay of the first game, although they all expand on the features found in their predecessors. With gameplay features remain similar from game to game, the differences found within each game range from major changes in control, to minor enemy and weapon differences.
Naturally, one of Double Dragon's key aspects are the moves found in the game. Every game has granted the series' stars with a variety of unique moves, with the first game introducing the signature hair grab (where the player can grab an enemy's hair, and then proceed to either punch him repeatedly, or perform a throw). Double Dragon II and Double Dragon III both introduced a few moves, such as head butts, while Super Double Dragon altered the gameplay to be more ground focused, removing aerial attacks.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge significantly changed the way the game was played with the alteration of the game's control scheme. Opting for a Renegade style directional based control scheme, Double Dragon II didn't require players to be facing a certain direction to attack. For example, if the player is facing right, one button will cause the player to punch forward, while the other will cause the character to perform a backwards kick.
Weapons are another large part of the series, with the first game introducing series staples such as the baseball bat, explosives, and even interactive rocks, boulders, or barrels. Every game has expanded the arsenal, although Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones was criticized heavily for the weapons found in the arcade version. In Double Dragon III (the arcade version, and a few other versions), players would have to insert credits (i.e. actual money) in order to purchase new weapons, abilities, and characters from a shop mode.
Each game in the series has had one particular change that either caused it to be hailed, or heavily criticized. For example, the Nintendo Entertainment System version of Double Dragon featured a role-playing game like system where players' abilities would be upgraded as more enemies were killed. Double Dragon II introduced a Mode B type, where friendly fire between players would be turned on. Double Dragon III also featured some role-playing game like modes, such as a menu where the character being played at the time was interchangeable. Super Double Dragon's addition was a charge meter, that (when filled) allows players to unleash special moves.
Featuring two fighting games, the Double Dragon franchise began branching off in 1994, with the release of Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. Based off of the Double Dragon cartoon, this game was an attempt to capitalize on the fighting game craze which began with the release of Street Fighter II. A later Neo-Geo game from Technos, merely titled Double Dragon, was better received than Double Dragon. This Neo-Geo game inspired Rage of the Dragons, which was based off of the game (and featured two characters named Billy Lewis and Jimmy Lewis), although was not an official sequel.
Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls was a traditional six-button fighting game. The game pits twelve fighters into one-on-one matches, although was criticized for a lack of innovative features. Other than a story mode based off of the cartoon, Double Dragon V introduced special attacks which could be triggered by holding one direction, and then quickly switching to another one while hitting the attack button. This was criticized, especially due to the general feel it created (as it is difficult to switch from one direction to another without hitting any in between).
The Neo-Geo game was much better received, partially due to the higher level of input from Technos Japan Corporation (Double Dragon V was almost entirely Tradewest's creation). Differing from Double Dragon V, this game doesn't have set buttons for punching or kicking, but rather four buttons that determine the power of the attack. As the fights progress, the player's charge meter is filled. When full, the player is able to unleash massive charged attacks on the enemy, which become more powerful the lower the player's health.
A variety of other releases have been included in the Double Dragon franchise, most notably Battletoads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team. While not considered a part of the main series (as the gameplay is based off of Battletoads rather than Double Dragon), the game was the result of a crossover from Rare's Battletoads and Technos Japan Corporation's Double Dragon franchise. The game is a traditional beat-em-up in which players are tasked with defeating the Dark Queen, the final boss from Battletoads.
Many versions of Double Dragon have also been notable. The Game Gear version of the first game was subtitled The Revenge of Billy Lee in Europe. While still retaining some similar gameplay elements, the Game Gear version focuses on Billy Lee's quest to avenge his brother Jimmy Lee, who has been murdered. This version of the game is considered by fans to be one of the worst games in the franchise.
The Game Boy version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge is also particularly notable, due to the fact that it is merely a localized version of Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-Kun: Bangai Rantouhen, another beat-em-up from Technos Japan Corporation. In this version, Billy Lee is attempting to clear his name after being framed for a murder.
Many of the other ports of Double Dragon games have been relevant, particularly the ports to computer platforms. Typically handled by Binary Designs or Virgin Mastertronic, these games are all considered to be of much lower quality than the main games. This is largely due to lowered graphical resolution (the ZX Spectrum version of Double Dragon had transparent sprites), sound quality (some Commodore 64 versions completely removed the sound), or lack of key modes (most of the versions lacked two player cooperative).
A six issue comic book written by Dwayne McDuffie, Tom Breevoort, and Mike Kanterovich, the Double Dragon comic ran for six issues. Released during 1991, these comics were published by Marvel. The comic books had very little involvement from Technos Japan Corporation, due to a licensing agreement with Tradewest. The comics portray the series' heroes in a different light, more as superheroes rather than martial artists. Additionally, the comic book introduced new supervillains, such as Superluminal, Exoskeleton, and Legerdemain.
The cartoon based off of Double Dragon began on September 12, 1993. Created by DiC Entertainment, the series ran for 26 thirty-minute episodes for two seasons. The show follows Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee, although their story is altered from the games. In the show, they were separated after their birth. The pilot episode centers around their reunion. Jimmy is initially considered to be a villain due to the fact that he was raised by the brothers' mortal enemy, the Shadow Master.
- The Shadow Falls
- The Legend Continues
- The Price of Oblivion
- River of Tears
- Judgment Day
- The Mistress of Chi
- Over the Line
- Call to Arms
- Heart of the Matter
- Dragon Hunt
- The Eye of the Dragon
- The Abyss
- Shadow Khan
- Shadow Claw
- Doom Claw
- Virtual Reality Bytes
- Superhighway Warriors
- The Spirit in the Sword
- Shadow Conned
- The Sight of Freedom
- The Ancients Arise
- The Return of the Shadow Monster
- Daj of Undertown
The film based on Double Dragon of the same name was released on November 4, 1994. Starring Robert Patrick (as the villain, Koga Shuko), Scott Wolf (as Billy Lee), Mark Dacascos (as Jimmy Lee), and Alyssa Milano (as Marian Delario), the film is significantly different from the games on which it is based. The film takes place in 2007, and follows the brother as they search for both shards of the Double Dragon, a medallion which is said to grant the owner ultimate power (something that Koga Shuko is seeking).
- In the NES version of Double Dragon III, Billy Lee is inaccurately referred to as Bimmy Lee.
- In the materials provided with the North American version of Double Dragon on the arcade, Billy and Jimmy are known as Hammer and Spike.
- A 2003 Neo-Geo release from SNK Playmore and Noise Factory titled Power Instinct Matrimelee features Jimmy Lewis, who is based off of Jimmy Lee.
- Bruce Lee is credited in the special thanks of Double Dragon Advance.