The first console exclusive game in the franchise, Super Double Dragon is the fourth game to be released in the Double Dragon
series. The game was released in October of 1992 in North America, on October 16, 1992 in Japan (as Return of Double Dragon), and on September 30, 1993 in Europe. The game was developed by Technos Japan Corporation
and published by Tradewest
for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Following a plot similar to the very first games, Super Double Dragon has left many fans unsure whether this was intended to be a "reimagining" of the first game, or a full blown sequel. The plot follows Billy Lee
and Jimmy Lee
as they rescue Marian from the evil Shadow Warriors gang. The leader of the gang, Duke, attempts to force the brothers to give him their martial arts dojo, setting the stage for Super Double Dragon.
According to development notes by designer Muneki Ebinuma
, Super Double Dragon was initially intended to be a much larger game than the end result. The game was to have a variety of features that either didn't make it in, or were only kept in the Japanese version. There were a variety of factors leading to the cut content, including Technos Japan Corporations's impending bankruptcy (which occurred in 1996). The need to speed up development coupled with poor marketing and low media coverage (the game was not even covered by Nintendo Power, and many other publications were preoccupied with the recently released Street Fighter II
). In short, the game was overlooked.
The game was intended to have a much longer story, more detailed sprites, altered stage design, different weapons, and cutscenes like those found in Double Dragon II: The Revenge
. The story was meant to include Marian as a playable character, now working as a policewoman. Instead, she is only mentioned in the manual. The game's plot was to involve the investigation of the Shadow Warriors, headed by Marian. Along with introduction cutscenes for each stage, the final boss, Duke, was intended to be part of another team of "Double Dragons," and face off with Billy and Jimmy.
Beside the title changes (the game was called Return of Double Dragon in Japan), the Japanese version was different in many ways from the original version of the game. Considered to be a more complete version of the game, Return of Double Dragon included an option mode (featuring the option to change the difficulty and a sound test), altered weapon damage, slightly modified moves (such as the hurricane kick, which can be performed successively in Return of Double Dragon), the addition of two levels, and shifted background music.
Other than these changes, Return of Double Dragon also included some of the cut content from Super Double Dragon's development cycle. The game included a more fleshed out story than Super Double Dragon, but was still slightly altered from what the original goal was. In Return of Double Dragon, Marian is a female police officer, but she is kidnapped rather than just investigating the Shadow Warriors (in the North American version, Marian is only mentioned in the manual).
Consisting of seven stages, Super Double Dragon is a traditional beat-em-up similar in style and gameplay mechanics to previous Double Dragon titles. Players can jump, kick, and punch, performing successive attacks to accumulate combos (a new feature in Super Double Dragon) Super Double Dragon adds one particular fighting mechanic to the game. The game now allows for blocking enemy attacks, as well as counterattacking (by blocking at the right moment, the player can grab and throw the enemy). Super Double Dragon also removes aerial attacks found in Double Dragon II and Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones
, focusing now on more ground based attacks.
Another new addition to the series is a power gauge which allows the player to perform special attacks based on how much the power gauge is filled. The gauge allows players to execute special attacks, such as a hurricane kick, decimating enemies on the screen. After a special move is performed, the player has a short period where moves are slightly more powerful for a short time.
Weapons are an integral part of the Double Dragon franchise, and Super Double Dragon is no different. It features a variety of weapons, items, and power-ups found in its predecessors. Bombs (which can blow up all enemies in the vicinity), knives (which must be stolen from an enemy, but are very powerful), rocks (which can be kicked when on the ground), nunchucks (which are incredibly powerful and rare), and even the newly introduced boomerangs (which were criticized due to the fact that they can't be caught on the return flight) are all among the weapons found in the game.