Double Dragon officially turns 35 this week, and for anyone who remembers playing the game in the arcades, they’ll also likely reflect on just how brutally difficult the series was. That challenging gameplay wasn’t accidental, as Arc System Works’ Takaomi Kaneko recalled stories to the PS Blog that he’d personally heard from the game’s creator and then-director, Yoshihisa Kishimoto, when he worked for Technos on Double Dragon 4.
Double Dragon 3, which expanded the co-op brawling from two to three players, was particularly infamous for its high difficulty levels. Kaneko explained that there was no plan to balance its gameplay, and it was designed to be extremely difficult to complete for a solo player. This encouraged cooperative play, and as a lucrative bonus, more coins were pumped into each machine.
“AI and combat was intended to be as true to real life as possible,” Kaneko explained. “This, coupled with the nature of arcade games at the time, meant a playthrough–even with a teammate–wouldn’t become too easy.”
Another interesting fact about Double Dragon was its implementation of friendly fire gameplay systems, which was fine-tuned through location tests at the time. Kaneko recalled how the system would encourage players to improve their teamwork, as the gameplay mechanic added a sense of exciting danger and a fun twist at the end of the game.
“Two players would ultimately face off against the other at the game’s end during a cooperative playthrough,” Kaneko said. “That the brothers Billy and Jimmy could strike each other would inspire players to set out their own rules and devise gameplay strategies.”
Double Dragon has been largely dormant for several years now as the last game in the series, Double Dragon IV, was released back in 2017 on PC and PS4. Taking place shortly after the events of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, the game used a nostalgic 8-bit art style and was developed by former Technos staff and Arc System Works.