Sometimes I feel bad for Technos. To this day many gamers don’t really know them as developers, despite their obvious contributions to the beat-em-up genre. I can’t blame those people, considering the company went out of business nearly 20 years ago in 1996. What’s even sadder, though, is that it seems to me that Technos spent the last decade of its life trying to recreate the glory of their biggest triumph, Double Dragon. Don’t get me wrong, Combatribes was a nice game and the Kunio-kun series (which includes River City Ransom and Super Dodge Ball) are fun experiences whose co-op works even today. But it was Double Dragon that invented the modern beat-em-up (by fixing the clumsy, archaic mechanics of their previous game Renegade)—a combination of good gameplay, interesting aesthetics, and being in the right place at the right time. (Totally unrelated side note: the original Double Dragon is also the only arcade game my brother and I have ever played together. That ending battle was intense.)
It was the groundbreaking success of 1987’s Double Dragon that Technos chased after with their final virtual breaths. Numerous sequels to the game were released, none as successful (although Double Dragon II makes a decent stab at it despite lacking quite the charm of the original.) There was an animated series, a small run in comics (whose best redeeming quality is the Art Adams cover for issue #2) and a truly horrible movie that makes Uwe Boll’s works appear majestic by comparison, if you can believe that.
The Neo Geo release of Double Dragon, listed as Double Dragon 95 in its credits, is another failed effort to recapture the glory of years gone by. Double Dragon 95’s problem isn’t that it’s bad, because it’s not. The problem is that it just is. Despite being roughly based on the awful movie, it’s actually an okay fighting game, with acceptable graphics, average controls, mediocre music and almost nothing else to recommend it. In 1992, this might have been a contender in the first wave of Street Fighter II wannabes. In the super-competitive arena of waning arcades, however, “average” just couldn’t cut it. By 1995, on the Neo Geo—which had Samurai Shodown, Fatal Fury, King of Fighters and many other, better, fighting titles—this game was wholly inadequate.
It was also nonsensical, forcing you to fight every other character in order to win, which lead to strange scenarios such as Billy beating Marian unconscious in order to get to the final boss. It does provide the ability to play as notable enemies from the game series like Abobo (Double Dragon), Burnov (Double Dragon II) and Amon (Double Dragon III), but that just isn’t enough. This release of Double Dragon was the last official game in the series that Technos released before closing shop. If they had succeeded with it, there’s no telling where they and the series might be today.