Originally published on Pixelitis.net on September 11, 2012.
(Editor’s note: From River City Ransom to Streets of Rage, everyone’s got at least one videogame tune stuck in their heads. Enter Liner Notes: a Pixelitis feature in which our writers discuss their favorite videogame soundtracks.)
WayForward’s Double Dragon Neon makes its debut today, revitalizing a series that hasn’t seen much action in the last ten years. Thus, it would only be fitting to look back at one of the greatest things about this classic beat-‘em-up series that’s not named Abobo: the music.
All of the Double Dragon games have their fair share of kickass tunes, but the one I’m going to focus on happens to be one of my favorite entries in the series. Technos’ NES version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge was better than its predecessor in a bevy of ways, from a major upgrade in the graphics department to most notably incorporating two-player co-op, as if that shouldn’t have been a requirement for the console outings from the start.
Double Dragon II’s music may not be the definitive musical experience for its genre, but its tunes have stuck to me and many other game music aficionados for quite some time. So slick your hair into an Elvis-style ‘do and don your tightest spandex, ’cause it’s time to listen to some mother-effing Double Dragon music!
The composer for the original Double Dragon, Kazunaka Yamane, continued his role of providing catchy tunes to kick 8-bit hoodlum butt to.
Upon pressing the power button on your NES (after blowing your cartridge a billion times and reinserting the damn thing every other second), you’ll be immediately greeted by the game’stitle screen. The music here may sound new until the now-classic Double Dragon theme kicks in. It’s at a much slower pace than the original’s, but still manages to get your head bopping.
Double Dragon II added a bunch of still-shot cutscenes in between missions, which was accompanied by a bass-heavy intermission track that is guaranteed to never leave your head anytime soon. The cutscenes were no Ninja Gaiden, but they at least kept me somewhat interested in the plot. Billy Lee setting out to avenge his murdered girlfriend is pretty darn serious, after all.
“Into the Turf”
Unlike its predecessor, Double Dragon II doesn’t start off with a quick and “in-your-face” sort of tune. Instead, the first level’s track, “Into the Turf” is quite moody. Though the drums remain constantly upbeat, the main synth line that accompanies the Billy Idol-inspired bass riff radiates this weird sense of longing to me.
I really enjoy the final part before the loop where the lead synth alternates between a high and low chord. It’s borderline mopey.
Perhaps I’m reading into this a bit too much, but the main melody reflects the dark tone of the game’s story, and how it’s more about vengeance than a cliche “damsel-in-distress” scenario. At least to me it does.
The game’s “Boss Battle” music fits the whole “dark” aspect very well. It focuses on low bass notes and has this sort of brooding feel to it. More than anything however, it reminds me of that weirdo first boss who temporarily psyches you by dissipating as if he had been defeated, before reappearing again to be smacked around a few more times.
“Mission Clear” follows, and is a nice, brief jingle with a delightfully percussive “crunch” sound at the end that serves to play off the completed level.
“At the Heliport”
Ah, “At the Heliport” remains one of my favorite tracks in the game. It’s catchy, and has that typical ’80s synth hook where the lead synth and bass harmonize for a moment. Uppercutting enemies off the rooftops of high-rise buildings was never more satisfying than in this level.
Upon closer listening, the intro sounds a lot like the beginning of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover.” You can hear it, right?
“Battle in the Chopper” follows, and is quite odd to listen to without the intermittent noise of the chopper obnoxiously blaring from your TV’s speakers.
This tune is absurdly short – it loops after only 14 seconds! Despite this, it gets in your head quite easily thanks to its attention-grabbing melody and the fact that it’ll be forever associated with an intense battle with an 8-bit version of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Forest of Death”
If you haven’t noticed yet, Double Dragon II’s bass riffs are where it often shines. Here we have another tune in which the bass adds as much to it as the main melody.
Following this tune is “The Bulldozer,” which is noteworthy for being completely out of place, with its cheery-sounding beeps perfectly accentuating the sounds of Billy and Jimmy getting brutally crushed by the giant steam tank’s conveyor belts.
“Mansion of Terror” manages to wildly change the mood again, providing a haunting, doom-like feeling to the game. It’s no doubt preparing you for the hair-tearing moments ahead in“Trap Room,” a level saved only by its Iron Maiden-inspired harmony and riffage.
Being the music set to the final stage, this track does a great job in instilling the player(s) with the desire to press on, with a dramatic mid-section that makes the whole thing sound that much more epic.
The game’s final boss music continues this feeling. There’s simply no better way to show the Shadow Warrior who’s boss than with a flying knee to the face accompanied by a tune fitting for a Rocky montage. And unless my ears deceive me, I’ve noticed a short bridge that references the first couple of notes from Double Dragon’s “Black Warrior’s Hideout.”
While Double Dragon II’s music may not be as memorable as the first one, it’s still appreciated by several fans of NES music. A handful of game music cover bands, like The NESkimos and The Advantage have tipped their hats to its fun music.
Although no standalone soundtrack of the NES tunes exists, there was an official soundtrack that mixed parts of the game’s chiptunes with some creatively arranged versions of the tracks. If you’re interested in comparing the NES’ chiptune tracks to the original arcade version, there’s a playlist on Youtube.
Top Five Tracks:
And in celebration of the impending Double Dragon revival, check out these awesome covers:
- The NESkimos: “Double Dragon 2 – Stigmata”, “Double Dragon 2 – Boss” & “Double Dragon 2 – Cutscene”
- The Advantage: “Double Dragon 2: Stage 2″, “Double Dragon 2 (Story and Boss Music)” & “Double Dragon II-Mission 5; Forest Of Death”
- Vomitron: “Double Dragon”
- Bonus Double Dragon “Industrial Area” Mandolin cover