Retro Rated: Bad Dudes Vs DragonNinja

Factfile
Developed by: Data East
Released: 1988
Format played: Arcade

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Ruminations

President Ronnie has been kidnapped! Are there any dudes bad enough to go and rescue him?

Yes, we’re back in familiar late territory here, treading the well worn path of the side scrolling beat ’em-up, whilst chucking in some b-movie plot for good measure.

You know the drill by now; playing either solo or with another Dude, fight your way through the mean streets, fending off ninjas, vicious dogs and all sorts of other scoundrels and vagabonds on your mission to rescue the President.

This was a big hit in the arcades back in 1988 from the prolific development team Data East, responsible for a number of arcade hits including Karate Champ, Robocop and Sly Spy amongst many others.

So, are these Dudes BAD! Or, you know, just plain bad?

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Second Impressions

This is an 80s arcade game and no mistake. Big chunky sprites, bulging muscles, bright, colourful graphics.

Superficially it is similar to Final Fight or Shinobi and as with those games, inspiration can be seen from any number of action flicks. This is Jean-Claude Van Damme and his ilk writ large and dumped into the arcades.

Everything has a nice chunky feel to it. Backgrounds have some variety although they are disappointingly static, there is no interaction to be had with them, unless you count falling off one of the trucks.

Enemies have a distinct look though, from the run of the mill grunts, to the fire breathing hulks to the varied boss characters.

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Gameplay

There are 7 levels of face pounding action to tackle. The basic premise remains the same throughout; work your way through the screen bashing bad guys until you face off with the end of level boss, who must be beaten to proceed.

Whilst it shares some similarities with other side scrolling brawlers, it is actually more akin to Green Beret in its design. Levels are split into upper and lower sections with your Dude able to nimbly nip up or drop down to battle foes or escape as required.

You have the typical array of moves with which to defend yourself with punches, high kicks, ground kicks and flying kicks all dispensing out meaty justice. Time it right and by holding down the fire button you can unleash a power move to inflict maximum damage whilst nunchucks and daggers can be picked up too, as well as energy boosts and time bonuses.

Enemies come in various shapes and sizes. Standard fare are the blue hooded ninjas, who kindly just queue up to get bashed like a 1960s Batman goon. Different colour ninjas bring different threats though, including some throwing shurikens, some wielding swords and even one guy who tears around the place on fire.

They come at you from all angles too. Standard fare sees them just walking towards you but as things progress, a great troop of them might hang off the wall, ready to leap down on you, whilst on the moving truck levels, as you try to negotiate jumps whilst socking the bad guys in the face, they might crawl up the side of the truck for a sneak attack. And a special mention to the hardy souls braving the sewers, replete with a breathing tube that gives away their position before they leap out of the stench to attack.

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The different enemy classes and level backdrops offer some variety but this is largely rinse and repeat. Boss (and mini-boss) characters aside, enemies can usually be felled with a single hit meaning that the game breaks down into just a button basher.

The handful of moves at your disposal come into their own during the boss fights when a more tactical approach is required. For instance one boss flings around a dirty great chain, whilst another is ensconced in a big metal suit, requiring you to adjust to ground attacks, airborne attacks or stick and move attacks as may be appropriate.

Level structure is broadly similar throughout. The split level design does allow some movement but, even when the action switches from a runaway lorry to, say, the forest, it doesn’t feel inherently different, the biggest change a superficial one when the level requires you to move from right to left, rather than left to right. If variety is the spice of life, this is a far plainer dish.

It’s fun though. The 7 levels won’t take you that long to work your way through so this isn’t a game that overstays its welcome. It’s tough too, the one-hit ninjas making up in numbers what they lack in strength whilst the boss characters are a real challenge. The final boss encounter, before you can rescue the president, is a particular beast as you try to take out the bad guy on his chopper whilst his feral dogs snap at your heels.

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Sound

Satisfying is probably the best word. Music is generic background fare, punctuated by smacks and grunts as you dispense vigilante justice.

And of course the end of each level is punctuated by your Dude standing tall over the felled boss character, arm pumping in the air as he proclaims, ‘I’m bad!’

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Conversion Capers

As you would expect for a successful arcade game, this would go on to be converted to all the major formats.

The Amiga version is something of a disappointment. Graphically it is broadly similar to the coin-op but without any of the fine detail, colours look washed out whilst scrolling is horribly jerky. But the biggest issue is in the control, the Amiga limited to a single fire button joystick making any jumps a real pain to get right, a fundamental issue in levels where you have to negotiate a moving truck or train to progress.

On the 8-bit systems, the Spectrum is predictably monochrome whilst gameplay is noticeably slower and therefore harder. Commendably it tries to replicate the basic structure of the original, including boss characters, but it is fairly unpleasant to play.

The NES version is arguably the pick of the bunch. Graphically it can’t hope to compare. Sprites are smaller and understandably less detailed whilst sound is fairly rudimentary. Like the Amiga version, scrolling is a little jerky too with some periodic flickering. But it’s quick and with the benefit of an extra button, it is better able to replicate the arcade experience

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Bottom Line

There is very little original here but it’s still a fun, satisfying bruiser.

Or to put it another way, it’s bad!

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