Name: Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja
Genre: Beat 'Em Up
Region Reviewed: NTSC
Year of Release: 1989
Reviewer: Trevor Machismo
Let me drop some knowledge on you. The 80's were awesome! That's not up for debate by the way. This might be an opinion article, but that's just fact. Things were bigger, badder, meaner, and radder in the neon soaked 80's. That's where the golden age of gaming began, after the crash of the late 70's. In arcades, and on that glorious grey box called the NES, the children of the baddest decade got their hands on one of the baddest beat em ups of the early days. If you think I'm talking about Double Dragon, you'd be wrong. If I were talking about THAT franchise I would mention the obviously superior Double Dragon II: The Revenge. Great game in its own right, but it didn't encapsulate the 80's action quite like Bad Dudes! Oh yeah, that's right, we're talking about the Data East classic. Ninjas have kidnapped the President! Are you a bad enough dude to save him?
Bad Dudes, or Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja for the proper title, was a side scrolling co-op beat em' up for the arcades, but the game found itself ported onto many other systems. We're talking about the one on the NES today. The one that I grew up playing, and the one that I love to this day. It obviously couldn't handle the transition from the arcade cabinet to the NES as good as you would hope, but what you still get is a fun slice of 80's sleaze action in a grey cartridge. The game came out of Data East, who used the 1985 Konami game Rush n' Attack as a frame of reference. Unlike that game, this one was co-op so you and a friend could play as the protagonists Blade and Striker, as they fought ninjas all across town in a bid to save the President. The arcade version made it clear that it was Ronald Reagan as President, going so far as to call him President Ronnie. Some thing obviously had to be changed when we got the game in 1989 under the shortened name Bad Dudes.
Now this game was just awesome if you were or are a fan of 80's culture. Saving the President from ninjas sounds hilarious these, but back then you could see that kind of shlock in the movies of the Canon Film Group. Muscle bound Americans with a penchant for martial arts taking down the evil invaders who hate the capitalist way of life. Times were different with the Cold War in full force, and that's the kind of media that saturated the market. Bad guys were bad guys. You didn't need layers of context and subtlety for your villains. Slap on some ninjas masks and kidnap the President. Send in the good guys, the Bad Dudes, to save the day. Boom, the gamers were sold on premise alone.
If you have played any beat em' ups then you know how this system works. You start of the left side of the screen and move your way right, taking out every bad guy in your way until you get to the stage boss. Beat the stage boss, move onto the next stage, wash, rinse, repeat. Fairly simple, but addictive system. Unlike the arcade version, you didn't have to pump quarters in to keep going either, you could just keep at it, alone or with a friend, until you beat the whole game. The difficulty and need for a bro to back you up artificially lengthened the game. That's just something they did back in the day to make your parents $60 bucks seem like a better investment. The game starts you off on the streets of New York City, but before long you're fighting ninjas on top of a moving big rig truck! That's just awesome. From there you move to a large storm sewer, a forest, a freight train, a cave and into an underground factory in order to save the President. The ninjas varied in their look and abilities, so you never knew what to expect at first, and would have to memorize patterns and moves depending on the look of the would be kidnapper ninjas.
The controls can be the part where people are divided on the game. They are unfortunately not as crisp and responsive as they would be in a game like Double Dragon II: The Revenge. Blade and Striker handle about the same, and that means slow and sluggish at times. You'll feel like you have to stop to attack sometimes instead of a constant flow of move and attack. You get some weapons like nun-chucks and knives, but they don't help as much as you would like. It will feel like most attacks do the same amount of damage. Now earlier, I said that you would have to keep focus and memorize when dealing with the ninjas. Most of the time that is true, but at points it'll feel like AI got kidnapped too, as the ninjas will tend to blitz you. I never had a problem with this though, as it always reminded me of the incompetent henchmen in action movies that attack the protagonist one at a time and obviously get theirs heads handed to them. I always thought that was awesome myself. You get a kick out of kicking down ninja after ninja. Get a kick? Get it? You got it.
You also got items like soda that would give you health and restore time to the counter. That's right, the game has a timer for every stage, but in my experiences it has never been a problem. You'll eventually just forget about it once you get the game down. Beating a level will get you an extra life, so it's just forgiving enough to give you a fighting chance at making it to the end. A super punch feature, which works kind of like a mega man buster charge, can be used to knock multiple ninjas off the screen in satisfying fashion.
The graphics were your average late 80's fare. Nothing too special, but it easily passes on the NES. It pales in comparison to its arcade counterpart, but it gets the job done. The music on the other hand is one of the best features of the game. The track that plays on stages 2 and 5 is the iconic one that you will probably remember the most. It's the theme that defines the game basically, and it rocks. The old school ingenuity that made a few beeps, blips, and boops into musical gold can definitely be heard here, as they put together music that fits the overall theme of the game. Listening to it as I'm writing this, and I feel like going out and kicking a ninja in the face, but that's just me. The only downside is that you only get a few select tracks, but they are very enjoyable for what they are.
This is one of those games that was not just important to me either. It's actually found its way into some cinematic pop culture classics. For example, 1989 movie Parenthood features Steve Martin's character explaining to his son that the reason the game is so hard is "Because they're... bad dudes!" Fellow contributor to the site Olly will appreciate the cameo the arcade cabinet makes in Robocop 2, when Robo pushes the corrupt Officer Duffy into it. I mean sure, the game Sly Spy was actually in the cabinet, but that's not the point. The point is that Bad Dudes is awesome!
Verdict:- This game is more about style than substance. It has the IT factor for that 80's vibe, and will get you watching movies like Cobra, Commando, and Rambo before you know it. If you're used to Double Dragon, this MIGHT feel like a step back, but I feel it more than makes up for sluggish controls with a look and feel that Double Dragon couldn't replicate until MAYBE Double Dragon Neon.
From a technical standpoint you can do better, but in the intangible concept of fun category, you can't go wrong with Bad Dudes!
Second Opinion:- On the 8-Bit and 16-Bit computers and consoles these fighting games were quite frankly everywhere, a lot of them were very average, this is one of those games.
Now hold on there cowboy, cause i'm not saying this is bad, far from it, it's actually for a NES game very solid and overall great fun to play. The problem is once you have seen and played the arcade and especially the Amiga version of this title nothing else could ever compare or stand against it.
It fits the 1980's perfectly because it's like playing a cheesey movie starring Arnold 'kill em all' Governator and rightly so because the original was from the late part of said era. With this in mind and because I have a soft spot for the genre I happily give it the score it deserves and suggest you go see what a nearly dead genre used to offer us happy go lucky gamers years ago...
Transbot Scores:- 7 out of 10