The Double Dragon franchise is well known as some of the most iconic side-scrolling beat'em-ups to have ever graced the genre. Some came before and many came after, but Double Dragon is oft considered the OG. That said, it hasn't always been confined to one genre. The franchise has had a couple stints in fighting games, one of which was based off an actual film. And that film-based fighting game was good enough that there was supposed to be a sequel. In fact... there was, in all but name. Walk with me in this exploration of the curiously high-quality Double Dragon "spiritual successor" fighting game known as Rage of the Dragons.
I recently stumbled across this game while surfing around on Twitter. Very specifically, Video Game Advisor had a winquote from this game as one of its regular posts. Putting aside the scantily clad woman or the very good mental advice she gave, I was struck by the art style as it looked like SNK Playmore circa 2000s… Something I’m fond of and was surprised not to know about… A little searching around, and World of Longplays introduced me to Rage of the Dragons.
Rage of the Dragons was developed by Mexican video game company Evoga Entertainment (Evolution Soccer seems to be the only other credit to their name) and Japanese crew Noise Factory. It was one of a few games that was published solely under the Playmore name in the brief time in which SNK had dropped the SNK branding before going to SNK Playmore and ultimately back solely to SNK.
More importantly, Rage of the Dragons is a Double Dragon fighting game in all but name. In 1994, Imperial Entertainment created a film adaptation of the Double Dragon games starring such notable names as Whose the Boss?’s Alyssa Milano as Marian and Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame as the villain Koga Shuko. It was a terribly schlocky movie that has some cult following, but it also spawned a video game spinoff, and unlike Street Fighter: The Movie - The Game, the 1995 Double Dragon fighter from Technos Japan and SNK is good. It features solid fighting, awesome character intros, and even entire stage affecting transitions from in-match activity.
It was so good, in fact, that a further developer, Evoga Entertainment, wanted to make a sequel to it. In 2002, Evoga approached Playmore with its envisioned sequel. However at that point, the Double Dragon franchise had fallen out of the hands of Technos. It was instead sitting with a new company, Million, formed from former Technos Japan employees that had regained rights over the IP. However, Playmore liked the idea enough that some tweaks turned it into a homage rather than a lawsuit waiting to happen. The game still features two brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lewis (rather than Lee), Abubo (rather than Abobo), and further references like Mariah (Marian), and Abubo’s assistant Linda.
Rage of the Dragons has every bit of the polish that convinced me whoever was working on Garou: Mark of the Wolves also had to have had a hand in this, but Garou was directly handled by SNK – Neither Evoga nor Noise Factory seem to have played a part. You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking though.
The character sprites and animations in Rage of the Dragons are incredibly done and the systems are equally impressive. Rage of the Dragons is a team fighter in which you play two characters and can switch between them or even set up high-powered attack combinations. One of its more interesting gimmicks is that you can knock your opponent into a chasing combo that kind of looks like a spin on Guilty Gear’s Dust system. You can also bounce them off structures in the stage that help extend combos and open up more stage when broken like Injustice, Tekken, or Dead or Alive. Each team has cool looking and playing characters, and this may be one of my favorite takes on Billy, Jimmy, and Abobo I’ve seen.
Also, the music is damn good, handled by Toshikazu Tanaka, who had been lending his talents to King of Fighters and other various SNK games for decades. Jimmy's theme (Dragon Blues) is jazzy and energetic as all get-out. Meanwhile another of the themes in the game attached to a fighting priest Elias and possessed girl Alice is evocative of Game Boy Advance-era Castlevania and I’m here for it.
Rage of the Dragons slipped under my radar entirely, but there’s apparently a lot of love for this game out there. A sequel was planned, but never came to fruition. Even then, in May 2020, a San Antonio group known as Piko Interactive picked up the Rage of the Dragons IP and is apparently interested in utilizing it in some way. Whether that means a re-release on modern systems, a remaster, or something more ambitious, like pursuing the abandoned sequel, remains unknown. But now knowing about this game, I would be thrilled to have it in a place where I could play it more.
Did you know about Rage of the Dragons or its history? Have you seen or played it in the wild? Let me know what you think of this game or if you know more than I do! I’d love to discover even more about it. Fingers crossed Piko doesn’t let me or its fans down in bringing it back.