Can you save the President from ninjas?!
This beat ’em up is perhaps better known in the West simply as “Bad Dudes” with the small subtitle “vs. DragonNinja” beneath it on the marquee plate. In other quarters like Japan, it also went under the name “DragonNinja”.
It was released into arcades in 1988 by Data East and ported to a large number of platforms ranging from PCs to consoles like the NES and it wasn’t shy about challenging Double Dragon for the brass knuckle crown of beat ’em ups in one of the ads below.
This was a lovely game of fisticuffs that mirrored the macho one-man-army action that the eighties reveled in with classics like “Commando” or “The Delta Force”. But you didn’t have to go at it alone.
A buddy, or a mysterious stranger with quarters or tokens burning a hole in their jeans, could also hop in to help save the President alongside you to reach the ending where everyone is invited by Ronnie to head out for virtual burgers.
The Japanese, though, got a different ending. Instead of burgers, players got statues of themselves and a rundown on the bad guys they fought through.
The Bad Dudes had segmented energy bars representing their health allowing them to take a few fists to the face before going down, but most bad guys only required one teeth cracking smack to take them out. The bosses, though, needed a bit of tenderizing before succumbing to defeat. Data East’s own Karnov even makes an appearance as the first boss dressed in his best pixels for that evil look. Power ups, like Coca Cola cans for health and nunchaku would also appear on the side scrolling field to give players a chance at winning.
The game wasn’t terribly hard. The ninjas in this game are the worst martial artists in history, though some of them could throw ninja stars and wield swords to try and whittle your health down with their numbers. Stages took you from the mean streets of New York to the top of a speeding eighteen wheeler and on through a cave and underground factory where the President was chilling out.
Bad Dudes wasn’t bad as beat ’em ups go and porting it to so many platforms certainly helped to spread its bare knuckle, sneaker wearing approach to street justice around. Having Ronnie Reagan’s likeness in the game and then having him take everyone out for burgers at the end didn’t hurt, either, and it’s one of those things that gamers will never forget.
Today, Data East is but a memory having gone bankrupt in 2003. All wasn’t lost, however. A mobile gaming company named G-Mode bought up their catalog allowing the Data East legacy to live on with games such as Bad Dudes appearing on the Zeebo console giving a new generation the opportunity to eat burgers with the President after a bare knuckle brawl.