Data East got into this rut of playing “catch up” with their rivals, especially Technos. Double Dragon comes out in the arcades, Data East makes Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja. Double Dragon comes out on the NES, Bad Dudes comes out on the NES. Double Dragon gets a sequel where New York is ravaged by a nuclear holocaust, Data East makes a side-scrolling pseudo-sequel to Bad Dudes which takes place in…wait for it…a nuclear-holocaust-ravaged Big Apple. The result was Crude Buster in the arcade, but home gamers in the US and UK knew it as Two Crude Dudes.
Two Crude Dudes is memorable mostly for being better than Bad Dudes, a backhanded compliment akin to pointing out the local high school team plays better than the Little League down the road. But there’s more to this than meets the eye, as Data East used the opportunity to make significant upgrades to its spiritual predecessor. Whereas Double Dragon in its arcade incarnation featured three buttons labeled Punch, Jump, and Kick, Two Crude Dudes traded Jump for something far more amusing: Throw.
You wouldn’t think such an unassuming alteration could have a huge impact, but Two Crude Dudes bet the farm on absurdity, rolled the dice, and won. Your on-screen avatar is lifted straight from the Schwarzenegger school of acting, complete with six-pack abs, 21-inch biceps, and (of course) a rocking pair of shades. Imagine playing Double Dragon as an Abobo with his “Hulk SMASH!” mentality instead of the technical prowess of the Lee brothers.
Two Crude Dudes sticks to the standard formula with the tenacity of Coca-Cola in its wiser, pre-New Coke years. Stages scroll left-to-right with the occasional vertical maneuver or elevator stage late in the game, enemies emerge from both sides, and you beat the ever-loving crud out of them using whatever you can get your hands on. Bosses all have their special gimmicks to set them apart from the rank-and-file thugs and midgets, and there’s even the obligatory “boss rush” before the final fight (a midget scientist who ineffectually beats on you with his hands until you pummel him enough that he transforms into some kind of dragon/human hybrid). So far, so good, so what? Well, there’s that ‘Throw’ button we were just talking about.
A simple tap of ‘Throw’ results in your character grabbing up whatever is at hand. Generally this will be one of your enemies who has gotten too close for comfort, or fighting game staples like oil drums and rocks, but in the world of Two Crude Dudes, this can also mean steel I-beams, broken traffic lights, signs advertising the local cuisine of choice (hot dogs!), and even wrecked cars which your Dude hefts above his head like a waiter making a simple table-side delivery of scrap metal and engine parts. Tap ‘Throw’ again, and guess what happens?
Between levels, you power up your Dude and earn bonus points by unleashing your wrath on an innocent Power Cola vending machine, Data East’s nod to Capcom’s bonus stages where you smash panes of glass or destroy cars because “vandalism is fun, kids!” It’s even more enjoyable with a second player (a palette-swap of the first) along to watch your back.
Data East’s choice to abandon the more serious storylines involving kidnapping, murder, or revenge of its competition is the wisest decision they could have made. Of course some massive gang of irradiated scum decided to take over what was left of New York. Of course they have a ridiculous name like “Big Valley”. Of course the only people who can put an end to their reign of terror so New York can rebuild from the ashes are a couple of irradiated-soda-chugging Charles Atlas types. And it’s still a better love story than Twilight. This is Data East at their side-scrolling best, loving every minute of their ham-fisted design choices and giving a grand total of zero fucks about everything else. For this reason, above all others, Two Crude Dudes deserves a place in every retro gamer’s library. And it all happened today…in retro gaming!