22/02/2011

D. D. CREW

What do you mean it's been nearly two months since I wrote about a side-scrolling beat 'em up? Well, I can put this shameful fact to rights with Sega's 1991 walk-'n-brawl title D.D. Crew.

Like all the greatest works of fiction, D.D. Crew begins with a pimp telephoning a generic-looking blonde man.

That's F.F., the main character of the game. I'm going to assume he's a cop, seeing as how he's standing in a police station wearing a badge, but it's never really made clear just who these people are. The pimp warns F.F. and his colleagues that "Yo gotta bomb in ya park!!", so our hero sets out with his band of warriors to disarm said bomb. I can only hope that the pimp wasn't wearing his neon orange suit and purple shirt ensemble while he was planting the bomb: that's the kind of outfit that sticks in the mind of potential witnesses, I'm sure.

You get a choice of four characters: F.F., generic beat-em-up hero extraordinaire. If you're thinking he looks like a good cop who's not afraid to bend the rules to get what he wants, you are almost certainly correct. At the very least, I don't think his (ironically named) bomber jacket is standard police uniform. What a rebel!
Next is King, the bruiser of the group. He's probably ex-military, and he's quite possibly Dolph Lundgren. It is never established what he is the King of.
Thirdly there's Buster (sadly not Bluth), a boxer who's got a lot of speed and isn't afraid to use kicks. He's probably my favourite, but then I always seem to prefer boxer-type characters.
Finally you've got Gung Ho, with his "wacky" pseudo-Chinese name. I'm expecting enemies with names like Fai Ting Gai and Lo Lee Goon. He's an old Caucasian man with various martial arts techniques and a ponytail that suggests he's a bleak vision of Stephen Seagal's future.
Once your character has been selected, it's off to the park. Being British, I was expecting a park with trees and grass and maybe a pond, but instead it's an amusement park.

You probably don't need me to tell you this, but the D. D. Crew controls are the same as every other side-scroller: one button to attack and one button to jump. You can also dash by double-tapping the stick. Special moves and throws work slightly differently than most other games of this type: throws can only be performed on enemies that have been knocked down, and your special move is performed by pressing both buttons while dashing. It's got a long start-up, and if you hit an enemy during this start-up, you fly backwards and take damage.
The enemies are a well-drawn and nicely animated bunch of thugs who don't seem particularly worried that they're standing in a theme park that has apparently been rigged with explosives. There are guys clutching knives who look like Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop, smooth nunchaku-wielding types who dress like competitors in the clown equivalent of Mr. Universe and fat redneck truckers who occasionally like to dress like Warios.

Wha ha ha! My attempts to inform them that the colours of their Wario costumes were the wrong way round were met with a swift punch to the mouth, so at least they stayed in character.
You make your way through the park in the standard fashion, beating you enemies until they fall to the floor and blink out of existence. There's a section in the middle where you have to battle while riding a carousel, complete with never-not-creepy fairground music. It doesn't have any impact on the gameplay, but it's a nice touch none-the-less. And the end of the stage, you climb aboard a Ferris wheel to take on the boss.

Sir, you have a kind and peaceful face. Wait, what do you mean by "roughing"? OH GOD HE'S BEATING ME WITH STICKS.

He doesn't have a name, but he's dressed like a Fist of the North Star reject and he's got a pair of 2x4s that he wants to embed in your skull. It's a tough fight for such an early point in the game, made all the more difficult by the ropey collision detection. Once he's defeated, your exit the Ferris wheel and quickly board a cable car. Well, while you're in the amusement park, you might as well have a go on all the rides, right? And due to the bomb threat, there are no queues. It's a win-win situation.
The cable car fills the position of "lift that keeps filling with enemies" nicely. The enemies are the same as the first stage, and after a while you jump, for no discernable reason, onto the roof of the cable car.

Well, it's a nice view at least. A new enemy type joins the fray here, karate masters in a variety of colours who possess a genuinely well-animated flying kick. A lot of the enemies in this game do have the feel of King of Fighters characters about them.
The relentless hordes still pile on, jumping from god knows where onto the top of the cable car. There's a hatch on the right-hand side of the screen that you can fall into, killing you instantly despite the fact that it assumedly only drops you about seven feet, back into the cable car. Enemies can fall in there and die too, which is helpful if not all that believable. Why would that fall kill them? Can't they just climb back onto the roof and continue the fight? Maybe the drop is just far enough that it shatters their ankles, meaning there's a pile of horribly wounded karate masters down there with broken ankles, writhing in pain and lamenting the folly of not looking where they were walking. Sucks to be the person on the bottom of that pile.
Then, there's a familiar boss.

Yep, it's Bruce Lee. No attempt has been made to disguise this fact. I'm kind of impressed by Sega's balls-out cheek on this one.

He moves like Bruce Lee, he fights like Bruce Lee; in fact, the only way he could be more obviously Bruce Lee is if he was wearing a neon sandwich board that reads "HI I'M BRUCE LEE ASK ME ABOUT MY MYSTERIOUS DEATH!" Luckily, he's not as good as fighting as Bruce Lee, and in fact I think he's actually easier than the first boss. You should have used sticks, Bruce.
His pixellated face reminds me of something...

I can't quite place what it...

Agh! Yeah, his face reminds me of Uboa from Yume Nikki, who most definitely is not a martial arts superstar.
Once he's dead, you get a short bonus stage where you have to beat innocent motorcycles to death with your bare hands like some kind of savage. You get a powerup or two out of them, and then it's on to stage three.

Yes, with a grinding inevitability, here's the construction site stage. It's got all your construction site need: girders, trucks, flashing orange lights, the works. It's even got a lift! A lift that you have to stand on and wait until you reach your destination, fighting karate men the whole time. Joy unconfined!

New to stage three are these military muscle men. Between the truck drivers, karate masters and the soldiers, there isn't really an overarching theme with this evil cabal. Perhaps the soldiers are part of an affiliated union that's come out in support of the karate dudes. The soldiers (unsurprisingly) have guns, but I don't think I ever saw them fire them. Maybe they're actually oversized novelty cigarette lighters. They do sometimes drop grenades when defeated, however, and they definitely do work. Once the lift has reached the top of the building, it's time for a boss battle.

That comma make it seem as though she's addressing me as "Alive". This boss is, I suspect, the closest that D.D. Crew is going to have to the almost-mandatory dominatrix, and it's a job she throws herself into with admirable relish.

She's got a morningstar, which I guess is sort of like a whip for the most dedicated of masochists. She's powerful, too, and two hits from her can kill you. Dealing with her is like dealing with a hyperactive child; let them tire themselves out by spinning around and shouting, and then when they're tired, creep up and carry them off to bed. Except in this boss' case, "carry to bed" equates to "punch in face".
If you manage to defeat her, a man who I assume is the pimp from the intro appears and fires a rocket at you:

That is pretty cool, to be fair. Our hero leaps from the rooftop and falls through the sky. You can move him left and right. At the bottom of the fall, there's a pile of cardboard boxes. I missed them. Sorry, man. Luckily, our hero doesn't seem any worse for wear, and it's on to stage four.

This stage is fire escapes. I mean, you have to fire escapes. Fire escapes fire escapes fire escapes. The whole stage is one long, uninteresting trudge down some fire escapes, with the same enemies as before attacking you and generally being a huge boring pain, like a drill in the eyeball. I'm pretty sure this stage took longer then the rest of the game so far combined. After countless aeons, you reach the ground and the boss battle.

That's quite the come-on, but I'm afraid I'll have to pass.
The boss is a breakdancer/capoeria type guy in purple hotpants, and if you've ever fought against someone on Tekken who's playing as Eddy and mashing the buttons, you'll know how irritating that can be. It's a tough fight, because Eddy here spends about 97% of the fight performing handstand kicks that a) do massive damage and b) render him completely invincible.

Eventually you'll defeat him, though. And you didn't even have to take a load!
There's another bonus stage before stage five, in which a woman in a leotard throws power-ups at you. Once she's exhausted her supply of items, you bust out of the gym she inhabits and leap into the next stage.

It's a factory, and you know what that means: conveyor belts and exploding barrels. Oh, where would games developers be without conveyor belts and exploding barrels? Well, hopefully they'd be sitting down and thinking bloody hard to come up with some new ideas.
After stage fire escapes, this level rockets past in the blink of an eye. That's mostly due to the conveyor belts, which handily drop a lot of your enemies into holes which lead to wherever the holes at the end of conveyor belts go. Wherever they lead, I can only hope it's unpleasant.
There's really nothing new here, aside from one small section where you have to avoid falling garbage. No new enemies and the same music, but it's quickly done with and the boss shows up.

Oh god, everything they say sounds revolting. Our goofy friend here starts with a pile of exploding barrels that he throws at you like an inbred Donkey Kong. Be prepared to use a quite a few continues to get past this long-armed weirdo. Speaking of his arms...

Look at those things. They are clearly not human arms; human arms don't bend that way. After a while, he ditches he barrels and resorts to running into to you as fast as he can, which is apparently even more painful than a barrel of volatile, super-heated chemicals exploding right in your face. Go figure.
Once he was defeated, I took a moment to ponder something. Why was he there in the first place? Our hero, who appears to have no clear destination in mind, could have taken any route he felt like. If he'd been more sensible, he probably wouldn't have taken the route that led him through a dangerous factory full of vicious killers. Has the pimp told our hero exactly what route to take, and he's blindly following it like the idiot he no doubt is? It's possible, but I'd like to believe a different scenario: the pimp has stationed his henchmen in all possible locations between the amusement park and his lair. There are hundreds of other routes, each one packed with fat truckers and knife-wielding thugs, and each one has a different boss at the end. Actually, that's quite depressing; there could be bosses the player will never get to see! And they would almost certainly be more entertaining than this boggle-armed, barrel-launching fuckwit. If you're of a creative bent, send me your suggestions and drawings of what you think these unseen bosses might be to vgjunk@hotmail.co.uk.

The next stage is an airfield, and as you might except it is full of soldiers. Some kind soul (or dangerous incompetent) has left grenades lying on the floor for you, so pick 'em up and use them on your enemies. There's not much else to say about this stage, really. The boss soon arrives, and it's the pimp from the intro!

What does that even mean? My response would be "Nice to see you again... to death!"
Don't get too excited though, he's not the final boss or anything. He's got a rocket launcher, which is always useful in a hand-to-hand combat situation, and after a while he drops it in favour of a machine gun. It's a surprisingly easy fight, certainly easier than the other bosses since Bruce Lee, mostly because you can knock him over and throw him around. After he's sufficiently pummeled, our hero boards a helicopter and files to the headquarters of the mysterious Zero Corporation. They're mysterious because they haven't really been, you know, mentioned or anything.

Once you land, you head into the skyscraper to find...

The first boss. Oh God dammit, you're going to make me do a boss rush, aren't you? Thanks for that, Sega.

At least the bosses get nice new rooms to fight in. Once they're all defeated again, you finally make it to the President's Office and the last battle.

Yes, I'm sure "evrything" does. So, the final showdown is against a businessman who has never previously been mentioned and who can't speak English very well. He fights with a sword, and then he suddenly has two swords, an upgrade that doesn't really seem to help him any.

He's only got one move, a sweeping sword combo, and as you probably guessed it's very powerful. He's not particularly difficult to beat, though, and in the end I think that the prick with the barrels emerged as the toughest boss in the game. Considering the other bosses include this master swordsman and Bruce Lee, I think Gimpy Kong has done very well for himself.
Once you've beaten the president, the game is complete; in a shock twist, the president is revealed to be...

French President Nicolas Sarkozy! Duhn duhn dunnnn! I guess his Short Man's Disease finally got the better of him and he decided to take over the world. He says "So, crime doesn't pay after all" and then (presumably) dies. Zut alors!
Hang on, isn't there something we're forgetting? What about the bombs that were in the park? I didn't see them being disarmed or anything; in our hero's haste to try out all the rides and beat up the boss, he seems to have completely forgotten about the bombs. Oh dear. Cue a shot just before the end credits of the smoking ruins of the amusement park, charred carousel horses and burning candyfloss littering the ground as our heroes fall to their knees and weep.
No, of course not. The actual ending credits are much less interesting than that. You get a shot of the New York City skyline at sunset, complete with King Kong perching at the top of the Empire State building, along with a portrait of each of the fighters.

Oddly, there are no credits; perhaps a sign that the creators of this game were ashamed of it and did not wish to be publicly identified. They're in Videogame Witness Protection now, living under new identities and making terrible shovelware browser games.

And that's D.D. Crew. I really want to like this game, you know. It's got some good things going for it: the graphics are nice and the music is good, hip-hop in style and possessing a certain flavour that I can only describe as "Sega-like". Here's the first stage music:



Pretty good, in that gloriously cheesy '90s way. Also, it has Bruce Lee in it, which is always nice. Sadly, D.D. Crew misses out on greatness for a number of reasons. There's a very small selection of different enemy types, and some stages (particularly the fire escapes and the final boss rush) smack of desperate padding. The bosses can feel cheap, and the music, while good, is repeated too often. All in all, I'd have to say I'm glad I played it, but I'll probably never play it again. Now, if only I could find those bombs...

BONUS!

After a while, I couldn't stop seeing the fat truckers as long-lost Mario brothers, so I knocked this up.

(Click for bigger)

6 comments:

  1. hey great article looks like fist of the north star influenced a bunch of games

    ReplyDelete
  2. It definitely did. Here's a page (in Spanish) with some examples:
    http://analogiadevideojuegos.blogspot.com/2009/08/episodio-4-hokuto-no-ken.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Like all the greatest works of fiction, D.D. Crew begins with a pimp telephoning a generic-looking blonde man."
    Hahaha, so true, I don't know what it was, but japanese game developers in the 80's/90's had this idea of a blonde all american hero in a lot of games. (Terry Bogard, Cody, Axel, Captain Commando, come to mind

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it might be partly because of the influence of the American action films of the late seventies and eighties, and also because a blonde, hot-blooded hero was different from a more typically "japanese" hero.

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  4. I cracked once I got to "Sir, you have a kind and peaceful face." That was exactly what I was thinking when I saw that face.

    ReplyDelete
  5. ha ha ha the most funny is when the pimp shots to the main hero on stage 3 and he falls 30 floors and stills fighting cool!.. failed attempt of Sega creating beat´em up but maybe was a proof to create the good streets of rage.

    ReplyDelete

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