Bad Dudes (1990)
Those delectable US Presidential Elections, eh? They come around every four years, with a sad inevitability, and it’s not long before you’re just sick of hearing about them. Election season always prompts me to Google the meaning of the electoral college, since I always forget what it means and how it’s different from the popular vote. Ultimately it’s a system where the person who gets the most votes might not win, which tells you all you need to know.
So that muddies the waters right from the beginning, which is no good. And God, it dominates the agenda and it goes on for bloody days. You take the 2020 US Election, which went a lot closer than it really ought to have been – I wish I was a betting man, put it that way – and they couldn’t even settle it on Election Night, that Tuesday. Well, that’s fair enough, but they couldn’t fully declare it on Wednesday or Thursday either because all the counters had gone home after seemingly working for, oh, about two hours.
I even saw one person saying that the people of Nevada and Pennsylvania, seemingly very important swing states, weren’t counting returned ballots any longer because they had either gone home or they had other administrative duties to perform. I’m sorry, what? What other admin work could be more important than counting the presidential votes?!
Then of course, as it always is with the United States, there’s threats of lawsuits up the ass, there’s mentions of full state recounts, there’s legal teams, there’s tampering, and there’s plenty of unrest and intimidation happening to the counters themselves.
And in the end, it’s all just a whole load of baloney. But I will definitely admit that it’s a compelling drama. It’s got the right cadence anyway, every four years like the Olympics or the World Cup, but a lot more condensed. And anyway, it probably means about as much to my daily life as the World Cup does. If it’s that important, then I’d like a vote too, please.
Even if they gave me one, Donald Trump would just say that mine was an illegal vote, all because I was a tad too apprehensive about COVID-19 to turn up to the polling station in person. Not to mention I’d never leave my house anyway, in case I got my head taken off by assault rifle fire.
Well, say what you want about Donald Trump, and there are indeed a lot of things to say about him, not the least of which that he spent four years running the country very badly via Twitter. Even once he was defeated, you knew he wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. He was never gonna go gently into the night, not when he still has a Twitter following of nearly 90 million people.
That’s an awful lot of people who still seem to hang on his every online word. And they voted for him in even greater numbers this time round, as if there was no Scamdemic, or Hoaxdemic, or Plandemic or whatever sounds clever this week. His non-response to that pesky virus never seemed to bother his supporters.
It’s not easy being president though, and the arcade game Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja tells us all we need to know about that. It was later ported to the NES in a shortened form, now known simply as Bad Dudes. In this game, and I really do suggest you watch it for yourself, we’ve got one of the all-time great intros.
Directly following the title screen, you put in your coin, or you press Start depending on whatever format you’re going with, and it happens at once. You’ve got a green background, and a guy who looks like Duke Nukem in a bomber jacket and sunglasses comes on screen while a warning siren plays in the background. Now that he’s firmly got your attention, he says, and I quote: “The President has been captured by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President?”
And that’s all you need to know, there’s no other overarching story. There’s no need for some intro text or cutscene that goes on for days. This isn’t one for academics to study and waste everyone else’s time and money. Your English teacher won’t invent all kinds of ridiculous faux-symbolism to make it worth studying. No, none of that – it’s just the president being captured by ninjas, and you have to go and rescue his ass.
Even if you had Donald Trump down as incompetent to a ghastly degree, I argue that this wouldn’t have happened to him. He would’ve built a wall around himself, and made the ninjas pay for it, and that would have kept the ninjas out somehow.
Except the wall would never have been built, let’s face it. In fact, he’d have just told everyone that the invading ninjas would go away all by themselves. “I know more than anyone else about ninjas, believe me,” he’d say. And the electorate would believe him.
The arcade version makes a direct reference to President Ronnie. Well, I wasn’t around during his reign, but I have to assume from my newly found knowledge of US presidential elections that they mean Ronald Reagan. That’s how old these games are. But I don’t know, maybe ninja capturing had hit an all-time high in the 80s?
I’d have to look that up, but learning history won’t help me out there on the mean streets of Bad Dudes. It’s essentially a sidescrolling beat’em up, which immediately draws comparisons to Double Dragon. Now, I do have to say that this game has seven stages, which is plenty more than the first Double Dragon game.
And in a strange twist, the music seems to have actually improved on its journey from arcade to the NES. I’m not sure why, the instrumentation is obviously a lot more primitive, but the melodies sound a lot better. There are a few reused tracks, but that’s alright – presidential candidates come out with the same lies all the time.
The animation and graphics didn’t do so well in the home conversion, mind you. Whichever dude you pick, and I’m sorry to say that neither of them are called Lebowski, has only two frames of animation as they crabwalk across the screen. When you do call a new image into memory and attempt a punch, it’s not very satisfying.
What you want to do instead is charge up your punch to unleash some proper damage. That’s when things get a bit more action-packed, although in the time it takes you to charge your super punch you’re probably already getting knocked silly by a near-infinite number of enemy ninjas.
That’s pretty much how the game plays in the arcade as well, which might explain why you’ve never heard of Bad Dudes, apart from its amazing intro. One thing that certainly lost a lot of fidelity when Bad Dudes came home though, is the voice sample quality.
Yes, a voice coming from your Nintendo – you’ll hear it after you beat a level boss, and the boss that shows up in the first level is none other than Karnov, from the arcade game of the same name, which was also made by Data East. How’s that for cross promotion?
Anyway, once you’ve put Karnov or any other boss character on their behinds, and you’ve taken another step closer to President Ronnie, or Georgie or Willie or Donnie, your character will face the screen and let rip with a fearsome cry of “I’m bad!”
In the arcade version, it sounds like a sort of mid 80s, Michael Jackson-style attempt at attitude, as in not very threatening at all. But in the NES release, and again you really must hear it for yourself, there’s a voice sample with some absolutely filthy static. Not only that, the sound is ten times as loud as anything else in the game.
So, even if you’re playing this as one of your nightcap games and you have the sound turned way down, your parents will still be woken up in a violent panic by your Dude screaming at the camera, in a tone reminiscent of coke fuel exploding in a washing machine.
You can get maybe a little bit of play out of Bad Dudes, but it’s simply not very good. Double Dragon 1 and 2 just feel a whole lot nicer to play, although at least Bad Dudes beats out the third Double Dragon game. It’s better than Renegade, Bad Street Brawler, and the dreadful Urban Champion anyway.
You can’t play two player co-op in Bad Dudes either, which is quite unfortunate. It means you’re up against every single man and woman in the enemy ninja death squad, all by yourself. And ultimately this game just adds to my feeling, a feeling that gets reinforced every four years, that the US President isn’t really worth the hassle of saving.
14 May 2021