Part of what I enjoy the most about writing this blog is revisiting games that I remember fondly. For the most part the games that were great still are. It’s the lesser titles that I look back on with rose tinted glasses. I remember really liking Lagoon once upon a time but can now see it for the mediocre action RPG it is. Bad Dudes fall into this category. In my mind it was a bad ass brawler that entertained me for hours. But looking back that was due to the ridiculous 63 (!) man cheat code that allowed me to play around. When judged on its merits Bad Dudes is a boring and frustrating game that doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Double Dragon 2 and River City Ransom.
Bad Dudes is the home port of the arcade game Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja. Aside from its cheesy title the game is mostly remembered for its hilarious localization. The story is so 80s it hurts: The President has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the President? The protagonists Blade and Stryker aren’t anyone special, they are just two bad dudes decked out in tank tops.
Bad Dudes commits the biggest cardinal sin of NES games, it reverses the A and B buttons. To be fair you won’t spend much time jumping around. But it still does not excuse switching the perfect button setup that most games rightfully used. There is a decent arsenal of attacks at your disposal. Positioning determines whether you’ll punch or kick but you can also perform a spin kick and jump kick. The most powerful is the power punch, which you charge by holding A. It only takes a second or two but is devastating, killing multiple enemies at once and making short work of bosses. This is the most important attack in the game.
Although you have a large number of moves at your disposal in the end it doesn’t matter. The hit detection is all over the place and infuriating. Enemies will frequently run straight through your attacks and score cheap hits in the process. It happens constantly and ruins what could have been a decent game. You’ll have better luck spamming the power punch as much as possible than trying to use regular attacks in this game.
Bad Dudes largest flaw is that it is boring. The enemy variety is extremely limited; I hope you like fighting blue and grey ninjas as they comprise 70% of the game. The later levels introduce new enemy types but they are just as brain dead as the rest. Since you’ll more than likely rely on one or two moves just to survive the game becomes incredibly tedious rather than enjoyable. And it only gets worse as it tosses more enemies consecutively. As much as I like 80s schlock it can only carry a game so far.
With all of its myriad issues Bad Dudes is a pretty difficult game. Most enemies take an extra hit to kill in this version which screws up the balance. There are less enemies overall but it is no less frustrating. Any time you see two or three ninjas approaching it is almost guaranteed that at least one will get a hit in. The game is stingy with its life restoring colas; by the time they show you have probably already died and have full health. Surprisingly most of the bosses can be caught in simple patterns and killed with no loss of life. The few that can’t will drain your lives; the green ninja is especially tough. To make matters worse the last level features my least favorite trope, the boss rush. As annoying as this game can be there is a 63 (!) man cheat code that makes it doable.
Data East have done a good job of at least matching the arcade game’s look on the NES but there have been compromises. The limited color palette really shows as each level has one shade that is overbearing. There aren’t as many sprites on screen like the arcade with good reason. The flickering and slowdown can get really bad at times and makes an already difficult game even more frustrating. The soundtrack is pretty great as limited as it is and probably the best part of the game’s presentation.
I had fond memories of Bad Dudes as a child. But revisiting it now has made me see that it really isn’t a good game. Its arcade roots show in its punishing difficulty and on top of that the NES port adds issues of its own. Remember this for the cheesy 80s schlock that it is but don’t play it.