From the Console to the TV Station: Part 3

Videogames are, by nature, a very action-oriented medium. In the vast majority of them, players are tasked to hop around, collect items, power themselves up, destroy the environment, and kick the snot out of some bad guys. This being the case, it’s only natural that a lot of the cartoons inspired by them would be chock full of action as well.

Today, instead of stuff like the wimpy cartoons featured in the past, we will look at a few different programs aimed at those who like lots of fighting, danger, robots, rockin’ intros and explosions. You know, pretty much what all ’90s-era cartoons were, only these had videogame stars in them to set them apart! Well, kinda.

As is usual, past the jump is commentary, images, and video commemorating this week’s game-themed programming picks. Kapow!

Double Dragon/1993-1994/DiC

To be completely honest, I was never too into the Double Dragon cartoon because action shows were boring to my younger self. However, I do have very fond memories of watching the show’s intro, to the point where I now know the theme song better than I do the contents of the actual program. Around the time this cartoon was released, theme songs were turning into full-on rock anthems, reflecting the bucketful of attitude that kids begged for in their programming during the 1990s. Double Dragon‘s theme song was no exception. It wasn’t the best, but it was still memorable for its mixture of rock and Oriental sounds.

As far as paying tribute to its source material goes, Double Dragon is one of the worst offenders out there. The first episode of the show was loosely based on the NES version of the first game, wherein Billy must fight his twin brother, Jimmy, who is revealed to be the evil Shadow Boss. It was a pretty cool retelling of those events, but from that point forward, the game and the TV show had very little in common other than sharing a name. The show’s creators were given full creative control over the simple concept of “two good guys who fight bad ones.” There was probably also a side memo that read, “Oh, and be SURE to include dragons! I don’t care how. DO IT. -Management”

I remember this part of the game! “Press A to make chest glow!” What a great moment.
Instead of just being two normal guys who sought to rescue women and loved kicking ass, the cartoon versions of Billy and Jimmy were Dragon Masters, each with a dragon birthmark on their chests. Billy was raised by an elder member of the Dragon Warriors, growing up under the very samurai-ish code that they employed. Jimmy, meanwhile, was raised by the Shadow Master and taught to be one of his goons. Even after joining Billy to form the Double Dragons, Jimmy kinda retained his bad ways by remaining a rebellious pain in the ass.

Once they were reunited, Billy and Jimmy kicked ass all over town (which, by the way, was called Metro City instead of New York; DiC might have confused Double Dragon with Final Fight), but they always did so after a bizarre transformation sequence brought on upon by shouting, “By the power of the dragon!” This transformation included the glowing dragon symbols on the chests of the heroes, swords, and weird dragon helmets, none of which came from the actual games.

’80s/’90s Cartoon Checklist: Transformations? Check. Large glowing weapons? Check. Goofy helmets that, on an off chance, kids *might* deem cool? Check.
The Double Dragon show was responsible for the last DD game ever made, Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. Unlike the others, this game was a fighter instead of a sidescrolling brawler, and like the source it was derived from, it was not very good.

Additional material:
The Shadow Falls
The Legend Continues
The Price of Oblivion
Double Dragon promotional commercial

Mega Man/1994-1995/Ruby-Spears

The super fighting robot that many children saw on their TVs looked a lot different than the one who starred in the videogames of the same name. Mega Man has always been depicted as a small, young robot boy in his 8-bit games, and starting with Mega Man 3, the American box art for the series started to reflect the more cartoonish look that had long been a staple of the Rockman franchise. Everything was going great; America was heading toward acceptance of a Mega Man who looked like he was supposed to. But then came the American cartoon with its odd character design to mess with things.

Things were not always going to be like this. In fact, Americans were very close to seeing how Mega Man was supposed to look for the very first time. Capcom itself was heavily involved in the creative processes of the show, and all of the original Japanese character designs were going to stay intact. But Ruby-Spears stepped in and changes were made to make the show more appealing to older American children, namely making Mega Man, Roll, and Proto Man into more mature-looking characters. A lot of the Robot Master’s designs were also changed to fit the redesign of the main robotic characters (and some, like Guts Man, were kept the same).

They accepted some Robot Masters for who they were, and rejected others. I’m sorry, Air Man.
The appearance of the characters was not the only major deviation the cartoon took. There were also many small plot changes, the weirdest of all being Proto Man’s switch from being a neutral ally to a guy working exclusively for Dr. Wily. His blatant bullying of Mega Man may have confused a lot of people, as it was never really made clear where his allegiances lay in the games. There is also a lot of emphasis on hand-to-hand combat between Mega Man and his enemies, which is strange considering that all he has to do is retract his left hand to activate his blaster arm.

Roll was given a bunch of cleaning accessories that she often used as weapons, the most common one being a vacuum head. Rush was essentially turned into Scooby-Doo, which is the fate of every dog in a cartoon ever, regardless of whether they are real or robot. Still, I think they may have done much worse. Roll has always been a slightly offensive housecleaning bot, and Rush still turns into a jet, so I guess one can’t really complain.

“I am tough and can help Mega Man… clean house!” “Ruh roh, Rega Ran!”
For all of the changes that were made, the show is still pretty well hinged onto the premise of the videogames; Dr. Wily releases a bad robot upon the world, and Mega Man destroys it and takes its powers (though he can do so just by touching the Robot Master). Almost every single Robot Master, from Mega Man 1 to 5, shows up at some point, and many of them have their old looks. Mega Man X and the first set of Mavericks have an episode dedicated to them. Mega Man even drinks E-tanks to heal himself!

Mega Man is probably one of the only videogame cartoons that I have truly fond memories of. It didn’t completely disgrace its source material, but it was a good cartoon that could stand on its own. I watched Mega Man before I ever played it, and I think I appreciated the games all the more because I felt like I was playing one of my favorite cartoons.

At least it didn’t look like this…
Additional material:
The Beginning
Mega Dreams
Mega Pinncohio
Electric Nightmare
Mega Man promotional commercial

BONUS!

Street Fighter/1995-1997/Graz Entertainment Inc.

After the Street Fighter series saw a ton of success with Street Fighter II and its various other versions, the franchise kinda infiltrated all other forms of media. For a few years, it was pretty difficult to get away from Street Fighter. The cartoon had a lot to do with it; despite being abysmal, it lasted for two seasons, riding the coattails of the also horrible live-action film.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they soiled the good Street Fighter name, they also had to drag in Final Fight for a crossover episode, where the SF gang joins forces with Guy and Haggar. It is admittedly kind of cool, though, to see a cartoon version of Haggar kicking ass and mayoring.

Additional material:
Final Fight
Strange Bedfellows
Clips from various episodes

I can’t be the only one who thinks that Billy and Jimmy strongly resemble good ‘ol Hordak when they’re in Double Dragon form. Really, it’s uncanny!

Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh! This is the end of Part 3, and I should be dropping you hints as to what’s coming up next week. Well, really, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Next week, the videogame-themed TV shows to be highlighted are those that many don’t remember ever being made. There are sure to be a few suprises, so be sure to be there!

Ashley Davis