Every so often, a game comes along that really gets some mainstream publicity, and this public attention can have an impact on our ordinary, non-game related lives. Most commonly, it comes in the form of a game such as Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto III, fueling the debate on violence in the media. But Bad Dudes affected our lives in a much different way. Its plotline (that the president had been kidnapped by ninjas) terrified Americans everywhere, but also made them more aware of the threat posed by ninjas to our democratic society.
“President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas.” If this sounds insane to you, it is probably because you are too young to remember the late 1980’s, when we were all on a first name basis with the president, and the ninja menace had reached its peak. As a result of the game Bad Dudes, and the hysteria that followed, the nation went on a full-ninja alert, and we learned to never trust the little bastards.
Despite this, however, the game’s main message — that all we really needed were two bad dudes to protect the president from ninjas — was not heeded until the “US Department of Bad Dudes” was opened in 1996; well after the ninja threat had subsided.
But enough of the history lesson. What you really want to know about is the game. Bad Dudes (vs. Dragonninja) is a realistic simulation of the response to such a tragic event as President Ronnie being kidnapped by the ninjas (it bears repeating). You control a “Bad Dude” who has the ability to jump, kick and punch his way to saving the American way of life. But since the ninjas make fun of his girly punches, he only will punch when nobody is around. Otherwise, he just kicks. (What’s truly amazing is that the ninjas don’t make fun of his fashionable sweatpants/muscle shirt combo.) Like any great martial artist, your Bad Dude can also set himself on fire; which discourages others from fighting you, as they all will think that you are nuts. Or else they just assume that you will end up killing yourself that way.
Although you are an elite fighting machine, the challenge in front of you is tall. You must fight through an army of glass-jawed ninjas that can only be killed by kicking, punching, knifing, tripping or sneezing on them. In an emergency, you can also jump over the ninja, causing him to keep running on past you until he eventually reaches the ocean and drowns.
There are several different ranks of “the ninjas”. The main ones are blue ninjas, who apparently have a contagious disease and try to kill you by running into you. Grey ninjas will throw tacks on the ground in front of you, and, convinced that nobody could ever possibly overcome such an obstacle, calmly walk away. Then there are the red ninjas, who follow the ancient ninja art of camouflage by wearing the brightest shade of red they can find. The ninja clan trusts these elite red ninjas to carry their most prized assets, such as knives, nunchuks, cans of coke, and um… clocks (is Flavor Flav one of the ninjas?!). Naturally, you should kill these red ninjas first to obtain their (questionably) useful items.
The highlight of Bad Dudes is the boss fights. The creators of this game went all out thinking up ideas for bosses and came up with some really original ideas, such as…
- Porting late-80s video game star, Karnov, from his own game
- a Green Ninja
- a guy who looks like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- a look-alike for pro wrestler “Hawk” from the Legion of Doom
- a Yellow Ninja
- a Purple Ninja (he’s grape flavored)
- a Pink Ninja
- a Beige Ninja
- an Orange Ninja
If you are skilled enough to defeat any of these evil foes, the Bad Dude will raise his fist in victory and scream something unintelligible, which may be “I’m Bad!”, but could also be “I’m Brad!”, “Hi Dad!”, or “I’m Fat!”. And of course, if you defeat all of the bosses in the game, you rescue President Ronnie (who, if you remember, had been kidnapped by the ninjas). At this point you receive your ultimate reward: President Ronnie eating a hamburger! (I have taken a few liberties in writing this article, but the hamburger thing is 100% true). Then the Bad Dudes tell you not to use drugs and to always wear sweatpants and muscle shirts…then the credits roll. It’s fantastic.
Will this game always be remembered fondly by future generations? It’s hard to say for sure. Games of this style were a dime a dozen back when Bad Dudes came out, but many people preferred it over other beat-em-ups such as Double Dragon or Final Fight because of its amazing storyline (which features President Ronnie being kidnapped by the ninjas) and gritty realism. Without a proper sense of the history surrounding it, it may be hard to truly appreciate that realism, and by extension, the game itself.