By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette
Most people don’t associate the town Corsicana with Nintendo video games, but in June of 1988, Tradewest made Corsicana known for a new type of industry when the company released Double Dragon for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Tradewest was formed in Corsicana in 1985, the shared vision of three men: Byron Cook, his father Leland, and their San Diego based colleague, John Rowe, a long-time arcade industry executive. The small and unassuming office building was located at 2400 S. Hwy 75.
On Oct. 18 of that same year, the Nintendo Entertainment System debuted to limited test markets in North America, and was catapulted to instant success by such titles of Super Mario Bros., The video game console quickly became a household staple, finally shaking the negative stigma of the “Video Game Crash of 1983.”
Because of the system’s ability to bring the arcade experience to the living room, the Tradewest team knew that acquiring quality coin-op conversions for release on home platforms would be their way into this revitalized market, and signed up to become a Nintendo third-party licensee. Technōs Japan’s Double Dragon was currently the #1 arcade game of the time, so the three men agreed to pursue the license and exclusive NES rights, sending Leland and Rowe to negotiate for Tradewest’s first home game.
In June of 1988, Double Dragon was released. A multi-stage kung fu brawler starring Billy Lee as the main protagonist, players had to fight through endless waves of enemies throughout the city in order to take on the leader of the main crime syndicate and rescue Billy’s girlfriend. The Tradewest team’s faith in the title paid off as the game quickly sold out in stores such as Toys R Us during its first two weeks of release.
In light of the game’s success, Bryon, realizing the potential of video games to expand beyond the small screen, maintained regular licensing negotiations with Technōs. The intellectual property was utilized to create a Marvel Comics limited series, an animated television show, and also became one of the first video game properties to become a feature film in 1994. While the movie found a mixed reception, it did find its place with fans in cult cinema.
Tradewest continued to publish multiple Double Dragon sequels for the later Nintendo, Sega, and Atari game consoles, even pairing the license with Battletoads, another one of the company’s successful franchises.
Double Dragon‘s legacy is still relevant today. While the publishing rights to Double Dragon have shifted over to developer Arc System Works, the original NES title can still be found for download on modern gaming systems.
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