Technically, by editorial mandate, arcade games fall under the umbrella of NERDING DAY. But you know who never starts their sentences with “technically?” A goddamn hot dog. “Technically” is a word for carrot cakes and tomatoes. And today we are speaking from our beefy loins about no ordinary arcade game. This is the first entry in a new feature called…
The early ’90s were a Golden Age of street gang punching video games. At any pizza parlor or bowling alley you had your choice of Double Dragon, Final Fight, or Vendetta. Or Burning Fight. Or Combatribes. If you were unl- oh shit, Bad Dudes! If you were unlucky, your local arcade had D.D. CREW, a game worse than everything it was ripping off in such a blatant, intentional way. This game is like barging into a man’s house nude with a copy of his wife made out of garbage bags, and then failing to perform sexually with it. Which is to say it’s so brash and confusing in its failures there’s no elegant analogy for it.
Let me try to explain better: this game is a work of unexplainable lunacy. If you asked the animator of D.D. CREW how to punch, he would put one leg over his head and swallow his own face, which is how he thinks you shrug. If you asked the writer of D.D. CREW what the fuck is going on in the plot, he would say, “Unspeed police diarrhea,” which is how he thinks you say, “please repeat, slower.” And if you asked the designer of D.D. CREW how this game happened, he’d say, “They turned that into a game? I thought we were designing software for analyzing police diarrhea.”
Like everything in D.D. CREW, the opening cinematic sucks so hard it creates a masterpiece. A man in an orange Party City pimp costume calls the LAPD to say, “YO GOTTA BOMB IN YA PARK !!” and an empty carnival explodes with no injuries or damage of any kind. It’s sort of cute, like the karate heroes asked their kids to put on a play about what they thought their daddies did at work. The bad guy never gets a name and if any of the characters are the second draft of an idea, I will eat five evidence bags of police diarrhea. The theme song is a mashup of audio samples that, and I swear this isn’t a joke, go, “SHUT UP, ALREADY. DAMN. SHUT UP, ALREADY. EVERYBODY FUCK IT!” Your first guess might be it was chosen randomly by someone without access to a Japanese-to-English dictionary, but the lyrics describe D.D. CREW’s design process a little too perfectly to be a coincidence.
Most fighting games have you leaping around the screen in a whirlwind of kicks and baseball bats. Here, you waddle stiffly and poke your hands and feet in every direction other than horizontal. It’s an entire system of martial arts designed around showing new smells to your dance partner. For example, one guy’s main attack is a high five. Do you have any idea how deeply you need to penetrate the space of your enemy to hurt them with a high five? Depending on your penis length, exactly one penis.
No person involved in the making of this thing gave a shit. All the technical parts of D.D. CREW like “collision detection” or “controls” or “not making 25% of the enemies Wario” fail, but it’s a weird kind of failure like it was done on purpose. It’s not impossible SEGA hired a staff of real muscle men, Warios, and carnival murderers to make this more authentic and they turned out to be poor programmers and project managers. The enemies all look like a total badass drew sarcastic character designs and said, “This is how a pussy draws leisure wear! Ha ha ha! Put it in the game, you fuckin’ nerds!”
The first boss you encounter is a nice man with sticks and a mustache who shouts “YOU’RE IN FOR SOME ROUGHIN’ MAN!” because everything in D.D. CREW is expertly wrong. There was obviously a big, wobbly gray area between super tough and anal play that 1991 was still trying to figure out, and “YOU’RE IN FOR SOME ROUGHIN’ MAN!” is such a perfect thing to say to eliminate any certainty you thought you had about whether this stranger came here to fight or fuck.
The second boss is Bruce Lee because once the D.D. CREW writer came up with “my dad with sticks,” he was out of ideas. Try to imagine saying something dumber during a martial arts video game brainstorming meeting than, “I have an idea: Bruce Lee!” Maybe you could just blurt out, “A karate guy,” but that’s ridiculous, right? What kind of a creatively bankrupt trun would think “a karate guy” was an idea? And who would have such a generic take on such a tired joke structure to build all this hypothetical “karate guy” outrage for a limp reveal every reader will see coming?
D.D. CREW is constantly pushing the boundaries of what your brain will accept. After you beat the third boss, the main bad guy shows up in a helicopter, shoots you with a bazooka, and drops you twenty stories onto the back of your neck. You’re the same flimsy clutz who has been dying every three punches for 12 dollars worth of quarters, but you get up from this certain death instantly and break into a full sprint. By any logic, real or digital, you should be dead. The machine should charge you three tokens just to look at your closed casket. It should be a game over screen with a forensic dentist looking for your teeth in a bog of gore presented by SEGA. Look at this fucking insanity:
Speaking of falling, here’s something the antidepressants industry doesn’t want you to know: the key to happiness is fighting an enemy near the edge of something and knocking them the fuck off the world. If you add up all the hours I’ve spent waiting for video game bad guys to walk between my kick and a pit, I could have read eleven books on being happy and all I would be is dumber and sadder. The only reason anyone is miserable, ever, is they haven’t thrown enough Abobos off a conveyor belt. D.D. CREW tried to include this, the best element of video games and life, but like every other thing in D.D. CREW, it’s so maniacally stupid. There are holes for enemies to fall in, but they seem to have no idea they’re there, so casually stroll to their death without any involvement from you. It’s fun, but fun like a vagina made out of pizza– a wrong kind of too much fun. It’s a video promising only NASCAR crashes that also follows each driver to the hospital to watch his widow cry. Maybe it’s both. D.D. CREW is a vagina crash racing a pizza widow.