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Double Dragon IV review

 

Double Dragon, now that’s a game franchise that I haven’t heard or seen in a while. The last time we got a Double Dragon game was 2012’s Double Dragon Neon. And while that was a great tribute to the series and of 80’s culture, it still didn’t fill the need of a true sequel to the NES games. Now 30 years later, Arc System Works celebrated the series’ 30th anniversary with the release of Double Dragon IV. That’s right a true, honest to god retro sequel. The game looks. plays and sounds like if it was developed back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. But with modern retro games mixing retro ascetics and modern gameplay mechanics, can one of the grandfathers of beat em’ ups hang with modern retro games, or should Arc System Work have let sleeping dragons lie?

 

Billy

Love letter to series roots- As I mentioned above, Double Dragon IV is a return to the old school days of 8-bit gaming. The graphics, gameplay, cheesy story, music everything about this game has been recreated to feel as if it was a NES release. The game is clearly a love letter to not just retro games in general but to also a series that has been nearly forgotten. Double Dragon IV is filled with nods to the previous games: from seeing almost every single enemy from the series to the music and how the Lee brothers fight. Arc System Works really took care into recreating the classic retro look and feel of Double Dragon IV and as someone who has grew up with series, I can appreciate that.

Culmination of previous games- When games were developed during the 80’s and 90’s, it took a couple of sequels to have new features and mechanics to be introduced. Improvements were made, modes added in, graphic tweaked. That’s how development worked in the past. Arc System Works, in keeping with the retro theme, did just that. They took bits and parts of the three previous NES Double Dragon games in order to create Double Dragon IV. You have the Billy and Jimmy sprites and the co-op modes of Double Dragon II, the a cheesy story inspired from Double Dragon III, every single enemy from all three games, and most important of all, a dedicated jump button. Not to mention few new mechanics that would have been in the game if a fourth game was developed during that time, such as new power moves, a dedicated back elbow strike grappling moves and more. Even the music is a culmination of the previous games, with the main theme leading the charge at the title screen. Speaking of the music…..

 

 

Remix and retro music options- Double Dragon has some of the best music to come out of the 8-bit era. To this day the music is sampled, covered and remixed by fans and fans of 8-bit music. Even the 2012 Double Dragon Neon had a remixed version of the main theme. So its without a surprise that Arc System Works continues this tradition and composed music for the game that sounds like if it was created back in the 80’s/90’s. Its sounds great and authentic. But they didn’t stop there. They also threw in an extra music option to hear remixed versions of the game’s soundtrack. No matter which version you pick to listen to, you are in for an audio treat.

Tower mode, vs mode and replayability-  In addition to the co-op story modes, Double Dragon sees the return of the vs mode aka duels. Much like in previous Double Dragon games that had duel mode, player one and two fight each other in a fight. The first player to make the other lose all three lives is the winner. Players can also use characters that they have unlocked in the story mode to fight each other in duel mode. Tower mode is a brand new addition to the series. Basiclly players have to fight their way up a tower floor by floor. Each floor will have different types of enemies ranging from grunts to bosses. As you climb up the tower, players will also be unlocking character that they can use in the story mode. This makes Double Dragon IV the most replayable entry among the NES versions of the series.

Bimmy

PS4 screen tearing- While this review is mainly looking at the Steam version of Double Dragon IV, I should mention that there are flaws with the PS4 version of the game, mainly noticeable screen tearing. There are sections of the game where you can notice the screen tearing a bit, especially when there are multiple enemies on the screen. I have not experienced that on the Steam version and I’ve gotten all the way to the end stage. While this will not effect the over all score of the Steam version, I’d thought I’d mentioned it if you are thinking about purchasing the PS4 version.

Old school style cheapness and deaths- While more annoying that anything else, the AI in Double Dragon IV can be pretty cheap sometimes, which results in cheap deaths. You can have several enemies keep punching you down each time you try to get back up, or have them knock you back into a bottomless pit when you try to land a jump. But that’s how video games were back in the game and Arc System Works is trying to be faithful to the original feel of the series. Annoying? Yes but not really a deal breaker.

 

Double Dragon IV is a love letter to the franchise, giving fans an official sequel to a series that is just as old as them. The nostalgic factor is very high and to some that might cause people to think that most positive reviews for the game are seen through rose tinted nostalgia glasses. In a way that’s true, but if a game that you enjoyed as a kid finally gets a proper sequel 30 years later and it looks and plays the way you remember growing up, what’s wrong with being happy about it? The music, art, and gameplay feel as authentic as you can get with today’s technology. The PS4 version of the game does has screen tearing and a few other issues, but again this review is based on the Steam version and I didn’t encounter those reported flaws. I could have done with out the cheap AI and cheap deaths, but then that’s how NES games were back in the day and as I said, Arc System Works was trying to be as authentic as they could. The Tower and VS modes will keep players busy once they have finished saving Marion once again and even allows them to play through the story as enemy characters. If you want to take a trip back in time where two non plumber brothers fight an army of gangs, karate men, women in leather and whips and a giant muscle man named Abobo, then the Steam version of Double Dragon IV will gladly take care of that need.

 

8/10

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