Initial release date: July 27, 2023 Developer: Secret Base Pte Ltd Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One Genres: Fighting game, Shooter game, Casual game, Adventure Publishers: Modus Games, Joystick Series: Double Dragon Engine: Unity
"Review Copy Provided By Modus Games"
A long time ago, during the golden era of gaming, Billy and Jimmy Lee were comrades-in-arms in the legendary Double Dragon series. They have made a comeback in “Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons.” Could this be the much-anticipated resurgence akin to a phoenix rising from the ashes? Let's delve deeper.
In my youth, playing Double Dragon was a crucial milestone. With my rose-tinted glasses securely fastened, I warmly recalled my first adventure into the realms of Double Dragon I and its equally captivating sequel, Double Dragon II, on the NES. It was more than just nostalgia that fueled my affection - the games were genuinely exceptional. Although the franchise was revolutionary and essentially set the benchmark for beat 'em up games, it gradually vanished into obscurity. Since the SNES era, efforts to revitalize Double Dragon seemed akin to keeping a patient on life support. The tepid reception of certain sequels and the sporadically decent offshoots like Double Dragon Neon or Ultimate Double Dragon indicated that the magic had dissipated.
However, unexpectedly, "Double Dragon Gaiden" emerges, aspiring to alter this narrative. I must concede, it appears to be a move in the right direction, blending timeless allure with contemporary mechanics. Amidst a sea of modern games, "Double Dragon Gaiden" stands out with its vintage pixelated aesthetics, evoking memories of the recent "TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge." It is more of a continuation than a reboot. While it doesn't overhaul the storyline entirely, it offers sufficient familiarity for seasoned fans and approachability for newcomers. The plot is a nostalgic throwback: a post-apocalyptic New York City overrun by street gangs, with the Lee brothers, joined by their allies Marion and newcomer Uncle Matin, stepping up to the plate. The ability to switch between characters injects a novel twist into the gameplay. The exhilaration of unlocking new playable characters, such as the iconic antagonist Abobo, adds an extra dimension of excitement. The game even incorporates a tag-team combat system, doubling the fighting action.
Each character's distinct fighting technique encourages players to adopt a strategic mindset. Billy is agile, Jimmy is potent, and Marion specializes in long-range attacks. What about the game's replay value? It is augmented by the unique design wherein the difficulty escalates with each gang leader vanquished. A potential hurdle that "Double Dragon Gaiden" and many beat 'em ups face is repetitiveness. Nevertheless, the game addresses this with its inventive approach. The inclusion of subtle exploratory elements in each level, encouraging players to seek out money and hidden secrets, maintains engagement. The combat is tangible and reactive, offering a respectable assortment of moves. However, a minor complaint is the duplication of specific moves with identical button commands, which can lead to temporary annoyances during intense combat. The combat system could be enriched to compete with modern beat 'em ups like "Shredder’s Revenge." The integration of money into the core gameplay mechanics enables players to buy damage enhancements, continues, and other power-ups. However, this is where it gets slightly vexing. Some upgrades, which I believe should be fundamental gameplay features, are restricted behind this system.
Aspects like a speed boost while walking seem too crucial to be confined behind an upgrade. The "Token Shop" is a welcome addition, even if I find some of its options, such as the "hints," rather redundant. The true delight lies in unlocking new characters, providing veteran players with a renewed experience on subsequent playthroughs.
In conclusion, "Double Dragon Gaiden" is akin to a classic rock band staging a revival. The melodies are recognizable, the beat is contagious, but occasionally it strives a bit too much to conform to the contemporary landscape. That being said, it is a delight for die-hard fans and packs enough punch for newcomers. It pays homage to a bygone era while remaining firmly rooted in the present. The magic may not be entirely restored, but it is flickering in the right direction.