Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Review
Extra Features: Local Multiplayer (1-2 players), Leaderboards
It’s been quiet in Double Dragon land for many years. The last installment (Double Dragon 4) was a return to the more classic style of Double Dragon, but it had a very lazy and rushed feel to it. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons, developed by Secret Base Pte Ltd, is the latest beat’em up to be released under the popular Double Dragon franchise. Double Dragon Gaiden is by far one of the best Double Dragons in recent year.
In the year 199X, criminal gangs have overtaken New York City after a nuclear war. The gangs fight for dominance over the city while inciting riots and other crimes. A young Billy and Jimmy Lee take it upon themselves to clean up the streets. This time our young heroes have friends to help out as well. Gaiden has a total of 13 playable characters. From the beginning four of the characters are unlocked and you can unlock the rest by gaining tokens from playing through the main story.
This game has pixel art graphics. From the start, this game does not look like much of a Double Dragon game, but it has MANY references in it to past Double Dragon games. The game moves smooth and there is a lot of eye candy in its animations. The soundtrack to the game is also fantastic. A good number of tunes are remixes of past Double Dragon tracks. I also really like the character voices. Voices are minimal, but they offer a lot of charm to each characters, such as hearing Billy and Jimmy Lee’s excitement as they pick up items. The overall gameplay to Gaiden is very close to TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, but it has a lot of uniqueness in its gameplay that keeps it from feeling the same.
Gaiden comes out strong with character variety from the beginning. No characters feels the same. All characters have their own unique attacks and special moves along with movement speed and overall power. Each character has a total of three special moves. Billy and Jimmy seem to be the only characters that can use enemy weapons and they even use the weapons differently – Billy performs light attacks and combos with weapons while Jimmy performs heavy attacks. For controls, you have an attack button, jump button, grab button, special button, run button and tag button.
From the start, you pick two characters. One character is your main character and the other can be tagged in to replace your main character. Just like a Marvel vs Capcom game, when you are hit, you regain a certain amount of recoverable health that can be recovered on that character when tagged out. Gaiden emphasizes crowd control and crowd attacks. The more enemies you attack and knock out at once, the more the game will reward you. Enemies drop cash once defeated and the more enemies you KO at the same time, the more cash you will receive. Knocking out three or more enemies at the same time will reward you with food pickups. Environmental objects can be destroyed for pickups as well.
Cash can be used to upgrade your character’s stats and abilities in between areas. Upgrades carry over to other areas per save file. The game has rogue-lite elements with its campaign. Once both of your characters are defeated, you’ll gain the option to revive your characters for around 3000 in cash, continue for a cost of three tokens, or cash out all your earnings on your current save file for extra tokens (and thereby delete your progress in that save file). Tokens are used to unlock the game’s many extras. You have extra characters, gameplay tips, music tracks and artwork to unlock from the shop.
From the beginning of each story mode attempt, you can change enemy aggressiveness and other options that make the game more difficulty. The game even offers you a permadeath choice! The harder you make the game, the more coins are worth and the more the cash you’ll gain. The campaign has its own story complete with text dialogue and still pics that narrate the story. There are a total of five areas. You are free to choose which area to challenge. After going through one area, the rest of the areas increase in difficulty. The starting area will only have one stage and the main boss will be fought at the end of that one stage. As you choose other areas, they will have more stages with mid-bosses and you won’t fight the main boss until the final stage. Thanks to this, every playthrough will be quite different from the last.
This game can get quite hard. Managing crowds and controlling them is the main strategy that will get you far. Normal enemies come in a lot of varieties. You have your standard enemies that you can combo in groups easily and enemies that pose a greater threat that are much harder to work into combos. Bosses become WAY harder when crowds of other enemies start to spawn around them. The main bosses are literally playable characters, so they all have full move sets just like your own character. They are far from pushovers.
One thing that really stands out with Gaiden, compared to other beat’em ups is that there is a major lack of invincibility during fights. Normally, special moves are your “get out of jail free” moves in most beat’em ups, but in Gaiden, you can’t rely on special moves to get out of every situation. They are good for a quick way to stun lock groups of enemies, but you can’t rely on them for invincibility. If you start a special attack on a crowd of enemies and pummel them all then an enemy throws a pipe from the other side of the screen, you are instantly hit once that pipe makes contact and are thrown out of your combo. Moves often have a lot of recovery and this along with the lack of invincibility have to be taken in mind while attacking groups of enemies.
Grab attacks in this game feel nearly useless because of the lack of invincibility. Whenever you grab an enemy, other enemies are free to rush in and hit you. Because of this, grabs have to be quick if you go for them. Some characters, such as Abobo, have way better grabs than others. Also, it’s weird that this game has its own run button instead of simply tapping forward twice to run. You have to hold the run button when trying to perform a dashing attack or a dashing jump attack. It feels awkward.
The game offers local co-op for up to two players. Sadly, there is no online co-op, which is a major dent in a game such as this. With Street of Rage 4 and TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, they both have online co-op from the start, I would expect it from Double Dragon Gaiden also since it has around the same type of gameplay.
Double Dragon Gaiden is a great game, but it just needs some fine-tuning here and there and it really needs an online co-op option. Just watching the game through trailers, I didn’t think that much of it, but once I actually played it, the game blew me away with how good it is. Thanks to the rogue-lite elements, this game can last for quite a while. There is a lot of variety in its gameplay and just enough in its overall difficulty for each playthrough. Overall, Double Dragon Gaiden is a fantastic beat’em up and one that I highly recommend.
+ Tons of replay value
+ Addicting gameplay
+ Fantastic soundtrack
+ So many characters with so much variety!
- No online co-op at the moment
Final Rating: 85% - The streets are dangerous again. It’s time to call Billy and Jimmy Lee along with their many friends.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.