Review of Double Dragon 4

doubledragon4

To coincide with the thirty-year anniversary of Double Dragon the folks at Arc System Works have just released Double Dragon 4 on Sony’s current gen console. Double Dragon is a series I am well acquainted with because it introduced me to the world of side scrolling brawlers, courtesy of its sluggish Amstrad CPC 464 arcade port. Since then I have gone on to enjoy Double Dragon games on the original Gameboy, Super Double Dragon for SNES and Double Dragon Neon on PS3. Double Dragon 4 hopes to tap into the nostalgia old farts have, by mimicking the visuals and gameplay of the Nintendo Entertainment System trilogy. Unfortunately for beat-em-up fans Double Dragon 4 not only reacquaints us with 8-bit graphics, but also the frustrating mechanics found in many retro classics.

OVERVIEW

Fighting games aren’t known for their stellar storytelling and Double Dragon 4 does nothing to buck that trend. The game begins with the Lee brothers travelling the land to expand their flourishing dojo empire. Sadly for Billy and Jimmy the tour has to be put on hiatus when a group of thugs assault them. The hoodlums in question serve a pair of martial art practicing sisters who wish to prove that females can be mighty. Any social justice warriors hoping to cheer the feminist crusade of Double Dragon 4’s villains shouldn’t get too excited though. When the attack on Billy and Jimmy fails the evildoers resort to the sexist scheme of kidnapping Marian. Nothing has changed since 1987. Once again the damsel in distress needs to be rescued by men.

Anyone who has played the NES version of Double Dragon 2 will feel right at home with Double Dragon 4. Over the course of twelve short levels one or two players walk about smacking any ruffians they encounter, be it with their fists or by using the weapons found littering the landscape. Occasionally the fisticuffs are interrupted by annoying platform segments were players have to circumvent traps, which isn’t easy given Billy and Jimmy’s poor agility. Despite being accomplished Kung-Fu warriors the brothers Lee amble along at the pace of a fatigued slug and can barely leap higher than an elephant wearing lead sandals. The frustration continues in the combat sections whenever you are pitted against multiple foes. Countless lives will be lost as there is little recourse against enemies swamping you from both sides simultaneously.

VERDICT

My rating for Double Dragon 4 is a two and a half out of five, which equals the score I recently awarded Power Rangers: Mega Battle. Out of the two games I would argue that Power Rangers has the better gameplay, as its combat system requires a modicum of strategy. Battling Double Dragon’s cheap AI on the other hand consists of spamming the overpowered hurricane kick and sticking to the top or foot of the screen were hits don’t register. Whether you enjoy Double Dragon 4 or Power Rangers more comes down to personal taste. In its favour Double Dragon possesses old school charm and a huge roster of playable characters. Once the one-hour long story is completed access to Tower mode is granted, where a multitude of new fighters can be unlocked.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed Double Dragon 4 more if I could have found a chum to join me in some co-op multiplayer action. Two gamers fighting side by side would have alleviated the irritation of being unfairly gangbanged from both flanks. At the end of the day however I have to say that DD4 doesn’t live up to the hype. Whether fault lies with Arc System Works’ level design or the antiquated combat not withstanding the test of time is up for debate. Either way I would only recommend Double Dragon 4 to diehard fans of the franchise… and even then I would suggest waiting for a discount. Ultimately Double Dragon 4 is a disappointment, but hey at least it isn’t the worst thing ever to sport the Double Dragon brand. If you want to see something truly terrible give the live action movie a gander.

18 thoughts on “Review of Double Dragon 4

    • I bought it for just under a tenner. If you have friends to play co-op with you might get your money’s worth by replaying the story and tower with different characters. Otherwise I would advise waiting for a sale or for the game to possibly become a PS Plus freebie in the future.

  1. Double Dragon is a franchise that sees very little quality control. So much up and down over all. I loved the original one, but I think I’ll be pretty comfortable giving this a pass.

    • Some of the Double Dragon games are excellent, but yeah I agree some are poor. Arc System Works bought the rights to the series so I would have expected them to put a bit more effort with this release. Poor reviews will hurt the brand’s long term value.

  2. It’s nice that you took a look at this. I enjoyed my time with the game, and I think many others will if they have fond memories of playing the NES trilogy. I agree that it doesn’t add a ton to the formula aside from two new moves, and the enemies. But I disagree that it doesn’t do what it does well. In my opinion it does do what it set out to do, and that is bring a new entry in the retro way most remember. Namely, the NES trilogy. My problems with the game are that it does little to nothing in terms of performance options, and that they couldn’t be bothered to even make an in game full screen option on PC, where casual buyers wouldn’t know to press ALT+Enter to force full screen.

    Still, I like that you reviewed it because I think differing opinions can often times make us look at things a different way, or notice something we hadn’t before. I do think some of the criticisms you point out are valid. It doesn’t change the gameplay much. It does have some cheap platforming deaths like the old games did. I just think how much it bothers any given player is really going to be up to the individual. As I played a ton of the NES versions, it may just be something I’m so accustomed to that it doesn’t bother me so much. But I know the lack of a built in Full Screen ticker is going to bother EVERYONE who gets the computer version.

    From what I’ve seen online about it, Arc System Works actually owns the Technos IPs, and Library. So Double Dragon, River City Ransom, Super Dodgeball, Renegade, etc. are all under their umbrella now. Some of the folks who made NES DD II, supposedly helped with DD IV, so that likely had something to do with the creative direction.

    Anyway, another great review here. Kudos!

    • I have to admit that the Double Dragon games on NES didn’t wow me, so DD4 was going to have an uphill battle to win me over. Sorry to hear about the lack of effort put into the PC version. It seems like many developers make games for console and don’t focus much on adding extra options for the computer market.

      Arc System Works own River City rumble? Fingers crossed that they keep the series alive because I enjoyed River City Tokyo Rumble on 3DS.

  3. Damn, I had high hopes for this. I also forgot it was even coming! 2.5 out of 5 is good enough for me to at least give it a try though, I really do miss me some Double Dragon. I bought the Power Rangers game as well, though it’s just sitting on my hard drive. Awesome review, it’s been a while since I have been on WordPress I really missed it!

      • Thank you! I will go check that out right now! To be honest I have been looking for a game to fill a Scott Pilgrim sized hole in my girlfriend and I’s life, I think this may be the ticket. I can imagine I will find a lot to gripe about hehe, I hold these kind of titles a little too sacred for nostalgia reasons, but couch co op is getting hard to come by these days sadly.

  4. Side scrolling beat ’em ups are always cool, I hadn’t heard anything about this game but I’m definitely no good when it comes to enemies being cheap. Still I might have to give it a try, if worst comes to worst it will help me control my inner game rage.

    • Thankfully you can restart from the last cleared stage by pressing Options at the menu because the game has some rage inducing moments. Aside from the traps (I hated the cogs) sometimes when you get up an enemy will hit you from behind and deplete most of your life bar. Grrr.

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