Nostalgia is a big thing when you’re old like me, and while many might think back to Mario or Sonic, some of my earliest gaming memories where at the local arcade playing Double Dragon, it’s a game that’s stuck with me over the last three and a half decades, so it’s time to dust off our controllers and take a look at the latest release in the long-standing franchise.
It’s never easy being siblings, but twins, Billy and Jimmy Lee have the extra hassle of being the seventh sons of a seventh son, sure enough they’ve been tasked with saving the day, usually their (girl) friend Marion, and while Marion hasn’t been kidnapped for once, in Double Dragon Gaiden, she has been attacked by street gangs and the new Mayor turns up to ask for your help to clean up the city.
Sure enough the Lee brothers aren’t shy of a fight and after a little persuasion they’ve joined by Marion and uncle Matin, who make up the four starter characters.
The brothers have a similar all-round close-combat fighting style, while Marion adds a new dimension with a pistol allowing ranged attacked, Matin is a beefy hulk of a guy who feels a little slower and more cumbersome, but still provides plenty of damage to deal out to the thugs of the city.
As you start off, you’ll find there’s 4 gangs in total, each with their own leader, you can battle these in any order. Once you complete one level, other gangs hear about the vigilant group targeting them and strengthen there base, with more guards (and a larger level to work through), one example is the gang lead by Machine Gun Willy (the antagonist from the original game), If you tackle his skyscraper base first, you’ll find him appear after a few rooms, but if you save this gang/mission until last, you’ll need to make your way up to the roof of the skyscraper, where you’ll have to battle WIlly who’s taken residence in a helicopter making it a much more difficult boss battle.
Gameplay is mostly a mix of standard punches and kicks, combined with special attacks which have their own energy bars, as well as picking up and using or throwing weapons as well as tagging in your partner (single player only) for an extra attack, combing these to defeat multiple enemies with a special KO also rewards you with health pick-ups, which make progression on default settings pretty easy once you get to grips with those combos.
Once you’ve cleared up the four gangs of the city, you have a choice to walk away for an early game-over and a financial lump sum, or carry on to the 5th and final mission.
On the default difficulty, there’s a fair challenge, but anyone familiar with scrolling fighters, shouldn’t have too many troubles, I managed to work through to the very final boss, but wish I’d taken the money and ran to power things up a little going forward.
As it stands, Double Dragon Gaiden gives you plenty of game for an evening, and then it’s relying on repeated play throughs (and the variation of levels depending on the order you tackle them) to keep gamers interested.
I can definitely get behind playing through a few times, maybe opening a couple of extra characters, because there’s a decent variety of characters and their moves, especially when you get to unlocking some of the expensive boss characters, but unfortunately, I fear many aren’t going to experience half of them. Sure, you can tweak various aspects of difficulty, to make the game tougher (and reward you with more coins/tokens) or you can really make things easy my giving yourself more damage, enemies less power, and even making upgrades cheaper.
When all is said and done, any depth felt pretty superficial, especially on the rogue aspect, and I can’t see many people returning after the first evening or two.
Another area of concern is the limitations when you compare another recent retro remaster, TMNT Shredders Revenge. While TMNT offered a different way of replaying levels through quests and challenges, with up to 6 players either locally or online, there was plenty of reason to return, but with Double Dragon limited to just two players locally, it’s just another negative mark when considering whether to return.
I do love the way levels become longer and more challenging depending on the order you tackle them, but there’s still only 5 main missions, and there’s just not the variety that we found in TMNT.
That’s not to say Double Dragon isn’t a thoroughly enjoyable game, but for payers looking for only one retro remaster of an arcade classic, most are rightfully going to choose the Turtles over the Lee brothers.
One area that Double Dragon remains strong is the nostalgia, as soon as the menu music kicks in, it took me back to standing in the arcades, and seeing the luck of disgust on my mums face when she heard me swear for the first time (aged about 7) because that b**** with the whip killed me, and while I’ll forever have a fondness for Double Dragon, sadly the music is the only area that really kicks that nostalgia into overdrive.
Graphically though, it feels quite different, the artistic direction just doesn’t fall close enough to either the arcade version or even the home computer (Commodore 64) which I played many, many times, and with gameplay feeling a little more sluggish and a bit too much emphasis on combining kicks, with multiple special abilities, and even tag moves as you switch characters (single player only), it just feels a little too far from home.
Maybe TMNT Shredders Revenge, was able to stick a little closer to its roots, because the source was a little more modern, but Double Dragon Gaiden just takes a few steps too far away from the arcade classic I loved.
I’ve always been a fan of Double Dragon and I always will be, while I’ve enjoyed my time with Double Dragon Gaiden, unfortunately it just doesn’t quite reignite the spark in the same way that similar games have managed.
If you’re after pure retro nostalgia, maybe it’s worth checking out Antstream Arcade,
While fans looking for a modern-day reimagining of an arcade classic, might be better served with TMNT Shredders Revenge first, but Double Dragon Gaiden is still definitely worth considering if you’re a fan of any of the above.
Either way, while there’s better options available, that doesn’t take too much from Double Dragon still being a great game, and it’s well worth considering for fans of the franchise overall, but it’s just not what I was expecting or hoping for after spending time with the two originals only a week ago.
Double Dragon Gaiden : Rise of the Dragons
I’ve always been a fan of Double Dragon and I always will be, but unfortunately Double Dragon Gaiden doesn’t quite reignite the spark in the same way that similar games have managed.