It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Jimmy and Bimmy Lee in action. Debuting in arcades back during 1987, then later releasing onto many consoles, such as the NES, Sega Master System, PC and more. Double Dragon definitely helped spawn countless titles in both its own series, as well as other 2D brawlers of its day and beyond. If it wasn’t for this franchise, we likely wouldn’t have games such as Final Fight, Streets of Rage, or even Bad Dudes (remember that game?). However, after an extended run on the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo System, we never heard much from the original series.
That is until Arc System Works announced that they were working on a Double Dragon IV title for the PC and PlayStation 4. But would this game be able to capture the magic that made the previously released Double Dragons great?
Game Name: Double Dragon IV
Platform(s):PC (reviewed), PS4
Publisher(s): Arc System Works
Developer(s): Arc System Works
Release Date: January 30th, 2017
Before we go any further, I have to mention that I’ve loved the Double Dragon series on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I played the heck of those games as a child and I still do to this day. So to me, Dragon Dragon IV, had some big shoes to fill. And while I’m not discounting WayForward’s Double Dragon Neon, it simply didn’t feel the same.
Digging into that bag of retro action, not only does Jimmy and Billy make their return, but also a large number of other familiar faces. Characters such as Burnov, Abobo, Linda, Chin, and several others. You may remember them as the Black Warriors, the cannon fodder you ran through in both Double Dragon I & II.
Alright, here is where Double Dragon purists may start to hate me.
When the game was announced, I was super excited when this game was announced. Though after finally playing it, that excitement has retreated away. Far, far away. The controls are laggy, and when I say that I mean it feels like I’m moving underwater. Then there are the issues with the collision detection which causes issues. Enemies can smack me if you’re slightly out of alignment with them, not so much the other way around.
There’s no online co-op! None, this is simply a co-op couch gaming affair. None of the previous games were online either.
Sadly, the old arcade mentally has returned with the game. Like games of old, it will simply pile more and more enemies at you until you’re beaten down or you escape with barely any life. Then they introduce characters that can kill you in two hits and then throw multiple ones at you. Enemies that above or below you, simply like to play the waiting game. Think they’re coming to you? Nope, you have to go to them and pray they don’t smack you up as you climb or descend to them. Let’s not forget the ones that can hit you as you’re getting up as well.
Thankfully, you do have enough moves and wiggle room to get through most of that. You can still manage you cheese your way through the game with baited uppercuts and flying knees. Seriously, you can literally fly across the screen, catching anything in front of you and those that dare try to attack you from the back. They also changed up some classic moves, actually making them easier. The Cyclone Kick are done simply by jumping and pressing kick, though jump kicks are harder to do. Uppercuts can still be done by jumping and delaying your punch and your throws remain the same. However, there are new moves such as a headbutt, and sidekicks, which are a blast to do with another player. You’re able to juggle enemies that way, similar to how you could in Double Dragon Neon.
Environmental obstacles return as well, I mean it wouldn’t be a Double Dragon game without them. For the most part, they’re easily avoidable, except for maybe one. Miss time a jump and you’ll end up being knocked back, instantly killed. This happened a few times during my gameplay sessions.
The original Double Dragon on the NES had a versus mode, that let you fight against the second player. Here you basically fought it out like a game of Street Fighter and that mode has returned in Double Dragon IV in Duel Mode. The very same coliseum stage returns as well. Thankfully there are more playable characters this time around, as long as you progress in the campaign mode. You see, you’ll get to unlock characters by progressing in the game. The further you go, the more enemies you encounter and unlock for the Duel Mode.
Tower mode, which has fighting to stay alive is a new and fun addition. It adds extra replay value to an otherwise short game. I have to admit that I’ve spent way more time with this mode than the actual story mode. The fact that I can keep going and trying to top my last attempt is what this game needed. On the record, I wish more games would implement something like this.
Graphically, I wasn’t expecting much. I was thinking that they made the game in the style of the NES Double Dragon games. It just feels like this game had been developed in the late 1980’s, and was finally being released. There’s even cut off graphics when the game presents you the characters that you earned during the play through. They even forgot to add the ding noise to the directional hand that tells you where to go, as well as other effects such as the elevator or even the helicopter as it hovers above your head.
The soundtrack was also disappointing and I had to go look up who worked on it. Sadly, the same person who worked on the Double Dragon I & II soundtrack is one and the same; Kazunaka Yamane. Which bothers me as the music in Double Dragon IV pales in comparison. While playing the game I felt that I heard about 5-6 tracks, no counting music from the previous entries. I did like the retro background music selection option, which plays the original retro Double Dragon tunes in-game. I thought that was a nice touch.
On the PC side of things, I didn’t experience any performance related issues. Though I wasn’t expecting to, seeing how this is basically an NES title. There’s also no options present either; no key remapping, no resolution changes, nothing. The game even starts in windowed mode forcing you to press ALT+Enter to change to full screen. I was also able to play using either the Xbox 360, Xbox One and Dualshock 4 controller using DS4Windows and the Dualshock 4 wireless adapter.
*Double Dragon IV was provided to us by Arc System Works for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
That said, for nostalgia fans, you’re right at home. Sadly, this game doesn’t even match up to Double Dragon II, which is 28 years older and still holds up. Still, nostalgia will only get you so far. Double Dragon IV definitely had some potential as a throwback to the late 1980’s of gaming. Sadly, there’s not enough substance to give Jimmy and Billy the return they deserved.
I wanted greatness, I got mildly ok. Stick with Double Dragon II, III or even Double Dragon Neon.
- Jimmy and Billy Lee deserved better