REVIEW – „What is this retro thing? How ugly is it?” – These could very well be thoughts of a teenager who loads this game up on PlayStation 4 or PC without having any experience of older platforms. Double Dragon IV brings over the style of the first three games on the NES, and we should respect the old games. However… is the game good?
I have a better question: is this game good for the modern audience? I could simply say that (and now I’m not quoting from any other publication) „it looks terrible, it’s not acceptable nowadays, it doesn’t get the player’s attention in the long term.” Interesting: when Capcom made Megaman 9 and 10, I don’t remember those games getting flak that much…
Billy & Jimmy
The story is as basic as almost roughly three decades (or just two in my case: bootleg Famicom cartridges, dubbed „yellow cards” in my country, were still popular then) ago in the original Double Dragon games. The boys are traveling around the United States, but their car breaks down towards San Francisco, and surprise, the girlfriend named Marian gets kidnapped, and we go try to save her. Add some cutscenes between levels, and that’s the plot for you.
The gameplay could be described by a single word: beat’em up. Melee with some weapons here and there, but don’t expect something like Contra had. No, there will be a few items like baseball bats, which you will put to good use, as Arc System Works’ game will kick your ass for the smallest mistake. The difficulty was always part of Double Dragon: you were always either overpowered or outnumbered, which meant you needed the experience to succeed.
This thought reminded me of something that was part mainly of the third game: platformer sections. In 3, you pretty much had to do pixel perfect jumps, or you fell, which meant losing a life. IV has the same issue, and enemies can also knock you down – although you can do vice versa as well. What if you ran out of lives? (Which will likely happen after losing your patience.) You get a limited number of continues, so prepare to restart a game a few (?) times to reach the end…
Thankfully, the developers didn’t just throw the game out to the Store with a single story mode and nothing else. We can have a two-player affair as well, but sadly, it’s not online – Share Play is the exception: two players can use one copy of the game for an hour, but that’s not much. There are other goodies here as well. For example, there’s a reference to the first NES game with a Battle mode, where you can beat up each other instead of the hundreds of enemies. (I only had II, and that had nothing like this mode, if I remember correctly… damn, I’m old.) There’s also the Tower Mode, where you get more unlocks as further, you get in the tower. This mode expands the game length significantly.
However, the game lacks in multiple aspects. I’m not talking about the graphics, as those are as good as they should be in my opinion. Audio is also fine, because it provides two options: Normal has the classic melodies with a modern sound, while the Retro mode provides chiptune music, and the latter one could be the better choice. The controls are the issue. I don’t feel them as good as the NES trilogy’s; in fact, sometimes I had the feeling that I just couldn’t pull the special moves off, which punished me big time, as Double Dragon IV can be quite cheap at some points. Also, why on Earth can’t I play online with someone? It’s such a missed opportunity, damn it!
Only for retro fans
If you have never played any of the Double Dragon games, just ignore IV. If you played any of the trilogy titles on the NES, then give it a shot. I give it a 5.8 because Double Dragon IV provides exactly what the original trilogy had on the gray Nintendo console. Sure, there are missed points, such as the lack of online and fluid controls (with these, the game could have received an 7…), and it’s not a Game of the Year contender. Still, it’s a worthy shot at reviving the franchise, and as such, it’s a solid effort.
+ Retro audiovisuals
+ Share Play for an hour
+ Tower mode
– Lack of online
– The controls aren’t great
– It kicks the player’s ass in cheap manners here and there
Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Genre: 2D, beat’em up
Release date: January 30, 2017 (PS4), or 31 (PC)