Beat 'em ups don't get much more classic than Double Dragon. Seeing as its now 2017, is the genre still as fun as it was back in the '80s? Let's take it to the streets and see if this retro series was worth resurrecting yet again.
I grew up loving Double Dragon on the NES. Beating up dudes on the street and winning fights with hulking masses of muscle twice your size is just awesome. The second game was even better as it allowed you to play simultaneously with a friend and featured many improvements over the original. However, that was the last good Double Dragon that I played. Thankfully, Double Dragon IV is now available and it brings back the old-school approach to the series in a very authentic way. I must admit, diving back in to the world of Double Dragon made me remember why beating on street thugs is such a satisfying premise for a game. It's nostalgic fun that you can play with a pal. If that's the sort of game that interests you then you should stop reading this review and buy it because you'll probably enjoy it and I still have some complaining to do that you might not appreciate.
The biggest problem that Double Dragon IV suffers from is the fact that the core gameplay doesn't really hold up for today's standards. If you've never played Double Dragon before then you'll probably hate this game. The gameplay comes across as stiff when you compare it to contemporary titles and there is also little variation. Sure, you alternate between fighting gangs of foes and some rudimentary platforming but it all adds up to a repetitive and tedious campaign. Although all of these issues will be easily ignorable by fans of the series and retro beat 'em up enthusiasts, that doesn't make it an easily accessible game for the masses.
Again, if you're already a fan then you'll like what you see. Double Dragon IV boasts a collection of many classic enemies such as Abobo, Williams, and Linda. Facing off against these familiar faces feels great and undeniably nostalgic. There's nothing quite like lining up a throw perfectly in order to watch your opponent fall down a bottomless pit after you toss them off a cliff. Also, there's a retro 8-bit soundtrack that features many fan-favourite tunes as well as newer-sounding music but who the heck would choose that option?
Unfortunately, Double Dragon IV doesn't have that much content. Basically, the campaign contains a dozen brief stages that you must play through in one sitting. You can play it cooperatively with another local player which is cool and adds a layer of fun. Additionally, there's an unlockable Tower survival mode that contains 100 floors so good luck beating that! Of course, there's the obligatory two player duel mode which wasn't fun back in the day and still isn't thirty years later. There are no modern features such as leaderboards or online multiplayer so replay value is severely limited, especially when you consider the lack of modes.
Another huge issue that Double Dragon IV suffers from is screen tearing. I'm usually a forgiving guy when it comes to graphics because I honestly don't care about them. That being said, the obvious and frequent visual glitches are incredibly annoying here and take away from the overall experience. How did they release a modern game featuring 8-bit graphics with these obvious bugs?
Double Dragon IV is a return to the good old days of beat 'em ups that fans may enjoy but it's also a flawed experience that modern gamers will likely be baffled by. Although it's not as good as I was hoping, I'm glad to see Bimmy and Jimmy kicking ass in 2017.
- + Classic Double Dragon beat 'em up gameplay that you can play with a friend
- + Awesome familiar music and enemies
- - Non-fans will find it too stiff, repetitive, and bland for today's standards
- - Very limited content and replay value
- - Awful visual glitches such as screen tearing