We’ve recently had the opportunity to check out Double Dragon IV for the PlayStation 4, which goes back to the classic look and feel that Double Dragon I and II had back on the Nintendo Entertainment System and arcade. How will this throwback to the franchise staples fare in this day and age?
As you would probably expect, the storyline within Double Dragon IV is actually quite simple. Billy and Jimmy Lee have, after managing to triumph over evil yet again, set up Dragon dojos across the United States in an effort to help preserve the peace. While they are on a road trip to San Francisco, they get run of the highway, and Billy Lee’s girlfriend, Marian, once again gets punched in the gut and captured. Now it’s up to the Lee brothers to save her again, with small “cut-scenes’ playing throughout the levels to help move the story along. It does tend to get rather silly and comical as it progresses.
The gameplay is also quite straightforward. You take control of one of the two Lee brothers and proceed to brawl your way through a new group known as The Renegades, who have allied themselves with the remains of The Black Warriors from Double Dragon II. Those who have played the originals may be pleased to hear that the title takes more cues from Double Dragon II than it does III.
The mechanics are quite simple, as you jump, punch, and kick. It is an 80’s style beat ’em up, and is largely made for fans who loved the original Double Dragon games and would like to sit around with a pal in order to try and defeat a simple, but difficult, game.
During the stages, you can find a variety of weapons and heavy items scattered around to help out with the battles. Your opponents, which can feature six on-screen at once, do have a tendency to gang up on you, making most fights quite lopsided in a matter of seconds. Having a pal along for the ride helps even the odds, but you should prepare to die many times over the course of your run.
The stages also sometimes end with a super powered boss or two that can, quite honestly, seem overpowered when you first engage. That said, it’s typically not too difficult to memorize the fighting patterns and achieve victory.
There are also some rather awkward platforming segments with difficult jumps, which many fans of the series have always disliked. These sections can really ruin your day if you aren’t careful, as you can easily be knocked into a pit by an enemy, thus losing a life. Combine this with the limited number of continues, and you may become quite annoyed when it happens multiple times in one playthrough.
On the multiplayer note, it is unfortunate that, aside from Share Play via the PlayStation 4, there is no online play, as it seems like the perfect kind of title for some drop in/drop out co-op fun.
After you manage to beat the game, you unlock a challenge tower that features a hundred floors of enemies. As you climb the tower, you unlock enemies for use in any game mode, meaning that, if you so choose, you can play the entire story mode as Abobo or Burnov.
Replaying the story mode as these enemies is also, surprisingly, quite fun. Each tends to be armed with either a ranged weapon or powerful super-move that can destroy your opposition, and it is interesting to try out all of the movesets. The roster also includes characters from the original games that you can unlock, such as the low-res Billy Lee from the original title.
Finally, for those who prefer to go against each other in beat ’em ups, Double Dragon IV includes a Versus Mode. As you defeat levels in your first playthrough, you unlock a variety of enemies that you can use in this mode, which is another nod to the original game.
Graphics and sound
In terms of graphics, the character sprites are exact to the Nintendo Entertainment System originals, and the backgrounds look more like the modern pixelated indie game backgrounds. It is quite obvious that a lot of love has been put into both the graphical and audio aspects of Double Dragon IV, and the developers even took time to add screen tearing and flickering to help give you the impression that you are playing one of the NES originals on an old television set.
Some may read that and feel concerned about the frame rate, but it does stay quite solid, no matter how many enemies appear on the screen at one time.
Double Dragon IV is a love letter to the franchise, which has obviously been made for the fans of the series. It does shed light on many of the shortcomings of that era, whether intentionally or not, and, to be honest, you can basically decide if it is a game for you by asking yourself one simple question: Do you want to play an 80’s style beat ’em up? If the answer is yes, then by all means, pick up Double Dragon IV. If the answer is no, then you may feel like the game is too clunky for your tastes.
Final Score: 4/5