Double Dragon IV is the latest installment in the long-running side-scrolling beat-em-up franchise, and picks up after the elimination of the Shadow Warriors in Double Dragon II (basically ignoring a LOT of the lesser Double Dragon entries). Released by Arc System Works, the game comes from producer Takaomi Kaneko, director Yoshihisa Kishimoto, character designer Koji Ogata, composer Kazunaka Yamane and programmer Kei Oyama – all of whom worked on the original Double Dragon way back in the 80s!
This new take on the franchise is exactly NOT that. It’s not a new take, it’s not a reinvention. It is instead a return to the original format – pixelated graphics and all… Taking a cue from the NES versions of the first two Double Dragon games: including using the same sprite designs for both Billy and Jimmy AND the various villains, Double Dragon IV looks, and more importantly plays, just like the old games!
Yes, for those that say “games were harder back in my day” Double Dragon IV will be a breath of fresh, if frustrating, air. If you remember just how damn hard the Double Dragon games were (anyone else knock a bad guy over and then stand over him, waiting for him to get back up so you could knock them down again? Otherwise they’d kick your arse!), well this game is just as difficult. Surprisingly in this case that difficulty is exacerbated by just how clumsy the game feels to play… Since Double Dragon and it’s two NES sequels were released, the side-scrolling beat em-up has come a long way: we’ve had Streets of Rage and its sequels, the phenomenal Fight Fight franchise (I can still pick up, play and enjoy the original game, no matter the console I play it on), and any of the TMNT games, etc., etc. Even Double Dragon, in its own remake, Double Dragon Neon, was more fun to play – in terms of controls, fluidity and responsiveness!
Oh and take note: should you choose to jump straight in to Double Dragon IV without chekcing out all the options will miss, yes miss (why oh why?) the option to configure the buttons for special attacks. It’s crazy, whilst the three main buttons – punch, kick and jump – are assigned from the get-go, there are three more that have to be configured. BUT NOWHERE DOES THE GAME TELL YOU THAT! It’s madness I tell you!
And the sheer clumsiness of the game is not the end of Double Dragon IV‘s troubles. The biggest issue is the ridiculous amount of screen tearing that occurs! Move too fast, screen tear. Climb up or down, screen tear. Fall from a ledge or jump tp yo a ledge, screen tear. Ad infinitum. How the hell a developer has let the game loose on the public with such poor quality control is beyond me. Unless, of course, Arc System Works were actually looking to LITERALLY recreate those Double Dragon games of old, many of which suffered a similar visual fate! I fear that’s actually the case…
For those that grew up on the original games, Double Dragon IV is not all bad. Once you get past the clumsy controls, which are so sluggish at times that you can do nothing but fall (or slide) to your death, there’s a lot of fun to be had in reminiscing as you play, its literally like the last 26 years of video gaming never happened. There’s even a cute recreation of the kidnapping of Marian that takes place during the games frequent end of level scenes – which at least for a brief moment brought a smile to my face, before I realised I had to fight with the game once again.
There are extra modes available within Double Dragon IV: challenge tower (unlocked once you complete story mode), co-op and 2-player duel, but we’ve all come here to beat the main game right? Undoubtedly. But will you enjoy the experience? Probably.
Double Dragon IV is available as a digital download now on Playstation 4.