16th Nov2017

Digital Shorts: ‘Double Dragon IV’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Double Dragon IV, the side-scrolling sequel that has just been ported over to the Nintendo Switch.

dd-4-screen

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, 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 nowadays – through no fault of its own… 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!

Thankfully, the issues that plagued previous versions of Double Dragon IV seem to have been corrected somewhat in this Switch iteration. The biggest issue was the ridiculous amount of screen tearing that occurred – especially on the PS4. In that version if you moved too fast, there was screen tear. Climb up or down, screen tear. Fall from a ledge or jump to a ledge, screen tear, etc., etc. However, and this may be because I played this through in handheld mode only, I experienced none of this on the Switch – there was some jittering at times when the screen was filled with enemies but then the original game did the same. Also “corrected” in the Nintendo Switch port are the controls. With more buttons comes a greater amount of customisation: whilst this was also possible with the PS4, here assigning special moves to one button rather than a combo feels more intuitive and more user-friendly – now whether that waas because I was used to the control system from previous versions or just because the Switch controls are so well optimised is debatable.

Yet for those that grew up on the original games, especially during the 8-bit era, Double Dragon IV is not all bad. Once you get past the overall sluggish feel of the game – a trait of the series, even replaying the original feels the same – 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 a brought a cheeky smile to my face!

Double Dragon IV is available as a digital download on the eShop now.

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