Double Dragon was one of the first arcade side-scrolling beat ‘em ups, and when I was a kid, it was very popular. It got tons of sequels, spin-offs, and home ports. At one point, there was even a Double Dragon cartoon, toys, and even a live action movie! (The movie was awful, but also funny in a B-Movie, MST3K sort of way) But you know what’s strange is that while there were games after Double Dragon 3, they were all spin-offs, like Super Double Dragon, BattleToads and Double Dragon, even a one-on-one fighter, and more recently: Double Dragon Neon. But there has never been an official sequel to Double Dragon 3. Until now, with Double Dragon IV, downloadable on PS4.
Double Dragon IV takes a different approach than what the last DD game did. A few years ago, Double Dragon Neon came out and featured updated graphics and gameplay, as well as a more humorous style as it made fun of the 80’s era the original game came from. But similar to other retro revival games like Shovel Knight, Axiom Verge, and Mega Man 9 & 10, Double Dragon IV looks like it came straight from the NES days. You can even change the music to sound more 8-bit, which I recommend doing because it fits and sounds better anyway. I don’t think the NES could handle as many colors and enemies on screen as this game does, but other than that, it’s very authentic.
Gameplay is pretty basic. You can punch, kick, and jump, as well as pull off special moves with combinations of those buttons. There is a Story Mode with 12 missions, and once you exhaust your 3 lives and 5 continues, it’s Game Over. Luckily there is a secret code you can enter that’ll let you start on the last mission you completed. You can also play this mode co-op, and even switch to a mode where you can hurt the other player. There is also a two-player duel mode, where you can select unlocked characters to play as and fight each other, similar to a mode in the original NES game. And if you can beat the story mode, you’ll unlock a Tower Mode as well, so there is plenty of replay value.
Unfortunately, the game has the same problems the other titles in the series had. The hitboxes and hit detection are bad, and the platform jumping sections are even worse. And it can get real frustrating when a bunch of enemies gang up on you from both sides. One more minor complaint is the sound effects are grating. Me personally, I prefer Double Dragon Neon. But I can understand why some may not like it if they take their Double Dragon games more seriously than I do. But if you have fond memories of playing the NES games, then you may want to check this one out anyway. As a kid, I wasn’t into Double Dragon as much as others were. I played the first two games at a friend’s house when he rented them on the NES, but I prefer the more cartoony four-player beat ‘em ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons, and I have better memories playing other arcade titles like Final Fight.
Double Dragon IV is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptors of Violence, Blood, and Language. You do punch and kick all manner of bad guys, but the 8-bit visuals keep things from looking too graphic. Some of the story sections have people’s faces all beat up with red spots and boo-boos, so that’s probably where the blood descriptor comes from. But I don’t remember reading any bad language. Speaking of which, reading skill is helpful for some of the text, but not necessary just to play. Younger gamers may find the difficulty too high, especially in the later levels. But luckily the secret level select code and two-player options help.