Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons (PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, X/S, PC)

In the 80s and 90s, Double Dragon was HUGE!  It wasn’t the first side scrolling beat ‘em up, but it was the first one to really dictate what these types of games would be like in the future.  It was definitely one of the first two player co-op beat ‘em ups, though, and that’s what made it so popular in arcades back then.  The arcade game got countless ports, sequels, and even cameos in other games.  There was even a Double Dragon cartoon and cheesy live action movie!  And they keep coming back, even to this day!  The newest entry is Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons, and it’s available on all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

The basic gameplay is what you’d expect.  Choose your character and brawl baddies in 2-D side scrolling areas.  One button jumps, one punches and kicks, one grabs and picks up items, and one lets you use a special attack when a meter is full.  It fills pretty quickly, so you’ll want to use special attacks as often as you can.  Billy and Jimmy Lee play like you expect, and you can even pick up items to use as weapons.  New characters include Marian, who can fire long distance shots, but can’t pick up anything, and a big army dude who’s slow but powerful.  One unique thing about this game is that you can choose which stage to start out with.  The story goes that four evil gangs have taken over the city, and you can choose which of their hideouts to tackle.  But once you defeat one, the other hideouts have a chance to build onto themselves, so the next stage you play will be tougher and longer.  Two can play at the same time here, too.

Another difference in this one is how important it is to K.O. enemies using combos.  Health refilling food is scarce in this game, but if you can kill a bunch using a combo, you’ll get a bonus food item in return.  You also earn money by defeating enemies and breaking objects, as well as completing other objectives like finishing stages.  Between stages you can use the money to buy perks and power-ups, and you must also use a chunk of change to continue.  If you choose not to continue, you can trade the money in for tokens which can be used to unlock goodies in the main menu.  These include art, music, tips, and other playable characters!  You can even play as Linda and Abobo!  It takes FOREVER to unlock stuff, though.

I did have a few problems with this one.  Double Dragon games tend to play slower and clunkier than other beat ‘em ups, and it’s easy to get boxed in by enemies.  Because of the way you earn money and tokens, plus the high difficulty, the game can be a bit repetitive.  It’s no Streets of Rage 4 or TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, but I did like the 16-bit visuals and classic gameplay, though.  I think I like WayForward’s Double Dragon Neon way more, however.

Kid Factor:

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, and Tobacco Reference.  I didn’t notice any blood, but some characters are seen smoking or wearing skimpy outfits.  You can punch and kick bad guys, and defeated characters just lie on the ground and turn grey.  Because of the high difficulty, I’d say this one is best for older kids, but I played games like this when I was young and turned out OK.

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