Double Dragon IV review for PS4, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: PC
Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No

The Nintendo Entertainment System and Arcade ports of the Double Dragon arcade games have always been a staple in classic gaming. Arc System Works and former members of Technos have teamed up to help gamers relive those iconic games with Double Dragon IV, a completely new game that looks, sounds and feels like the classic games. Does it capture the original magic, or is it another classic cash in?  Read on.

The storyline here is very simple. After triumphing over evil time and time again, Billy and Jimmy Lee set up Dragon dojos all across the US to “preserve peace.” While on a road trip to San Francisco, they get run off the highway, and Billy Lee’s girlfriend, Marian, (in a nod to the classics) is captured again in the same way she was in the first NES game. Throughout the levels, you get small “cut-scenes” that try to move the story along, and while it doesn’t feel out of place, it just gets silly and often times comical as it progresses.

The gameplay is very straightforward. You control one of 2 Lee brothers, and beat the stuffing out of a bunch of punks who are all trying to kill you for undefined reasons. Fortunately the Lee boys are equipped with a Chuck Norris size array of martial arts moves, various weapons and heavy items found scattered about each area to help with each and every battle. Your opponents have a tendency to gang up on you though, as most fights can easily become 6 on 1 in a matter of seconds. Having 2 players can even the odds a little, but you will suffer defeat many times over as the game progresses. Sadly there is no online play to speak of (other than Share Play via the PS4).  So unless you have a buddy in the same room,  some levels end with a super powered end boss or two that sometimes seem too powerful at first, but it’s not hard to memorize their fighting patterns.

Besides the numerous amounts of enemies that will surround you, some levels will have you dealing with awkward platforming and difficult jumps that can really ruin your day if you are not careful. Many times you will get hit by an enemy and fall down a pit, losing a life. Since you are limited on how many continues you are given, this can prove to be rage inducing multiple times in one game.

Aside from the main story mode, there is a 2 Player battle mode, where you can use the Lees and other characters you’ve unlocked by playing Story Mode. This is a nod to the first game on NES as the only two player option in that game was the battle mode. It even recreates the background from the original right down to the walls on each side you can run into. Also once you beat the Story, you can play the Tower Mode. Here you play a series of one screen battles, basically ascending a “tower” to reach the final boss. This mode will allow you to unlock more characters for the versus mode and other fun surprises as you play!

Controls in Double Dragon IV are less than solid. Special moves are mapped to one button, and pulling off combos can be tricky as it’s hard to line up an attack especially if you are surrounded by enemies. I spend a large amount of time punching the air around my target because I wasn’t lined up just right to connect. Overall, It’s manageable but could have used some fine tuning.

The graphics looks they’ve been taken straight out of the 8-bit games. The retro style is done very well overall, with the backgrounds and animations all blending together perfectly. Music has two settings, Normal and Retro. Normal is remixes of classic Double Dragon music with an updated sound. Retro consists of the same tunes but done in a chiptune style. No matter which one you choose, the music is extremely catchy and I personally wouldn’t mind having a separate soundtrack of it.

Double Dragon IV is fun for a limited time. while it captures the look and feel of the classic games, it tends to get a bit stale and starts to grind on your nerves. Its awkward platforming and imperfect controls hinder the overall experience, while the lack of online play hurts as this game would be perfect for some drop in / drop out action! Overall, I still liked the entire package and can ignore its minor issues long enough to have a great time. New players may find it boring, while fans of the classic games will feel right at home. Pick this up if you want to try out what beat-em ups were like in the ’80s!

Grade: B+