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Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Review

Growing up, there was only one game I owned that I could never beat. I came close a couple of times, but never once did I manage to beat Battletoads & Double Dragon – The Ultimate Team. Since then, I’ve had a fondness for the genre, especially regarding arcade machines I vividly recall playing and both of those franchises. With Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons, it looked like a loving return to form similar to Streets of Rage 4 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, and less Double Dragon Neon (ending song excluded). Given the hype, love of the franchise, and a favorable impression, is it another hit or the first one to fall short?

This adventure begins with a brief introduction to the situation. Essentially a number of gangs have taken over the city, and it’s your job to stop them. Fans of the franchise will likely enjoy the conclusion, though for everyone else, it’s a vague justification to beat up various punks.

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  • Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons
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Prior to starting a run players have a wide variety of options for modifiers. Not only do they modify difficulty, but they substantially impact leaderboard placement, which we will get into a bit later. The main benefit is to create an experience that matches your needs or desires. Once everything is set up, you’ll be able to select your duo.

Initially, the experience is limited to Billy, Jimmy, Marian, and Uncle Matin. By collecting tokens, you can unlock 13 total characters. We won’t reveal all of them, but I am delighted to say long-standing antagonists like Abobo, Burnov, Chin Taimei, and Linda are all playable. In addition to that, a lot of love was put into crafting each character’s move set.

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What an Iconic Pair

This is best understood by looking at Billy and Jimmy Lee. Instead of having the two be carbon copies of each other, Billy’s move set includes various kicks, whereas Jimmy’s is punch-based. It’s a slight touch that adds a considerable amount of replayability. Even bigger characters like Abobo, Uncle Matin, and Burnov have similarities, yet their approach is entirely different. This results in certain characters being better than others, but you shouldn’t regret unlocking any given character. Just be warned certain duos mesh better than others.

Gameplay is one of the best and worst aspects of Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons. I love the experience of not trying to recreate the original games or be like every other beat ’em-up in recent memory. The goal isn’t to manage a large number of enemies with limited tools but rather to overcome a small number of enemies that deal a substantial amount of damage. Players are encouraged to defeat multiple enemies at once with a powerful special attack to combat their overall power. Knocking out three or more will spawn a health item that can either heal or give additional cash for more tokens/lives.

So Many Options

What makes this gimmick annoying is two things. First and foremost, it doesn’t take long before the pop-up saying you defeated three or more enemies becomes annoying. To put it into perspective, I got the trophy for getting 100 roughly four hours into my adventure. It also strongly encourages players to play in a specific way.

Marian is an excellent example of this. Her rocket launcher attack makes getting extraordinary knockouts extremely easy. It’s ranged, defeats multiple enemies simultaneously, and does much damage. It’s much more practical than mine trap or police arrest, along with being infinitely better than someone like Billy Lee, who quite honestly is one of the more complex characters to generate extraordinary knockouts.

Similar things apply to the level structure. It’s an interesting choice to have every level expand as players progress. Instead of just playing a map, beating a stage unlocks another map for the other locations, followed by a third map, and finally, an alternate boss. It makes the initial couple of runs really interesting, though I’d be lying if I said certain paths weren’t easier than others.

Both Triangle’s Junkyard and Okada Clan Headquarters feature later maps that are incredibly easy to lose on. There are just so many traps/distractions that they’re far more deadly than the other two combined. This lack of balance might not impact players looking for fun, but it can discourage playing them long-term.

Finally, I wanted to touch on the leaderboard since it will give Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons the most longevity. Placement is based on the number of tokens earned and the total cash amount. This is an okay system since it encourages players to play on a higher difficulty, but a more expansive system would really encourage players to see more. Currently, I see specific pairs dominating and either the absolute highest level of tanking or the most essential modifiers being required if you want to score high.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Review Verdict

ouble Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons: Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons comes down to your expectations. Anyone looking for online multiplayer or in-depth leaderboards will be disappointed, but in terms of getting your money's worth, there is certainly enough content. Experiencing every stage takes about 8 hours, with a total run with each character hitting 14 hours. As a result, fans of the original and genre will likely enjoy the experience. Grant

von 10

[Editor’s Note: Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]

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