Double Dragon IV Review

A Retrospective of the Classic Beat-'em Up Franchise and a Look at its Newest, Nostalgic Entry


Photo Courtesy of Arc System Works.

Photo Courtesy of Arc System Works.

In a video-game world that is largely made up of ambitious, open-world and highly-realistic projects, it's not every day that a nostalgic, 8-bit sprite from the '80s hijacks the virtual landscape and sneaks its way into modern times.

But that's exactly what's happened with the recent release of digital games on current consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One – new titles that are largely based on graphical and technical elements from the "good ol' days."

Case in point the most recent culprit: Double Dragon IV.

For the uneducated, Double Dragon was a classic beat-'em up game from the '80s that debuted in arcades. The premise was simple – find a friend, pop in a few coins at the nearest arcade machine and throw a few punches and kicks at some gangsters and thugs in an attempt to save your virtual girlfriend, Marian. Every kid's dream – especially the girlfriend part.

The game was a hit, and it spawned many sequels. It wasn't long before there was a demand for Double Dragon to be ported to home consoles. At the time, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), one of the most successful game consoles in history, ruled the video-game market.

Double Dragon on the NES, although drastically different from its arcade counterpart, was a rousing success. Its sequel, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, was a go-to game in my household as a kid.

So, when it was announced that Double Dragon IV would be released on the PS4 and PC late January for the franchise's 30th anniversary, with NES-style graphics and all, it struck at my nostalgia chords. It was a must-buy on day one.

And after a few days of playing it on a PS4, it's safe to say that the game is... OK.

Double Dragon IV is certainly for the initiated; it draws cues and harkens back to previous entries in the series, and it brings back the fun co-op gameplay that made it a household name. There's a lot of familiar faces.

The game looks and plays like an NES title for the most part, but its glaring flaws are its slow, uninspiring and almost lazily put together mechanics. It moves slower than most NES titles did in their heyday – an unacceptable notion – and enemies range from predictable to frustrating in that "this is just getting annoying" type of way. They also frequently spawn in hordes, more so than the norm, making it almost impossible to strategize against them appropriately other than spamming specific moves over and over.

It might not be fair to expect any significant type of substance from a title that is literally created with the sole intent of echoing its success from the '80s, but there's nothing worse than experiencing something that can clearly be better.

The title still offers a decent amount of entertainment, and it has a couple of other modes to keep the player occupied. At its best, it's a game to play with a friend when there's some down time. At its worst, it's a game that failed to connect the way it clearly wanted to.

For those looking for their Double Dragon fix, they are better off dusting out that aging NES from their closet and popping in a copy of Double Dragon II.