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Jul 27, 2023

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $24.99
We Recommend: $24.99
  • Developer: Secret Base Pte Ltd
  • Publisher: Modus Games, Joystick
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Casual
  • Released: Jul 27, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch
  • Reviewed: Windows

How do you refresh a beat’em up series that started back in 1987? Well, the first part is to give it to the developers at Secret Base. Second, update the series with an all-new art style. And thirdly, introduce roguelite elements where the enemies become tougher over time, and you have a recipe for success. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons is a surprising mix of new ideas with classic beat’em up brawling that meshes incredibly well together, like chocolate and milk. The genre has seen a renaissance over the past few years, and Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons is the new leader.

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There’s a little bit of a story to bring you in to the goings on, but there are bad gangs doing bad things, and it’s up to the Double Dragons (and friends) to stop their crimes. From here you’ll start the game, and you’ll be asked to select your difficulty options, and you can move sliders up or down to lower or increase difficulty. Then you’ll be asked to pick a primary and secondary character, and at first you’ll only have four to pick from, like Jimmy, Bimmy Billy, Marian, and Uncle Matin. As you play more of the game you’ll be able to unlock more characters such as Abobo and eight others. After that, you’ll pick your first gang to vanquish, and it doesn’t matter which one. In total, there are four gangs and four missions to complete. This sounds like it isn’t a lot, but there will be multiple stages you’ll have to clear, and many ways to make your duo stronger. As each gang is defeated, the remaining gangs will get stronger and beef up their forces. It took me about two hours to complete a run of the game, and I deliberately chose the bad ending – this ended my game. Starting a new run allowed me to chase certain achievements and choose the gangs I attacked differently based on how they got progressively harder.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons has a robust fighting system available to you. There are attacks which are categorized into two types: hits and knocks, a jump, a run, special 1, special 2, and a way to tag in your partner. Mixing and matching all of the various options keeps things exciting and your combo meter up. Simply jumping and attacking presents new options, and becomes critical for late game bosses that specialize in ground attacks or block nearly everything you can throw at them, to include special attacks. Things are further diversified when you consider the other characters, where each one has their own fighting style. You’ve got the aforementioned Abobo who hits hard, but moves slow. Billy moves quick, but attacks slow. Marian, well, she uses a gun so she works only at range, but is a stone cold killer. No matter what your choice, every character feels viable and shines in their own way.

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Some players will use the tag function to bounce between the two playable characters, but you can use the other character as a second life when the first one is exhausted. If you happen to lose both characters, you can always by yourself back in. However, each subsequent death increases the cost of revival by $500 and if you die too much, will price yourself out of resurrection. If a run isn’t quite working for you, you can delete that save and cash out, getting tokens from whatever progress you did make. Death isn’t an inevitability though, you can restore health by performing special attacks that kill three enemies or more. You’ll get a hot dog for three enemies, a cheeseburger for four, and a turkey for five enemies defeated. It’s a really smart system that encourages bunching them up, but also a simple system of keeping your health up during a run.

The game is full of special touches, and one of my favorites is when encountering the scorpion. If you get stung, it will temporarily disorient the player by reversing their controls. Another detail is that enemies will turn black and white when they’re dead, so you know they’re out of play. Managing your special meter is crucial to so much, and is what can allow you to survive the later game’s fights. Having this skill management will allow you to perform those special attacks to drop health or do heavy damage to a boss. Additionally, having a high combo meter not only refills the special meter faster, but also keeps the flow of money fast. It’s really smart how all the systems work in concert with one another to make wonderful music.

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This is a roguelite after all, so the way it works is that you’ll earn money by defeating enemies and breaking anything you see. After a sector is cleared, then you’ll be presented with purchasing one of four perks, one unique to each character, then continue to the next stage. These perks bolster their abilities, or health, or overall damage. This persistence only applies to that save, and does not carry over permanently.

At the end of the day, the token shop is where your focus should be going, as you’re meant to unlock everything. Tokens can be spent on extras to unlock new characters, art, music, and even game tips. You’ll need to replay the game until you get enough tokens to unlock everything, and then that’s it for the game. Hopefully the game will get expanded with more characters, new gangs, or more content. Because as great as this game is, it does feel a bit shallow. In that way, it felt similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, and I want it to more like Streets of Rage 4 with an endless way to play.

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It’s unfortunate that Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons doesn’t support ultrawide monitors at this time, but it does properly do 16:9 with black bars and no stretching. Aside from that, the game looks and plays great. The 16-bit era graphics under its new art style is absolutely gorgeous, and the soundtrack is the perfect compliment to that. This is a wonderful throwback with a modern styling that is just so pleasing.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons is the arcade, reborn . Several games have been revitalized by returning with new ideas, and Rise of the Dragons is in peak form. I do wish the game had a little more depth in its content, but as it stands there is plenty to do and see, even though you have to grind for it. There’s a great time to be had while solo, or in co-op, as it’s just so fun. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons brings back the coin-op feel of arcades with smartly integrating the roguelite genre into the beat’em up; it’s not to be missed.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes