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Double Dragon IV (PS4) Review

"Billy and Jimmy Are Back for a New "8-bit" Sequel"

The Double Dragon series was back in the heyday of classic beat-em-ups. You play as either Billy or Jimmy Lee beating down the opposition and it was fun back then. Many indie developers have been trying to bring back the genre for nostalgic fans today. While a handful of them were successful, we would rather play the classics again via ports or at barcades. Arc System Works has the Double Dragon IP bringing back folks who worked on the originals for a new game. Surprisingly it’s called Double Dragon IV in honor of the franchise’s 30th anniversary. Is this faithful sequel live up to the classics and usher a new era for the series?

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Double Dragon IV takes place after Double Dragon II: The Revenge where the brothers got ambushed at the American desert. They are tasked in taking out enemies seen in prior games while figuring out a new threat. Marian is somehow alive despite being shot in the last game of the story, but she gets captured yet again and it’s up to the brothers to rescue her. Since this is a sequel to the NES version and not the arcade one, Double Dragon IV uses the NES sprites for this “8-bit” sequel. Now on more powerful tech, Billy and Jimmy have more new moves at their disposal.

The sequel does indeed play the original NES games but now with a wider screen. It also retains what made Double Dragon the beloved series it was even with the cheap stuff. Enemies still can be off screen for a bit waiting to get baited out. Even offscreen they still attack you. Then there’s the frustrating platforming sections like the image below. Just like the originals, fall down a pit and lose a life where you can’t gain extra lives or credits from a high score. The controls and character movement don’t cater to the platforming, but yet it’s still faithful to the classics.

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You only have five credits of three lives to beat twelve missions that take about a hour or two the first time. Fortunately, there is a continue at the last level you died at option if you lose all your credits and lives. There will be moments when playing solo where the numbers are just too much and you’re caught in a loop of taking damage. Two player co-op is only local on both PS4 and PC, but the PS4 version does have share play. I’m surprised recent beat-em-ups like this and the Power Rangers one that came out last month have no online co-op. When XBLA ports of Ninja Turtles, X-Men and Final Fight have online and yet these new ones don’t baffle me. Sure, couch co-op has been on a resurgence lately, but cmon guys a little more effort besides going for the easy cash grab please?

Double Dragon IV’s replay value consists of two player duels and tower mode. The duel mode makes a return from past games where can you pit the good guys against each other. Besides them, the enemies are playable as well to mix things up after they’re unlocked in the main story. Then there’s the survival-based tower where you only have one life to go as many floors as possible against the opposition. According to the trophy list, 100 is the highest floor, but so far I only been able to reach the 20s. At least the enemies are playable in this and the main story mode hopefully providing better chances to move up even further. If you’re willing to repetitively grind for trophies beating the story with other characters, there’s that too.

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The 8-bit hybrid graphical style for this Double Dragon sequel works, but the environments themselves do look bland. I wished the developers added more activity to them. This game has the NES approach down to the tee with the basic main menu as well. However the biggest fault for the game’s visuals specifically on PS4 is the noticeably bad screen tearing. It’s a big enough distraction that can disrupt the flow of combat. The soundtrack is also hit and miss with both modern and 8-bit versions.

For just $6.99, Double Dragon IV is a decent nostalgia trip especially for fans of the series. The game plays and feels like the NES classics but with more new moves. There’s still the cheap stuff every now and then especially those frustrating platforming sections. Replay value is definitely there if you’re willing to grind, but no online co-op is a big disappointment. Graphically, the visuals work but bland environments and bad screen tearing on PS4 are very noticeable. At least this sequel is cheap enough for fans of the genre to check out, but Double Dragon IV could of been more special especially that some folks behind the originals were at the helm for this.

Rating
6.5
Pros
  • Plays faithful to the NES classics
  • Decent replay value with the challenge tower and multiple characters unlockable
  • Only $6.99
Cons
  • Bad screen tearing on the PS4 version
  • No online co-op
  • Bland looking environments
  • Frustrating platforming sections just like the originals

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