Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

The rise of the old school beat-’em-ups has been something awesome to behold. From Streets of Rage 4 to River City Girls to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge and everything in between, there’s been no shortage of rad 2D action-arcade titles. Even newer franchises like Raging Justice and The TakeOver have allowed players to hit the mean streets and exact vigilante justice on all manner of ‘90s-inspired thugs.

Now, another classic series has returned, and it’s received a bit of a facelift, as well as a gameplay makeover. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons takes some familiar names and faces, as well as a gritty urban setting fans of beat-’em-ups know all too well, and makes some substantial changes to the formula. If you’re looking for a direct follow-up to the original Double Dragon in terms of graphics and gameplay, you should know that this game takes some liberties. It still has Double Dragon vibes, though, and it makes for a bold arcade action game.

Double Dragon Gaiden Marian Gameplay

One of the first things that stands out about Double Dragon Gaiden is its chibi pixel art style. The game has a more lighthearted look than its predecessors, which were more gritty. Even Double Dragon Neon, which featured a bright anime-inspired look, had a darker visual tone. That said, the graphical direction of Gaiden works really well. If you’re not into these types of character models, you might have a problem with it, but it’s not a bad style by any means. It works well, and it looks good.

The gameplay of Double Dragon Gaiden is solid and hard-hitting. It’s pretty fast-paced, but it does feel a bit different than previous entries in the franchise. You’ve got combo strikes, harder-hitting moves, and special attacks that you can pull off once you build up a meter. You also have jumping attacks, but these don’t work very well, unfortunately. There are multiple characters in the game, and they each feel considerably different from one another and offer something different in terms of play style.

To start, you’ve got Jimmy, Billy, Marian, and Uncle Matin. Jimmy and Billy are your martial arts experts, while Marian deals damage from afar with her gun. Meanwhile, Uncle Matin is a slow-paced powerhouse who can pound and grapple his way through enemies. You can take on the game’s adventure in two-player local co-op, but if you’re going it alone, you’ll be able to switch out between two characters, which means you can play around with the tag team that works best for you in terms of speed, power, and abilities.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Jimmy and Billy

Progression in Double Dragon Gaiden is super interesting. There are four levels, which you’d think would make for a short experience, but that’s not the case at all. You can take on the four levels in any order you want, but each level gets progressively longer and more challenging. Whichever level you pick to play first, for example, will only feature one stage. Meanwhile, the second level you select will have two stages. Then three, and then finally four. The difficulty also increases the further you get.

This style of progression makes it so that you’ll be enticed to play through Double Dragon Gaiden multiple times as taking on different levels in a different order means you get to see more stages and different mini-bosses. It’s really cool, but you should be aware that once the game ups the challenge as you get further, things can get pretty intense.

That’s where the roguelite element of Double Dragon Gaiden comes in. As you beat up baddies and destroy crates, you’ll collect cash. This cash can be used to improve random stats for your characters, and it can also be used to buy continues if your characters perish. Your cash is also traded for tokens, which can be redeemed for more unlockable characters and continues, too. Once you run out of cash and tokens during a run, though, you’ll have to start over from the beginning.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Two-Player Local Co-Op Gameplay

Difficulty settings can be adjusted by using different sliders. This means you can make the game easier or harder by tweaking things like player health, enemy health, and power-up cost, among other things. Altering the game’s difficulty does affect your cash payouts, as well as the amount of tokens you receive for any cash you earned during a run.

The unique progression system, difficulty settings, and unlockable characters of Double Dragon Gaiden make for a game that you’ll want to return to. These things essentially turn a game you might be able to get through in two or three hours into something you’ll have fun with for a dozen hours or more. Not to mention, playing alone is fun, sure, but bringing a buddy along for the arcade-like beat-’em-up ride is always a blast.

There’s no shortage of newer beat ‘em ups available across all platforms these days. Even then, you can place Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons right up there with some of the best. If you’re looking for a thrilling arcade action game that has some unique gameplay options, a fun progression system, and an addictive loop, you’ll get exactly that with Double Dragon Gaiden.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons on Nintendo Switch, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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