Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Review

Developed by Secret Base Pte Ltd and published by Modus Games Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is the latest instalment in the long-running beat ’em up franchise that brings nostalgic charm and modern gameplay to the Xbox Series platform. This game pays tribute to the side-scrolling beat ”em-up titles of the past and applies some modern magic to give the game a more expansive feel.

                A nuclear war has devasted New York City and it has become lawless. The streets are overrun with gangs and something needs to be done. In comes the brothers Billy and Jimmy and their friends to help turn the city around.

                Visually, Double Dragon Gaiden shines with its hand-drawn art style and smooth animations. The environments are vibrant and diverse, taking players through a mix of urban landscapes, neon-lit cityscapes, and even the depths of the underworld. Character designs pay homage to the original arcade game while infusing a fresh, modern flair. Audibly they have remastered some of the older tracks and they sound much better with their modern twist and still keep the same high energy.

                The gameplay maintains the core elements that fans of the series cherish: fast-paced, action-packed combat and co-op play although only locally. The controls are intuitive, allowing players to execute a wide array of attacks, combos, and special moves with ease. The classic move set of Billy and Jimmy is familiar with some newly added special moves which are unique to each character and are vital to master. There are also new characters you can choose from as well as unlockable characters each with unique attacks and special moves. Before you begin your campaign you can make some adjustments to make the game easier like doing more damage and the enemies can be made weaker but the sacrifice is that the cost of cash exchange for tokens increases and you need the tokens for unlockables. Those familiar with the series should be excited as I was when I unlocked the ability to play as Abobo the brutish enemy from the older games and is still just as ferocious.

                To perform the special moves you need to rack up the combos and attacks as well as picking up the drops from enemies which accelerate the special gauge. But you shouldn’t waste the special moves as they have placed an interesting twist on them. If you hit and take down 3 or more enemies with one special move then you get a health pick-up bonus. The more enemies you take down with the move the bigger the food and more health replenished. But if you are at full health you get a cash bonus which comes in handy for other sections of the game.

                This game has an element of rogue-lite to it as at the end of each level you get a chance to upgrade certain perks for your character like the special meter loads quicker or you take less damage from enemies. Or you can preserve the cash and take a bit more and this is because as mentioned before you trade the cash for tokens which you use to unlock things in the shop of the game like extra characters, art or even tips in the game which is great for replay value. My only gripe is that they have added some platforming elements in some of the areas and it comes across as clunky at times and even the enemies get stuck on certain parts of the scenary.

                There are four gangs you have to take down and the game has implemented a neat mechanic where you can fight the gangs in any order and regardless of the order the game gets progressively difficult. This allows you to mix and match so you get a different experience in your next play-through if you play in a different order. Also towards the end, if you beat all those gangs you get to meet the mayor. But this mayor may not be the answer the city needs so you have a choice to make with a chunk of money at stake but also a further challenge.

                The shop and the unlockables extend the life of the game a bit more as aside from unlocking the super thug Abobo you can also play as some of the gang leaders as well as other characters if you can rack up enough tokens. So this encourages you to play a perfect game to get more cash for tokens so you can unlock more items which are always something to aim for.  

Conclusion

Double Dragon Gaiden: ROTD  is a perfect addition to the series keeping what made the originals memorable and enhancing the experience without going fully 3D. The fast-paced action and different play move sets keeps things fresh as well as playing the stages in a different order to enjoy new challenges. I appreciate the effort that has gone into keeping the game fresh with the rogue-lite elements, the unlockables in the shop and the variety of characters you can play as I think this is well worth picking up.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Great fast-paced varied action
  • A lot of tributes to the original games
  • Great replay value to try different orders and characters.
Bad
  • No online Co-op
  • Some of the platforming in some areas can be clunky
8.8
Great
Written by
Gaming, or, games in general, are in my blood. Just shy of an addiction but still an obsession. From opening my mind on the Commodore 64 I have kept up with the generations of gaming, currently residing on the Xbox One. Gamertag: Grahamreaper

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