Title: Double Dragon IV
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 01/30/2017
Taking place after the events of the NES Double Dragon II, Billy and Jimmy Lee are back on another adventure around the world, aiming to save Marian from a new group of evil forces! It’s a fairly unremarkable story, and there’s not much else to talk about without spoiling the story. Just don’t expect this to be gripping in anyway.
Taking some notes from Mega Man 9 and 10, Double Dragon IV reuses the retro presentation seen from the NES Double Dragon trilogy, with most of the sprites coming directly from Double Dragon II and most of the music coming directly from Double Dragon I. There are also some new things being added in here and there and they fit rather comfortably in the retro style, with a lot of the new enemies and retro BGM tracks feeling as if they could have easily been placed in the NES trilogy.
Unfortunately, not everything is presented well in this game. While the sprites looks lovely the backgrounds can sometime look as if they were taken from an entirely different franchise, as more often than not the backgrounds have a more advanced color palette than the NES did. There’s also a big HUD at the bottom of the screen that tries to be similar to the one from Double Dragon I on the NES, but ends up creating a bunch of empty black space that really isn’t needed. Something smaller like the HUD from NES Double Dragon II would have worked out better. There’s also some screen tearing issues that are very glaring in the earlier levels of the game, although this is a rather minor issue in the grand scheme of things.
Last but not least is the remixed soundtrack, which is turned on by default when you first start the game. Unfortunately, it’s not that good, since the majority of lot of the “remixed” tracks are nothing more than MIDI enhanced versions of the original themes, causing a lot of the charm to be lost in the process. By all means I recommend you turn on the Retro soundtrack instead.
There are three main modes in Double Dragon IV, and I’ll be going into each of them one by one, however they all share the same control scheme, in that you move with the analog stick, map the punch, jump and kick commands to buttons of your choice (along with the three special moves unique to each character, although you can’t map them to the L2/R2 buttons for some odd reason) and beat up all kinds of enemies, either alone or with a friend! (Local only)
The main mode of the game has you going through each of the 12 new stages, all while beating up waves of enemies and doing the occasional platforming section. While the high number of stages may make the game seem longer than the classics, the early stages are barely long enough to be considered true levels. Lacking little in variety, most of these early levels have you move ahead, beat up a few enemies, move onto the next section of the stage before repeating once more and fighting a recurring set of bosses.
It isn’t until Stage 6 that the stage length gets a little closer to the classics, and overall you can beat the game in around an hour if you know what to do. You gain five credits with three lives each, and once they run out you’re kicked back to the title screen. (Although you can hit the options button to trigger a level select, beating the game in one sitting is required to unlock the character trophies.) This isn’t really much of a problem though due to the aforementioned level select, along with the easy difficulty of the game compared to the NES trilogy. For example, the hurricane kick is now activated by simply pressing the kick button while in mid-air, while in the NES games it required precise timing and was really tough to memorize. Remember how enemies loved to throw firebombs in the NES trilogy? Well, now that’s less of a worry as the enemies focus on using their special moves instead.
While some may be upset over the decreased difficulty of the story mode compared to the classics, the game does make up for it by managing to be an engaging experience throughout all 12 levels. Even if enemies don’t gang up on you as often, they’ll still require your attention, as in later stages some enemies can take away huge chunks of your life bar in a cheap attempt at a difficulty spike, although it never gets as bad as the difficulty spikes in Double Dragon III.
Little to talk about for this mode, as it’s pretty much Mode B from NES Double Dragon I in HD, where you can play as the enemy characters that you unlock during the course of the main story. There’s practically no balance to this mode at all as once you unlock the last set of enemies you’ll pretty much be at an unfair advantage over your opponent. Since this is a local multiplayer mode (With no Single player or online) this does little else than to serve as a timewaster.
Unlocked after clearing the final mission of the game, the Tower pits you against an endless amount of enemies and floors as you try to get as high as you can. Simply defeating every enemy on screen will move you to the next floor, and you only have one life bar with no way to refill health or gain any extra lives.
Outside of being an endurance mode where you unlock some trophies depending on how well you perform, you can also unlock every enemy in the tower as a playable character for this mode and the main story. This gives the main story a ridiculous amount of replay value, and with all sorts of crazy combinations for local co-op you can do all sorts of dream teamups! Practice and patience will lead to victory in this mode, and finding the character that’s right for you is another good way for some experimentation. Exactly who can you unlock in the tower? That’s for you to find out.
In conclusion, Double Dragon IV managed to entertain me a lot longer than I expected. Thanks to the additions of Tower Mode and many unlockable characters, there’s a lot of replay value to be had, and when you team up with a friend the game gets even better! There’s quite a few trophies to unlock for the PSN, and most of them deal with the unlockable characters and the tower, so you’ll be playing for quite a while if you’re aiming for the platinum trophy, and for $7 this game is at a great price considering how the Arcade Archives versions of Double Dragon I and II are a dollar more and they don’t have nearly as much content. While the screen tearing and lack of online co-op are unfortunate problems, that didn’t stop me from having a blast with my friend this past weekend. Fans of classic beat’em ups rejoice! I give Double Dragon IV an 8 out of 10.