Although Double Dragon can trace its roots back to the arcades, my real love of the series came from the NES versions of Double Dragon and Double Dragon II. Arc System Works has seen fit to revive the classic series, ignoring the fact Double Dragon III already exists (with good reason), producing a direct sequel to the second game in the series. With the hopes the retro-inspired visuals, sound effects, and gameplay invoke players nostalgia for the series, some elements should be left in the past where they belong.
Marian, the long sought after love interest of both Jimmy and Billy Lee, once again is in need of rescue, and the ass-kicking duo must face off against familiar foes. Across twelve different missions, you’ll punch, kick and jump your way until the ending battle that will take you across streets, moving trucks, casinos, and even Japan. Abobo and Burnov are easily recognizable, but there are some new enemies that you’ll face in the second half of the game. It doesn’t take long to finish the story, which can be completed in less than an hour, but you’ll likely have to replay missions due to the archaic lives and continue mechanic. You can restart from the last completed level, but I still can’t believe that this type of game mechanic exists in 2017.
Double Dragon IV features remixed versions of the original music from the series, but if you truly want to take a trip down memory lane, you can enable retro mode to listen to the glorious 8-bit version of the music. Even the sound effects are taking straight from previous games, right down to the metal bat dropping to the ground with a clank. It’s probably the most recognizable sound effect in the series, outside of the "hit" sound effect when taking damage.
The game’s ending is disappointing, and fighting the end boss was more frustrating than enjoyable. While performing spin kicks, uppercuts and rising knee strikes are entertaining, especially when playing cooperatively, there are still parts of the core experience that should have been upgraded. The AI isn’t overly intelligent, and there are times where they will refuse even to move. It makes playing single-player agitating, as you know you must take damage to progress forward, but a second player is free to attack the enemies that are focused solely on the other player without reprisal. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. There are also times where you will get sandwiched between multiple foes, making it impossible to do anything until you die and respawn. The invincibility timer between getting knocked down and getting back up is simply too short, especially when you can be consistently attacked by unseen enemies off-screen.
Completing the story unlocks the Tower mode, a one-life survival mode that pits you against 100 levels of varying foes. As you progress further, you’ll unlock new characters to use not only in the Tower but the main story mode as well. There is nothing like taking Abobo out for a spin with his overpowering fists and an enlarged head. For you trophy hunters, there are plenty of trophies tied to completed the story mode with these unlockable characters.
At the end of the day, Double Dragon IV feeds off the nostalgia of those that spent their youth playing the NES classic titles. While some may argue that the Arcade version of the game was a better version of Double Dragon, there is a certain charm to the 8-bit NES visuals and sound effects. If online multiplayer had been added to Double Dragon IV, it might have helped alleviate the lack of replay value the game suffers from.
Note: The review for Double Dragon IV is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.