- Double Dragon Gaiden combines the classic beat ’em up formula with roguelite elements, creating a refreshing and interesting experience that revitalizes the franchise.
- The game features a tag-team mechanic that allows players to switch between two characters, adding depth and strategy to the combat similar to tag-team fighting games.
- While the campaign is short, the game offers replay value with multiple playthroughs, nonlinear level select, unlockables, and adjustable difficulty, providing an endlessly entertaining experience.
While roguelites are an acquired taste for many players, they have successfully revitalized numerous niche and retro genres. Games like Hades, Dead Cells, and Slay the Spire all demonstrate how the deep mechanics, gameplay variety, and seemingly endless replayability of roguelites can elevate any old-school formula into an exciting new experience. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is no exception, and its clever mixture of the classic beat ’em up format with roguelite tropes makes it a must-play for fans of either genre.
Double Dragon Gaiden is the most recent entry in the long-running Double Dragon series. While Double Dragon was once a flagship franchise of the beat ’em up genre, it has struggled to make a proper comeback due to the stagnating formula and varying quality of its later entries. Fortunately, Double Dragon Gaiden is not only a refreshing and interesting new take on the series’ traditional beat ’em up formula, but it also lives up to the franchise’s monumental reputation.
Double Dragon Gaiden Is A Near-Perfect Blend Of Genres
July 27, 2023
PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S
Secret Base Pte. Ltd., Secret Base
Modus Games, Joystick
Fighting/Beat ’em up
Double Dragon Gaiden returns to the post-apocalyptic setting of the original Double Dragon, taking place in an alternate version of New York City that’s been devastated by nuclear war. In the wake of the destruction, the city was dominated by four criminal gangs. Players take control of twin brothers and martial artists Billy and Jimmy Lee as they set out to free the city by storming the hideouts of each gang and defeating their leaders. Accompanying the brothers are two other playable characters: Marian, the series’ damsel in distress turned gun-toting officer, and Uncle Matin, a former soldier and close friend of the Lee brothers’ missing father.
Like most beat ’em ups, Double Dragon Gaiden has players traverse through linear stages while facing off against groups of foes along the way. Each playable character possesses a unique moveset: Billy and Jimmy utilize different types of fiery punches and kicks, Uncle Matin can charge through groups or throw enemies and Marian wields an arsenal of gadgets and firearms. Along with basic attack combos, players can also use special attacks that consume the SP gauge (which regenerates over time) but will reward players with healing items when used to defeat three or more enemies at once. Although Double Dragon Gaiden contains many genre staples, it differs from other beat ’em up titles in a few notable ways.
Instead of being limited to one specific character, Double Dragon Gaiden allows players to instantly swap between two different characters during gameplay. Along with providing the option to switch to a completely different moveset, this tag-team mechanic can be utilized to avoid enemy attacks or (in the hands of more skilled players) serve as a combo extender. Additionally, characters that are tagged out will gradually recover a portion of their health, which can make swapping a necessity in desperate situations. This simple ability gives Double Dragon Gaiden an extra layer of depth and strategy that’s comparable to tag-team fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom and Tekken Tag Tournament.
Beyond the beat ’em up combat, much of Double Dragon Gaiden‘s depth is found in its roguelite elements. After each boss fight, players can use the money earned from defeating enemies or destroying environmental objects to purchase upgrades for each of their two characters. These range from improved attack power, increased health, reduced SP cost or special passive abilities. Those expecting the game to match the overwhelming build variety of titles like The Binding of Isaac or Noita might be disappointed in the small selection of basic upgrades.
Thankfully, these permanent powerups still leave a noticeable impact on combat. While the effects of individual upgrades might seem insignificant at first, players can accumulate new perks to fit a specific playstyle. Those who choose passive skills centered around special attacks and the SP meter will find it easier to perform more complex combos. On the other hand, raising a character’s health and attack power can transform them into an unstoppable human tank. Some characters are better suited for specific playstyles, but there’s no limit on how players choose to upgrade their fighters, and this freedom can lead to some surprisingly powerful combinations.
Double Dragon Gaiden Is Chock-Full Of Replay Value
It should be noted that Double Dragon Gaiden is extremely short, usually clocking in at an hour and a half. However, seeing everything the game has to offer will require multiple playthroughs. In contrast to the linear structure of most beat ’em ups, Double Dragon Gaiden allows players to tackle its four stages in any order. However, every time the player completes a level and defeats one of the major gang leaders, the remaining stages increase in size and difficulty.
For example, the Okada Clan’s stage is nothing more than a short trip through a casino when selected from the start, but it can extend into perilous cliffside battles and a climb to the top of a Japanese castle if players enter it at a later point. Other stages see players battling across towering skyscrapers, moving trains, and an Egyptian tomb depending on the point that players select them. Regardless of when they’re chosen, every stage and boss battle (barring a few exceptions) provides an incredibly fun and rewarding challenge, ensuring that subsequent playthroughs continue to surprise players with new enemies and locales.
Another reason players will want to replay Double Dragon Gaiden is its breadth of unlockables. At the end of every playthrough, any accumulated money that wasn’t spent on upgrades or revives will be exchanged for tokens. These tokens can be used to purchase concept art, music, gameplay hints or any of the 9 additional characters (all of which are bosses and sub-bosses from throughout the campaign). These extra fighters boast unique fighting styles and weapons such as tonfas, machine guns, and magic staffs. The impressive variation and depth between these characters gives players plenty of room to experiment with different tag-team setups, adding another reason for players to replay the campaign.
Double Dragon Gaiden also allows players to adjust the game’s difficulty by increasing or decreasing enemy stats, player health, or the price of upgrades and revivals. Not only does this allow players to create a tougher challenge for themselves (or simply adjust the game to fit their preferences), but increasing the difficulty will also result in a larger token reward at the end of the playthrough. Most importantly, these higher-difficulty options give players an incentive to master the game’s combat and upgrade systems.
With all that said, Double Dragon Gaiden isn’t perfect. The brief campaign and simplistic upgrade system mean the game won’t keep players entertained for as long as most other roguelites. Whereas some titles in the genre offer hundreds of hours worth of content, it takes just over ten hours to see everything in Double Dragon Gaiden. Additionally, the satisfying and deceptively complex combat is let down by the game’s low difficulty (especially in multiplayer), which prevents Double Dragon Gaiden from delivering the addictive trial-and-error gameplay that defines most roguelites.
Apart from these issues, Double Dragon Gaiden is an outstanding beat ’em-up. The game constantly introduces new challenges with its varied enemies, hazards, and environments that shape the layout of each encounter. Additional features like the upgrade system and the nonlinear level select add a layer of strategy that makes each playthrough unpredictable and exciting. For those who appreciate old-school beat ’em ups or are casual fans of modern roguelites, Double Dragon Gaiden is an endlessly entertaining experience that always warrants a revisit.
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