Double Dragon IV (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 31.01.2017

Review for Double Dragon IV on PC

In the aftermath of Nuclear War, civilised society has broken down, and now gangs rule the wasteland. Two brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee, have frequently crossed paths with these vicious thugs. After defeating the Mysterious Warrior, the heroes believed that they could finally retire and live relatively normal lives. Unfortunately, they've become the target of a shadowy organisation. Double Dragon IV is the latest entry in the venerable series, delivering 12 missions of skull-cracking action.

This game essentially picks up where Double Dragon II left off, making it a direct sequel. Naturally, there have been some upgrades to the engine, such as no graphical glitches and a higher sprite count. However, in keeping with aesthetical accuracy, this game also runs at 30 fps. It's a rather odd design decision, but at least it's consistent and doesn't affect how the game plays. For anyone who grew up with the 8-bit classic, they'll feel a strong sense of familiarity upon starting this one.

Being the masters of Sou-Setsu-Ken, Billy and Jimmy Lee are more than capable of handling the legion of foes that assail them. Classic moves such as the flying knee and spin-kick have returned, along with some old favourites like the almighty elbow. The brothers have further developed their style to incorporate more spectacular techniques, such as the spinning headbutt. The heroes can perform these special attacks to juggle falling enemies, or after being knocked down. There's a lot of versatility in their arsenal. However, there's nothing stopping them from just abusing the most powerful moves to easily clear the screen.

Screenshot for Double Dragon IV on PC

Numerous enemies from the prequel have made their triumphant return, and they've even picked up a few techniques along the way. A lot of them have move-sets that rival the brothers, and rely on tried-and-true tactics like attacking from behind or flying kicks. The old favourites are bolstered by the appearance of new adversaries, but they all tend to struggle against aggressive heroes. For example, when an enemy is lying on the ground, the brothers can stand over them, while rapidly punching the air. As soon as the bad guy gets up, they eat a combo. It's strange, because all enemies have the ability to wake-up with an invincible move. They just never make use of it. In fairness, this isn't applicable in most cases, because enemies rarely approach one at a time. As long as the hero is effective at managing space, they can predict every possible situation and counter it appropriately. Or he can just keep using spinning headbutts and flying knees.

This game also features a heavy emphasis on platforming. A number of stages require tricky jumps and an aptitude for dodging traps. The later sections feature spinning gears, which can chew through quite a few lives. At least the player isn't required to press the punch and kick buttons together just to jump anymore. Still, one has to wonder why there's any platforming at all. It's hard to imagine anyone looking back fondly at the frustrating jumps in the second game. All told, it's not as bad, but still a bit of a headscratcher.

Screenshot for Double Dragon IV on PC

Though the high number of missions sounds imposing, they usually end after just a couple screens. In a way, this is sensible, because health is only replenished upon completing a mission. There aren't any barrels filled with turkeys. However, some missions never really get time to "breathe", and so they don't have much of an impact. The pacing also tends to be really uneven. The very first mission features an uneventful ride on a raft, and only ten or so enemies to fight. It's a really peculiar way to start off. Later missions are more in line with what to expect from a beat 'em up, aside from the frequent platforming, of course.

Upon completing the game, the tower mode is unlocked. There are a hundred floors to survive, each of them filled with enemies. Persistent warriors will be rewarded with playable characters. In fact, every foe they encounter can be unlocked and then used in the story mode. Whoever enters the tower is only allowed one life, and there aren't any means to recover health. On the bright side, anyone skilled enough to challenge the upper floors will uncover a multitude of surprising cameos. As mentioned earlier, each character has a move-set comparable to that of the heroes, so they don't feel underpowered. If anything, they tend to cruise through adversity. Abobo's powerful fists can destroy anyone in record time. There's also a duel mode for players to battle each other, which is a nice bonus. The lack of online play for any of the three modes is really unfortunate, though.

Screenshot for Double Dragon IV on PC

The music is one of the most disappointing aspects of the game. The soundtrack is well-composed, but it just doesn't elevate what's happening on-screen. Double Dragon II benefitted greatly from having phenomenal tunes. Granted, it's nearly impossible for lightning to strike twice, especially when one of the songs is more or less an 8-bit rendition of Easy Lover by Phillip Bailey and Phil Collins. Still, catchy music can make all the difference.

In terms of difficulty, beat 'em up veterans should have very little trouble with this game. The first playthrough is liable to be pretty rough, and the player might even exhaust all of their credits. However, once they get a handle of how everything works, it's mostly a smooth ride. The fun is in finding more creative ways to pummel everyone in sight, instead of relying solely on spinning headbutts and flying knees. The other characters are interesting to play around with as well. It's too bad that nothing is really done with the scoring system. There aren't any online leaderboards or multiplier bonuses, so it's just something to fill empty space. The score doesn't even reset when a credit is used.

Screenshot for Double Dragon IV on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Double Dragon IV is, for better or worse, a direct sequel to Double Dragon II. In terms of mechanics, it's practically a carbon copy, but it goes the extra mile by including a number of new moves and enemies. The tower mode and massive selection of unlockable characters are also really nice. However, this game is trapped in an odd limbo. It doesn't do enough to compete with more modern beat 'em ups, and it isn't as iconic as its predecessor. Its appeals to nostalgia don't quite hit the mark. Perhaps the second game gets a little too much credit; some fans probably haven't played it in decades. Comparing a newer entry to fond memories is a little unfair, but maybe more could have been done to make this one really stand out.

Developer

Arc System Works

Publisher

Arc System Works

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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