Preview | Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

It’s been over six years since we last saw an entry in the Double Dragon franchise with Double Dragon IV and over a decade for a good game with the criminally underrated Double Dragon Neon. Where Double Dragon Neon tried to modernise the franchise, Double Dragon IV attempted to recreate the look and feel of the original games. Now Secret Base is trying to do both with a modern take on the series in the form of a prequel, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons. We got the opportunity to play the first hour and a half or so of the game and talk about how it went.

Revitalising a classic in a retro-modern way

It’s fantastic to see side scrolling beat ’em ups going through a renaissance period over the last few years or so. Between the sequels to long time franchises as well as re-releases of classic individual titles, fans of the genre have no shortage of options to scratch the itch of a once dominant gaming staple.

Secret Base has tapped into what I would consider the “OG” of the genre in Double Dragon and seem to have really gone to some effort to pull of something no other developer has attempted that I’m aware of. What might that be you ask? Well, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of Dragons attempts to capture the spirit of the originals – both visually and in combat, while modernising the game for a new audience and also adding a twist on the genre to separate it from the pack.

The twist? Rogue-lite elements. Now, before anyone groans, these rogue lite elements are the lightest version of rogue-lite elements. At the end of each level, you can use money accumulated throughout to invest in upgrades to use as part of your run. A run which you can also complete in the order you choose. You can select your mission order from the start and the order you choose affects the length of each level thereafter. In game currency and tokens even buy you the ability to continue your run beyond traditional death. Basically a different spin on “Insert Coin” credits if you will.

Change is as good as a holiday

Rise of the Dragons – as the name alludes to, is a kind of “alternate timeline” prequel story of Billy and Jimmy set in semi-recent 90s in a New York City devastated by nuclear war. Alongside Billy and Jimmy, we have a slew of new characters (most of which require unlocking) like Marian (yes, love triangle Marian) and Uncle Matin. In a surprisingly unique shift in the genre, different characters actually feel genuinely different to each other. Don’t get me wrong, I know characters generally feel a little bit different in other beat ’em ups, but in Rise of the Dragons there’s a real tangible difference in how they feel and play that I haven’t really experienced before.

As expected, you have local co-op (no online unfortunately) but the game does a good job of keeping it fresh for people who want to play alone by incorporating Marvel vs Capcom like tag team fighting elements into the game. Which is a pretty big departure for not only the series, but the genre.

While crowd control has always been an element players of scrolling beat ’em ups have had to be mindful of, Rise of the Dragons brings it front of mind and even rewards players directly for it. Pulling off crowd control moves will spawn healing items and increase the amount of currency dropped by enemies. It’s a nice way to encourage the player to change up how they fight.

Visually this falls somewhere between trying to really tap into the almost 8-bit visuals and the more modern pixel art which involves more detail and far better animation. Where that sits will ultimately be up to you but I’m not sure yet how I feel about it yet.

The one thing standing out for me so far during my time with the game is the audio. The music is quite good and I’m enjoying the remixes on original tracks in particular. Gameplay audio is really punchy and helps enhance everything happening on screen. I’m looking forward to getting more of this in as I go.

So far so good and I’m looking forward to getting more time with the game for a review. Look out for it soon.

Nick "Shpeshal Nick" Baker

Australian gamer, AFL Football fanatic and father of 2. Follow me on Twitter @Shpeshal_Nick

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