Game Review: Double Dragon IV
If you grew up playing the NES you probably have fond memories of the Double Dragon series. The entire beat ‘em up genre was thriving with games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and Battletoads, among numerous others. I’m here to wager a guess that if you haven’t played a beat ‘em up since the early 90's, your memories of them are better than the games actually were. Double Dragon IV is all the proof you’ll need.
Somehow, Double Dragon IV is a sequel to Double Dragon II. I don’t know what happened to Double Dragon III and I honestly don’t care. The story mode includes very NES styled cutscenes consisting of static images and text on the screen. There are 12 missions to fight through, which are all very short while feeling excruciatingly long.
If developer Arc System Works simply set out to make an NES era beat ‘em up, they really hit the mark. Unfortunately, the drawbacks to that outnumber the benefits. Though the game has retro visuals and sound effects, it also is mired in its dated gameplay. If you cross into the same plane as an enemy, you’re likely to get caught by their lightning fast reaction speed. If you get punched once, you can be assured that you’re hitting the ground. If you hit the ground, you can be assured that that enemy, and likely at least one of their friends, will be standing over your body waiting to hit you as soon as you stand.
There are recovery moves you can use to launch into an attack to try to prevent that, but even those can be cancelled by well timed punches and kicks from the AI. I found myself stun locked repeatedly, the worst case being anybody who can throw or shoot projectiles at you. The main bosses of the game have pistols with unlimited ammo, and a real knack for finding the perfect range to just keep shooting in your direction so as soon as you stand the bullet knocks you down again.
The game is built for an arcade, cheaply trying to end your life to force you to put more tokens in the machine. This, in my opinion, is why these games have largely gone away. It isn’t fun to be repeatedly killed in cheap manners at home. You aren’t getting any more money from somebody who bought this game, so just make it playable for modern day gaming audiences. Scott Pilgrim figured it out over six years ago.
The best way to describe the game design here is that it doesn’t respect your time. Getting stun locked with no great way out is frustrating. It’s not a “fun difficult” that has been popularized by Dark Souls games in recent years. It’s simply disrespectful to the player. There’s a potentially endless story mission if you never pick the right doors in a demented Let’s Make a Deal style what’s behind door #3 maze. In one level there’s a door you can walk through that takes you back to the beginning of the level. Why would anybody want to do this? Why is this in the game? Why?
At $6.99, if you are super into old beat ‘em ups, you’re probably the very small target audience who will enjoy this game. Anybody else will be annoyed and just want to play something else. If you have a nostalgic wish to go play Turtles in Time, just do that instead.
Is it good? No!
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Arc System Works
Release Date: January 30, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Steam
Played on: PlayStation 4 Pro
Game Completed: Yes
Reviewer: David Quigley