Played on the Nintendo Switch
Developed by Arc System Works
Published by Arc System Works
Well, you will punch, you will kick, you will move right. It’s revolutionary! Seriously, if you’ve played a Double Dragon (DD) game on the NES then you already know how this one plays. Unlike DD II the controls don’t change every time you change directions. Unlike DD III you have more than one life. And, not like the first DD, this one has two player co-op. DD IV improves on every game in that revered trilogy that came out back when Kurt Cobain was still alive. Spoiler alert, DD IV came out well into the Trump presidency.
Playing With Buttons
The forth installment of the numbered Double Dragon games plays most like the original. The controls are the same: B is punch and A is kick. Push both of them together and Bimmy or Jimmy will jump just like they did back in the 80s. Luckily, we’re living in the future and we have more buttons on the Switch, so X is jump too. One button jumping makes those infamous platforming section easier. Yes, there’s platforming, it’s a Double Dragon game after all. Y is used to deliver an attack to the guy or gal behind you. L does a spin kick, and R performs the everlasting useless headbutt. Even with the expanded controller it’s still underwhelming when compared to other beat ‘em ups. There’s no grab move besides the one that has carried over from the NES trilogy. The move where you grab the enemy’s head and punch them, or toss ‘em. I don’t know how to initiate the move and the odd time that I did, it was broken up by a punch to the back. The best new addition in the game is the ability to do an uppercut or flying knee as you get up after being knocked down. It will help you out when you’re getting over run by the swarming enemies.
There is nothing fresh withing DD IV. The game doesn’t even attempt to be an outlier within the beat ‘em up genre. The weapons that the first DD made famous are back, but the last few stages are completely empty of them. The level’s designs are basic and uninteresting. The flow of the game remains constant through out. Without any mix in the action, the dredgingly slow pace that defines the franchise stands out more than it should. In the game’s menus, the enter button is B as it would be on an Xbox. Nintendo always uses A as the main button and B is back. It creates confusion when navigating the menus, you might find yourself going backwards by accident many times.
The story is a mess. Most Double Dragon plots are, but usually they can be simplified to Marian getting kidnapped. In DD IV I don’t know what’s going on. The opening cutscene explains that the world has gone through nuclear holocaust, and the Dragons are going around setting up dojos. But, there’s a problem and Billy and Jimmy have to go through hell and defeat some people. I don’t know what the problem is, and the world looks fine after suffering an apocalypse. There are cars driving around, and our hero’s are more concerned with teaching the ways of their martial art and not about surviving a nuclear winter.
There are cutscenes scattered through out the game. None of them are interesting. For some reason we find Marian near the end of the game. Apparently she was missing again?! The story drags on until the game ends with a whimper. This is a beat ‘em up after all and I stand by my claim that no one has ever picked up a beat ‘em up for the story. However, a little effort would have been nice. Call me up for number VI in the series, I’ll write you guys a decent plot. It should only take me 5 minutes. For a full recap of DD II’s story click here.
Eyes and Ears
The game looks like it’s an original Nintendo game. There is no modern flair. The cutscenes and the sprites both look as they did decades ago. The only difference being that DD IV is in pixel perfect HD. You’re given the choice of music in the option menu. If you want the full retro experience then go with the old school soundtrack that is the same as the first DD. The other option is a more modern version of the 8-bit tunes. It has pumping guitar riffs and a heavy sound. Both are fine, but for the full nostalgia trip pick the retro one. There is no choice in changing the sound effects. Hitting someone sounds as it did on the NES, like a distorted recording of paper ripping.
What’s the Fun in Violence?
Having corrected the mistakes of DD III, the long awaited sequel gives you 3 lives and 5 credits AKA continues. And, if you happen to need more help you can start at any level you have beaten. This one is the easiest of all the numbered Double Dragons. That shouldn’t be surprising, because it’s a modern game. Once you complete the main game a tower mode unlocks. It’s a mini game that will pit you against waves of enemies. The point being to see how long you can last. As you play through the different game modes (there’s a 2 player duel mode too) you will unlock different playable characters. You can use our new sprites, that includes the enemies along with their unique move sets, in the main game and tower mode. Yes, you can play the game as Abobo all you want once he’s unlocked. If that doesn’t hook you for a few more playthroughs then the local co-op will.
If you’ve never played an NES and are new to the Double Dragon franchise, as it was in the 8-bit era, then you have no reason to doubt that DD IV is the best one. If you’re like me and you grew up with those old school beat ‘em ups then DD IV is the 3rd best of the bunch. If the nostalgia can be factored out, it’s clear that this one improves on each of the first 3 games. But, DD IV falls flat on the level design and story so much that it will sap your interest in no time. There is nothing memorable about the game. It has me wondering why the game was even made. I guess some people thought they could profit on some of us who long for the past. While some of the mistakes made in the 80s were corrected, and rightly so since developers had 30 years to evolve, there is nothing new. There’s no innovation. And even less excitement. The only thing found within this game are the memories of your childhood, and the great times you had while playing the original trilogy. If you don’t have any of those memories then this game isn’t for you.
4.5/10 – when compared to all games
6/10 – when compared to all beat ‘em ups
The game is available for under $10, so playing it won’t break the bank. Play this if you like the NES Double Dragons.