Side-scrolling beat ‘em ups have made a triumphant return over the last few years, with the likes of Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and River City Girls showing the genre is stronger than ever. It’s only fitting then than Double Dragon gets into the fight too, with Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons offering a modernised revamp of the old-school classic.

Check out some screenshots down below:

It wouldn’t be a Double Dragon game without Billy and Jimmy Lee, right? This time around the action takes place in the year 199X, with New York ravaged by a nuclear war. It’s up to you to bring down the gangs that are running riot on the remnants of the once great city as the brothers, all whilst your Uncle Martin and Billy Lee’s girlfriend Marian join you for the ride.

If you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons from the get-go. Players work their way through a variety of levels, all whilst pummelling baddies, beating bosses, and earning points to boost their scores. Each of the playable characters bring something different to the fray too, whether that’s with their power, their attacking range, or their special abilities that give them the upper hand over foes. Interestingly, you get to take two characters into the game at a time, with players then able to swap them out when they fill up their special meter – not only does this allow you to take advantage of two sets of skills, but it’ll also give you a chance to swap characters out if their health runs low. It’s not as fun as playing co-op, sure, but it does add a cool little twist to the formula that allows players to diversify their skillset.

That’s not the only way in which Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons changes up the formula. Following modern tradition, it now has a roguelike twist, with players able to earn cash which can be spent to buff up your characters as you progress and obtain extra lives. And when you die? You lose all that cash and start fresh. On the other hand, you can also earn tokens, which can be used to unlock goodies like extra characters and so forth. Tokens carry over between runs, so they always feel that bit more special, even IF their benefits don’t feel as impactful to the gameplay. You’re also able to choose which levels you want to play, with their difficulty adjusting based upon the order you decide – it’s a small feature, but one that can help you shape your playthrough to suit your needs if you find a particular level or boss especially challenging.

“It’s fun to mash out combos and string together special attacks together to really dish out the pain, whilst being able to swap partners mid-combo means you can really spice up your attacks.”

It’s almost a little strange to call the game a roguelike, because in many ways, side-scrolling beat ‘em ups have always been like this. If you die and run out of credits? That’s it, game over, start again. And sure, the temporary improvements you can spend cash on and permanent unlockables you can earn by spending tokens does ensure the roguelike nature of the game is relevant, but it doesn’t feel like it changes up the core experience so much that it’ll bother purists of the genre who want a more ‘classic’ Double Dragon experience. If you don’t like roguelikes, don’t let that put you off playing. And if you do like the idea of spending cash on upgrades? They genuinely feel worthwhile and like they make your run easier.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is just as enjoyable to play as the previous releases in the series. It’s fun to mash out combos and string together special attacks together to really dish out the pain, whilst being able to swap partners mid-combo means you can really spice up your attacks. Each character brings something different to the fray so they do feel unique in their own ways, especially with Marian and her ranged weaponry that allow her to attack from afar. The bullets of her handgun are a little weaker than standard attacks, but they allow her to work from distance and keep out of danger when the situation calls for it (plus, her special ability allows her to use a rocket launcher, which is ALWAYS going to be useful in a game like this). It shows that mixing up your characters can be beneficial though, whilst the special meter fills regularly enough to ensure there are plenty of opportunities to swap your tag-team around throughout levels.

That being said, it doesn’t demand much in the way of strategy. Simply mashing buttons and using special attacks when they became available became my go-to tactic, and nine times out of ten, it proved to be effective. Whilst that’s fine, it did see the game feeling a little bit more repetitive on repeat runs, even when playing in co-op where there was a bit more room to take a tactical approach to levels. Switching characters does give players the opportunity to take advantage of their strengths and it’s cool that beating up a bunch of enemies at once can give a health boost, but I’d be lying if I said this felt like a necessity to succeed.

Check out some screenshots down below:

But still, it didn’t stop Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons from being fun to play, whilst I really like the new visual style. It looks a fair bit different to what players might expect from the series, but the vibrant visuals looked charming and fit the tone of the action perfectly, with plenty of detail found in the environments too. I do wish it had online co-op to go along with the local multiplayer, but that’s something that’s due to be patched in sometime in the future, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Review

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons marks a fun return for the series that changes up the formula in a simple yet rewarding manner. It is guilty of keeping things a little simple in places and it won’t demand much strategy from the player, but there’s plenty of excitement to be found as you beat up countless baddies in this revamped take on a classic.

Developer: Secret Base
Publisher: Modus Games, Maximum Games
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch