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Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

Written by Joseph Moorer on 7/27/2023 for PS5  
More On: Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

Double Dragon is one of the hardest and well known side scrolling beat 'em ups in history. There were the quarter munching arcade games, and the NES home versions. There was whatever the Super Nintendo version was. They even had a Street Fighter-ish version of the game for Neo Geo. Double Dragon Neon was a modern version that made fun of itself during the Playstation 3/Xbox360 era. And yes, there's a movie out there somewhere, but do not look it up.

Double Dragon is iconic. I mentioned to a friend that Double Dragon was coming back, and she said "That's crazy!". Many have tried to take the mantle after Tecnos Japan let Double Dragon go, and now Modus and Secret Base get a shot. And I must say, they did this fan a solid. 

The game starts off with your typical Double Dragon story, which usually involves girlfriend Marian getting captured, or kidnapped, or even in one version, killed. In this origin story the year is 199x The new mayor of New York City brings an unconscious Marian back to the Sosetsuken dojo. Billy and Jimmy immediately want answers. Turns out, Marian is a cop now, and got caught up in one of the gang conflicts. The mayor can't handle the city anymore. The four gangs that now run the city after a full nuclear war have pushed him to the limit. He enlists the Dragon brothers to help, but the hater Uncle Matin tries to stop them. The Dragons want to fight, and after Marian comes to, she wants to as well. It doesn't take long, and we're off to take back the streets.

The character select screen pops up, and you get to choose between four playable characters. Billy, Jimmy, Uncle Matin, and Marian. If you go past Uncle Matin, there are nine other characters blacked out, and some of them are from Double Dragon lore. Why yes, that is Abobo, the bulky, big, no-pupil monster. There's also the woman with the whip from the previous games, and her name is Linda. The enemies had names! You weren't just beating up random street thugs this entire time, they had names and backgrounds. There was a time you were fighting a gaggle of Williams', or fighting M.G. Willy! Now you can quiz your friends. 

Once you select your character, you can click L1, and it will switch to your secondary character. You get to choose two characters. You can even view a full special move list if you want to know how you carry out these butt kickings. The game then asks you what you want to do first, and gives you four mission options. You can go in any order you choose. You will eventually do all four. These first stages are to get yourself familiar with the controls. Your attack button is how you carry out your melee combos. You can jump with one button, not two, as older Double Dragon players know. You also have an action button, which usually results in a throw, but can also be an attack for characters like Marian.

Every character has different attacks too. Billy and Jimmy have different move sets, and are a little faster. Uncle Matin has a riot shield, and is the stronger of the original four, but of course, slower.  Marian has a gun, and can shoot characters from across the screen. You would think that you could just fly through the game with her, but she has to reload, and it gets a little dicey when she cannot, and there's a screen full of characters. Everyone also has a special move. There's a special meter right under your life bar, and this indicates how much you can use these specials. If you have enough, you can chain two specials together. This meter has a cooldown, so you don't just spam your special, and you have up to three depending on the command you enter. You can also bind specials 2 and 3 to your L2 and R2 buttons, and change buttons around if you so choose. 

Now, you chose a second character for a reason. The special meter doubles as a tag meter, and if this meter is full, you can tag in that other character. Once you tag that other character, they can jump in and you immediately take over that character. This is game changing for a beat 'em up, because you can tag this character in for any situation.

If you want that second character to come in to change it up, do it. You get grabbed by an enemy, the other character can jump in with a special and get you out of a jam. You can even be mid combo, tag your other character, and finish the combo. Be careful with this, because in some instances, when you're getting beat down, and you tag someone in, and whiff, you have no control over the previous character, and they will continue to take the beatdown you couldn't save them from. While your character is out, they do replenish some health. If one of you gets taken out, then you're on your own. 

Staying alive is the name of the game here, and there are enemies everywhere. Some are your run of the mill enemies, some have weapons that SOME of your characters can pick up and use. Some are big and bulky and don't go down so easy. Some are scorpions. Actual scorpions. Scorpions that sting you and mess up your controls. If you're not careful, you will be facing a game over screen in no time.

Another cool element added here is something called crowd control. If you defeat 3 or more enemies with a special attack, you will get a splash screen with a bonus food item. If you take down three, you get a hot dog, four you get a burger, and five or more nets you the video game turkey, for a full health refill. I took full advantage of this. When my health was lower than I wanted it to be, I just waited until lots of people were on the screen, and unleashed my special. Worked like gangbusters. Food for everyone. Remember though that the tag meter and special meter are one in the same, so if you're procuring a hamburger for your partner, you may have to wait for a cool down. 

I say maybe, because you can destroy things on screen. Boxes, slot machines, display cases, and even plants can be taken out in exchange for money, special meter refill gems, and sometimes even food. This is a side scrolling beat 'em up, after all. And there's nothing wrong with throwing enemies into this stuff either. Marian can usually take these out with one shot, as it takes Billy and Jimmy a couple of melee attacks. If I find a room with multiple things to break, I call in Marian to tear the place apart. The enemies also drop special refill gems, and money, and the money disappears if you don't go grab it. Sometimes money comes in bags, and if you pick up a health item while your life is full, you get money in exchange. 

Each stage has two acts. At the end of each act, you can exchange money for temporary buffs for your run through. You can increase your maximum life, or even get a faster health regen. If you're a boss, and you don't need no stinkin' help, you can ultimately choose to take the money and continue fighting. You get one choice per character, per opportunity, and if you choose a buff that is, say, $700 a piece, that's $1400 out of your pot. Be very aware of your money, because you need it to continue if you lose.

I failed to mention that once both characters are down, you get the chance to use your money to resurrect both characters, and each time you do it, the price goes up. Most people would hate this feature. I actually love it. A lot. It keeps the game from being a one and done, and it also presents the ability to use everything at your disposal. Pick the right buffs. Use or lose specials. Fight for your lives. There are ways to make more money though, at a cost.

Going back to the beginning of the game, there are new game modifiers. This is where you choose the number of players, but also where you chose how easy, or hard you want to make the game. You can give yourself infinite continues if you want to be breezy, You can change your player health, lower the revive cost, and even make the in game buffs cheaper. Another cool element added here, is that your endgame money can be exchanged for tokens to unlock other characters, music, artwork, and whatever.

If you wanna beat the game by making everything easier, the world is your oyster. The exchange rate changes based on how easy, or hard you make the game. So while everything on easy gives you one token for every $2000 you make in game, everything turned up, with permadeath chosen has a $500/token exchange rate. You can also at any time, delete a save file and just take the money, and let the city descend into chaos, you selfish, money hungry, sucka jive turkey fool!  

I touched on earlier that you can choose any stage in any order, and that still holds true. Once you choose a stage, it automatically makes the other three stages harder. Even the mid and main bosses have different move sets. You can also get bonus money if you meet certain requirements while playing. You can access those requirements with a push of the start button. The stages also have longer versions of themselves depending on when you choose them. So whichever stage you choose last, will be the hardest and longest version of that stage, compared to if you chose it first. There may be a boss you don't want to face in their  final form. Trust and believe me when I say this...Do NOT fight the final version of Anubis. He does not mess around. 

The music is nostalgic. Every catchy song from the Double Dragon series, old and new, is here. The victory fanfare is here too. The token exchange rate adds one hell of a replay value, as well as the inkling to team other characters up together, especially after unlocking them. You can also use the tokens to unlock tips for each character. In the last few years, I now have Streets of Rage, TMNT, and now Double Dragon for my modern console, and I'm trying not to be upset that online co-op comes later this year. 2 player Couch co-op is ok, but it's 2023. At least give me the option. I want it now. It's an extremely fun game, with some good nostalgic pixel art. I enjoyed it. I think you will too if you played any Double Dragon.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons comes during a time where we wouldn't mind some good ol' fashioned beat 'em up side scrolling games. A huge roster of characters and a great new tag team feature really push the franchise forward. While it gets everything right, it baffles me that we have to wait for online co-op. Still, that shouldn't deter you. Double Dragon fans should grab this right now. 

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming! 

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