This period study of the arcade's formative beat 'em up has its charms, but the sense that this is a game out of time is not easily shaken.
I am certainly not immune to the charms of 80s and 90s game design, but the NES version of Double Dragon wasn’t a great example for Double Dragon 4 to follow. It’s not just that this simplistic beat-em-up formula didn’t age well graphically or mechanically, it’s that it simply isn’t very fun or engaging to play in 2017.
The ‘80s nostalgia is laid on so thick you could almost choke from it, in this joyless proof that too much nostalgia can be a bad thing.
If you’re looking for a true-to-form Double Dragon title, this is it. However, with decades passing since the original and nothing to propel it forward outside of the ancient IP, you may have difficulty finding the fun
Double Dragon IV isn't a good game in a modern sense, but it certainly is an honest trip back in time that will, if nothing else, offer a heavy dose of nostalgia for anyone with a fondness for the Lee Brothers' 8-bit adventures.
Double Dragon IV feels like the developer Arc System Works discovered an unreleased old NES game and emulated it on PS4. Its graphics, sound, and gameplay are utterly authentic to the period. Unfortunately, so are its cheap shots and frustrating design elements. It's certainly a lot of fun to play for a while, but once its nostalgic novelty wears off, only hardcore retro fans will likely want to come back for more.
Arc System Work's staunch dedication to the retro aesthetic for Double Dragon IV is admirable, but still falls short of the mark even when juxtaposed to several of the series' own entries. Punch and kicking dudes as Billy and Jimmy still works, but many elements of IV just feel a little too off-brand for my liking.
Even for those looking for a nostalgic trip through time, you are just much better off playing the original game and avoiding the mess that is Double Dragon IV.
It's not just an homage to brawlers of a bygone era; it could blend in seamlessly were it to time travel to the past. And that's not good.
Double Dragon IV sounds like a surefire winner on paper. Craft a sequel to one of the most beloved arcade games of all-time, keep it retro in spirit, profit. However, seeing as the game was announced and released in just over a month it feels like about that much effort went into crafting this game. Will we ever get a solid follow-up to one of the greatest arcade games of all-time? Things are not looking promising for Billy and Jimmy.
Double Dragon 4 plays the nostalgia card harder than most, but its narrow-sighted reliance on this has left it feeling like a relic that perhaps shouldn't have been disturbed. The combat can be simplistic fun but is ruined by cheap AI, and the trio of modes don't offer much to stick around for. The presentation is a cool look back at the 80s school of design, but once the novelty wears off, you're left with a frustrating beat-em-up that inadvertently highlights the leaps in gameplay, animation, and visuals that games have made over the last three decades.
But like Capcom did with Mega Man 9 and 10, Double Dragon IV looks and plays like an NES Double Dragon.
Retro to a fault, the throwback Double Dragon 4 brings the best and worst of the NES era to contemporary PC gamers.
I do hope Arc System Works continues to develop this IP though, because if the same creative minds that worked on this game came together to try to advance the series as a whole like Double Dragon Neon did, I believe they could make something really special. Sadly, I would only recommend Double Dragon IV to you if you are a Double Dragon fanatic or very die hard beat 'em up fan, and if that's the case, you probably already own it. It is fairly cheap, but even then, I have played much more enjoyable games for the same price.
Double Dragon IV is a sequel that came about three decades too late. While it’s a great follow-up to the games from the 8-bit era, it also unintentionally shines a light on the shortcomings of the time—which only the most diehard of fans will be able to overlook.
A Double Dragon for the current generation could have been a great thing, but this semi-revisiting of the franchise's heyday falls way short of the mark.
There's certainly nothing wrong with celebrating the past and polishing up classic game concepts for modern consumption, but Double Dragon 4 is a prime example of how not to do a revival - which is ironic when you consider that the WayForward-made Double Dragon Neon did a much better job back in 2012. The use of NES-style graphics isn't a negative in itself, but too little has been done to refine and improve gameplay which, even back in the late '80s, was showing its age against a new breed of slicker and more enjoyable examples of the genre. The co-op focus of the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers does at least mean it's easy to rope in another player for a trip down memory lane, but this is nonetheless a crushing disappointment given the incredible potential of the franchise, and should only be purchased by diehard Billy and Jimmy fans.
At the end of the day, Double Dragon IV feeds off the nostalgia of those that spent their youth playing the NES classic titles. While some may argue that the Arcade version of the game was a better version of Double Dragon, there is a certain charm to the 8-bit NES visuals and sound effects. If online multiplayer had been added to Double Dragon IV, it might have helped alleviate the lack of replay value the game suffers from.
That said, for nostalgia fans, you're right at home. Sadly, this game doesn't even match up to Double Dragon II, which is 28 years older and still holds up. Still, nostalgia will only get you so far. Double Dragon IV definitely had some potential as a throwback to the late 1980's of gaming. Sadly, there's no enough substance to give Jimmy and Billy the return they deserved. I wanted greatness, I got mildly ok. Stick with Double Dragon II, III or even Double Dragon Neon.
Double Dragon IV is a pure nostalgia trip, but it comes with enough interesting combat tweaks and bonus modes to be worth a few playthroughs for anyone with an appreciation of the NES originals.