Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

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Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons review
Camrin Santchi


Get Knocked Down, Get Up Again

A City Ravaged

A classic genre of the arcade days is the side scrolling beat 'em up, where gamers take control of a protagonist and fight their way to the right, punching and kicking or otherwise beating up hoards of goons - oftentimes with very little in the way of plot besides an excuse for butts to be kicked. This reviewer personally was always fond of relatively recent additions such as Scott Pilgrim Vs the World or River City Girls, with a personal favourite being Castle Crashers, but there are some series out there that are considered to be genre-defining, such as Double Dragon.

With the original Double Dragon releasing in 1987, Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons marks the 20th game in the series if we count official re-releases of the original. In a post-apocalyptic version of New York ravaged by gangs, brothers Jimmy and Billy with help from love interest Marian and Uncle Matin set out to teach the four gangs a lesson they won’t soon forget. It is 199X after all, so the best way to dish out justice is a good old fashioned fight!

Something New

Setting Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons apart from other games in the genre and even the series is the roguelite elements. Upon starting a new game players are able to set their difficulty with several different factors that affect the difficulty of your runs including revive cost, health pools for yourself and enemies, and other factors. The primary impact of these settings is that they impact the ‘cash out’ at the end of a run, with the default being that $1000 gets you one Token.

Tokens in Rise of the Dragons have several purposes, unlocking artwork, music, and even new playable characters for future runs. They can also be used in an 'Arcade' capacity, allowing gamers to continue from the most recent checkpoint. This is relevant because in Rise of the Dragons players restart from the beginning if they don't use tokens to continue.

One of the main strategies in Rise of the Dragons is to accumulate as much wealth as possible, since money doesn't just net gamers tokens for unlockables or continues, but they also allow for upgrades at the end of each level that can make future levels easier. A fantastic way to both stock up on cash and keep your health up is to make use of the Special KO and Crowd Control mechanics - where taking an enemy out with a Special Attack, thrown weapon, or other non-basic combo makes them explode into cash, while taking out more than one at once causes food to appear, from a hotdog to a turkey dinner based on the amount of KOs. These can naturally restore health, being food in video games, but if your character is already at full health they'll fill up your wallet instead of your health pool!

Try, Try Again

The way 'runs' in Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons operate is that players can choose which of the four gangs they want to take on first - but each consecutive takedown makes the surviving gangs even tougher as they prepare for your arrival. This is reflected by larger levels, tougher goons, and mini-boss fights before taking on the actual head of the gang itself. Each of these mini-boss fights also count as a checkpoint for continues and a chance to make use of cash to upgrade your capabilities.

Players are able to make use of this replayable style to find a strategy that works best for them, finding a route through the levels that they find the most cohesive for them. Certain levels feel like the secondary portions are harder than others, which may help gamers figure out what path they want to take. However, this does have a side effect of potentially making players feel railroaded into doing things in a certain way since they may prefer to take the 'path of least resistance' once they find an order of doing things that feels the easiest for them.

In all, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is a fun and nostalgic beat'em up with a pleasant amount of replayability, before even mentioning the local co-op to allow for even more of that good old arcade feeling. The only real issue this reviewer found while playing is that players may feel railroaded by whichever route through levels they find the easiest. That being said, if you're a fan of Double Dragon, beat‘em ups, or roguelike games that toy with a different genre, then Rise of the Dragons comes highly recommended!

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fun score


Nostalgic, Fun, Replayable


Potential Railroading of Routes