LONDON: “Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of The Dragons” is the latest incarnation of a game that originally was found in the arcade malls of Japan and the US back in the 1980s.
The popularity of the two-player beat em’ up saw it spawn several versions on home gaming machines, an animated TV series, comic books and a poorly received live-action film in 1994.
However, yesterday’s kids are, of course, today’s adults looking to unleash happy memories as well as create new ones with their own children. Thus “Gaiden” has a nice niche for what is a polished, but limited, modern version of this gaming classic.
The storyline remains basically the same. In a post-apocalyptic but still surprisingly intact New York, you and a total of 14 unlockable characters, all with their unique fighting skills, must take on the four gangs who run the city. It is an “Escape From New York”style narrative that quickly sees you let loose across the various gangs, all within their distinct locations (from casino to urban pyramid) and end-of-stage bosses. Crucially, the gangs get harder after their peers are defeated making getting to a successful finish a bit trickier than a classic save and repeat format.
Side-scroll fighting — with a simple mechanic that relies on timing, positioning and unleashing special abilities — leaves a satisfying body count littered around the gaming arena. There is no online co-op option but the shared console option is recommended, with the ability to tag your partner a key part of making progress.
Not a vast amount has changed since the arcade days with the ability to destroy the environment for health and money, not to mention picking up dropped weapons and using them against people. In the maelstrom of combat the key is not to find yourself swamped by enemies, the perfect recipe for an early “game over.”
A challenge to the side-scrolling format is that action can be lost at the edge of the screen with phantom fists or knives appearing out of nowhere. Some of the limited jumping elements can seem to not make sense in terms of basic physics either. The core challenge and perhaps appeal of the game, beyond its nostalgia, is that it is a short, repetitive, and somewhat shallow experience. This was of course true of the arcade original, but it seems somewhat out of place amongst the pantheon of offerings today.
That said, considering “Double Dragon” was a pioneer of its genre, I think most people coming back to the game or experiencing it for the first time will forgive its flaws and enjoy its simple carnage.