Action,  Beat 'em up,  Nintendo Switch,  Platformer,  PS4,  PS5,  Xbox One,  Xbox Series S,  Xbox Series X

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Fast Facts

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons

Developer: Secret Base
Publisher: Modus Games, Joystick
Genre(s): Action/adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI12
Release Date: July 27th 2023
Price: £20.13

A code was provided for review purposes

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons is set in the year 199X where a nuclear war has devastated New York City. Citizens are left to their own devices by fighting for their survival as riots and crime invade the streets. The city has been overtaken by criminal gangs fighting for total dominance of the now-destroyed Big Apple. It’s up to young Billy and Jimmy Lee to take it upon themselves to drive the gangs out of their city.

Billy and Jimmy Lee beating up a group of thugs
The Lee brothers kicking butt.

Like its predecessors in the long-running Double Dragon series, this latest entry is a typical beat’em up when you beat up waves of enemies on your way to sub-bosses and end-level bosses. The combat is very simplistic. Mash the attack button to create combos and drain the enemies’ lifebar. You can also use a special attack, which has three variants. Once your special attack meter is full, if you press it alone, you’ll do one special attack while using up or left (or right… both do the same attack in the direction pressed) you’ll do different special attacks.

Mind-numbing button mashing

You can also grab and throw enemies and run. Enemies carrying weapons will drop them and allow you to use them… sometimes depending on the character you’re using (more on that below). Speaking of characters, it’s slightly different than previous DD games. You start off with two characters you can choose from the four available. Billy Lee, Jimmy Lee, Maria, and Uncle Matin (who can’t pick up weapons). During the game, you can swap out between the two characters, or if your first character dies, the other will jump in; this is used instead of a traditional life system. There are additional characters that can be unlocked with chips.

Marian using her gun from afar while Uncle Matin smashes everyone in Double Dragon Gaiden Rise of the Dragons
Whether it be as playable characters or enemies, guns shouldn’t be in beat ’em-ups.

As you beat up enemies and break various breakable items, you’ll earn money that will allow you a few things, such as buying back in once you’re game over (although the price increases every time you do) and buying skills for your crew in between levels. Once an area has been completed, you can buy a few character skills for each member of your duo, such as increased damage, knockback enemies, and more health, to name a few. Most of these upgrades can stack, too. If nothing catches your fancy, you can trade it in for chips (that can be used to unlock music tracks and additional playable characters). Or simply pick the money. These bonuses are random and change every time. Once you game over, you are given the chance to continue at the last checkpoint or trade in your remaining cash for chips and wipe your data.

Save up your bucks

Yes, you read that right. You can wipe your game and start over. This is mostly to be able to accumulate chips. Thankfully, the game has only five levels. One of the game’s best features is the adjustable difficulty. Instead of the traditional Easy, Normal, Hard, or whatnot, when starting a new file, you can choose characteristics such as enemy aggression, players’ health, and revive cost, to name a few—giving players a lot of flexibility in terms of challenge. And obviously, rewards are adjusted accordingly. Additionally, if you beat three enemies or more simultaneously with a special attack or weapon, there’s a special Combo icon that flashes across the screen, and you are rewarded with a health item.

Mission select screen of Double Dragon Gaiden Rise of the Dragons
Each level has bonus objectives for additional in-game money rewards.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons features a cutesy cartoonish-like visual. Long-time fans of the series might find it odd seeing kid-like versions of Billy and Jimmy Lee as they are usually portrayed as rugged, older teenagers/young adults in previous games of the series. Each area has its own unique theme/visual aesthetic and enemies for some variety in challenges. The soundtrack is another mix of reimagining classic Double Dragon tunes along with some new tracks. However, it doesn’t top Jake Kaufman’s takes on the soundtrack in Double Dragon Neon.

Looking for trouble

I won’t lie that I was extremely excited about this game as I’ve been playing Double Dragon since the NES era, but there are some faults that pretty much shattered my excitement. Character movement feels stiff, and when performing jump attacks, it does feel like characters are wearing cement-filled boots. The Egypt level is one of the worst levels ever designed. Not only because most of the level is set in the dark with a spotlight over your character, but there’s so much platforming in a labyrinth-like level.

Furthermore, enemies with guns, no matter the difficulty configured, will wreck you in a matter of seconds. Characters are also stunned for what feels like forever when getting attacked. Enemies can easily interrupt your special move, making you waste a full bar meter with no reward. There are also light rogue-lite elements where, when starting a new file, some levels will have a slightly different layout, but it doesn’t add much to the overall experience aside from maybe some replay value.

Upgrade screen post-level in Double Dragon Gaiden Rise of the Dragons
Upgrade your character to stand a chance.

Final Thoughts

Double Dragon Gaiden Rise of the Dragons is an interesting addition to the beat’em up genre. However, it feels like it doesn’t reflect the source material properly. The simplistic combat, while a good thing for newcomers, might bore longtime fans of the genre and/or series. While the various settings to customize the difficulty is a neat feature, enemies with guns can still burn in hell. Also, the long stun animation feels like a cheap mechanic/excuse for enemies to wreck you at times. The upgrade system in Double Dragon Gaiden Rise of the Dragons is pretty fun, unique, and flexible. Being able to unlock (hallelujah!) characters gives players some reason to replay the game. If you’re craving a new beat ’em-up experience, this game is worth it. However, if you’re looking for a better Double Dragon experience, I definitely recommend picking up Double Dragon Neon instead.

Rapid Reviews Rating

3 out of 5


Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise Of The Dragons can be purchased on the Nintendo eShop.

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