As I sit here playing Double Dragon IV, I can’t help but look over at the calendar to make sure it is in fact the year 2017. I may be playing this game on the PlayStation 4, but it certainly feels like I could be playing it on my old CRT TV in my bedroom back in 1989. Double Dragon IV is a throwback game, and there is nothing wrong with that.
What Is It?
Double Dragon IV is set immediately after the events of Double Dragon II. The Lee brothers have defeated The Black Warriors and are now working on franchising their martial art by opening dojos across the country. Unfortunately for them, it turns out some members of The Black Warriors survived, and they’ve allied with another gang known as The Renegades. The Lees now have to deal with this new force who want nothing more than to end the Dragons once and for all. If that isn’t an 80’s plot, I don’t know what is.
Plot aside, Double Dragon IV has a good deal to offer. There is a Story mode which can be played either solo or with a friend on the couch, a two player Duel mode where you and a friend duke it out to the death, and a Tower mode which unlocks once you complete the Story mode.
There is no online play of any kind.
Why Should I Care?
The first thing to keep in mind when playing Double Dragon IV is that the game not only looks like it could’ve come out in the late 80’s, but it plays that way as well. This is a game all about understanding how a primitive AI will behave, and then exploiting it to your advantage. To do this, you’ll need to make use of a variety of moves. Punches, kicks, grapples and throws, as well as a few special techniques that will be very useful in creating space for yourself on the playfield.
In addition to the techniques that Billy and Jimmy have on hand, there are a number of weapons you can use to do a lot of damage–boulders, tires, and crates, among others. Each weapon is useful in its own way, you’ll just have to experiment and see what works for you. You might die while doing this, but don’t worry much about that. Replaying the game is all part of the experience. Every time you play, you’ll learn more and get further. Enemies in the game all have cues that you’ll need to learn in order to avoid or counter their attacks. More importantly, their behaviors are triggerable by the player. Once that clicks, you can get the enemies to do exactly what you want them to.
Much like Double Dragon II before it, the fighting system is very rigid and it may not appeal to those looking for a modern beat-em-up. Cheap hits, questionable platforming and strange glitches may frustrate some people. If you’re looking for a game that you can analyze and break down into its distinct elements, then this is a good one.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Despite its shortcomings, Double Dragon IV is a lot of fun to play. You’ll start off struggling with the mechanics and getting clobbered. As you play though, you’ll start to pick up on the game’s very exploitable quirks. The fact that neither you nor the enemies can block for instance, is something that you should not only keep in mind, but make use of once you’ve knocked an enemy down. Just put your spin kick’s hitbox right where they’re going to be when they get up and they’ll be eating boot before they know what hit them. To put it another way, you’ll need to get in touch with your inner 1980’s gamer to get through this game.
Double Dragon IV is a great example of a game that sticks to its roots. For better or worse, what you get here is a game that would feel right at home on an NES cartridge. It might not be for everyone, but it does show that Arc System Works understand the IP and will treat it well. I fully expect this to lead into a modern, more fluid game in the future, but for now, this will keep me more than happy.