When I hear the term roguelike, I shudder. I absolutely cannot stand the feeling of starting all over in a game. So when I heard that Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons was a roguelike, I was confused.
You see, roguelike and Double Dragon shouldn’t go together. Typically, roguelike games are dungeon crawlers that let you keep one or two pieces of gear or your levels each time you die. These games then expect you to suffer through the same levels you just played, but this time attempting to do a bit better.
Like I said, not for me. That said, Double Dragon is not my favourite beat ‘em up franchise either. So as a fan of neither, what did I think about Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons?
As a huge fan of brawler/beat em up titles, I was quite excited about a new Double Dragon being released. The original three games, and the more recent fourth done in the same style, never resonated with me. The first Double Dragon I did enjoy was actually a slight tongue in cheek parody of the series – Double Dragon Neon.
I played Neon on the Xbox 360 and enjoyed it a lot. Granted, it didn’t stand up there with the likes of Streets of Rage or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, but I enjoyed it for the most part. That game has a nice art style and updated things from the usual 8-bit style graphics the main series had stuck to all these years.
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons has once again changed things up in the art department. Neither 8-bit style or the 3D vibes from Neon, instead it runs a 16-bit chibi look. Many may find this weird, but I loved it. It keeps the same feel and look of being a retro game while updating it slightly. It works for me.
Story wise these games are never complex and the same applies here. The city is in trouble, you need to help. To do so you must punch and kick your way through various areas, and then make light work of the boss. It’s not the story you came for though, it’s the combat.
Combat here is actually really solid. Punches, kicks, throws and specials all feel great. And it has a neat system where taking out groups of enemies provides you with health pickups. Ending each mission allows you to power up your moves, health or even grant bonuses for the next mission.
So where do the roguelike elements come into play? Well, the aforementioned power ups at the end of the level. That’s it. I feel using that term in the marketing would probably have hurt the potential sales more than helped them. Roguelike is a very niche, hardcore word to label your product, and when it doesn’t really apply, maybe it is best to leave it out.
There are four main areas to select in the map screen found in Double Dragon Gaiden: Ride of the Dragons. Each area level matches you so can be replayed to experience the level tougher or easier as you try and unlock all the characters. There are fourteen in all and each of them have different moves and abilities. If you like Double Dragon, this will keep you happy for a while.
Those mission areas never stay around too long either, and allow the order to be mixed up across multiple playthroughs. I’m not sure if any of the levels or characters are memorable enough that I would want to run through the game again right away, but Double Dragon fans may feel different.
On medium difficulty I felt there was an okay challenge as I made my way through to the end. I will say that sometimes the game just swarms you with enemies rather than coming up with new creative enemy types. This can feel a bit cheap, especially in the later stages as the enemy difficulty ramps up.
Bosses are mostly fun, but require little tactical thought to defeat. The hardest part about the boss fights is found in the normal enemies they summon throughout the fight to push you back. Later levels again feel a bit cheap and as if the fights are being padded out for a longer run time, rather than being well thought out.
All in, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons isn’t a bad game, but it’s not a great game either. However, at least it’s not a full blown roguelike. I would say that for fans of the franchise, this should be picked up, as it’s everything you will love and more. The poor decision to market it as a roguelike may be off-putting to many, but it really doesn’t show its ugly head here at all.
For everyone else, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons should be one to pick up in a sale. The story can be blasted out in two hours or so, and there is a bit of replayability with the unlockable characters and the selectable nature of the missions. Maybe this is not a game of the year contender, but it’s probably a good starting point for the new direction and rejuvenation of Double Dragon.