As a child of the 80s who loved beat ’em ups/arcade games, Double Dragon II: The Revenge is one of my favorite NES games of all time. Never did get to play it in the arcade, but that’s fine! Double Dragon II is basically NES beat ’em up perfection. We don’t talk about the absolute dismal failure that was Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone. . . No continues, three lives, insane difficulty, crappy guest characters? Sounds like a hot time to me! But ArcSys, one of my favorite groups of people on the planet released Double Dragon IV, for a very reasonable price [6.99 I think?], and is the most faithful and beautiful trip back through time I’ve had the pleasure to play in a very long time. Double Dragon is a Belt Side-Scroller; once the enemies, the current enemies are dead, you can move on. Otherwise if you just had the power to move to the end of the stage non-stop, the game would crash. So it had a purpose, and made the game reasonably challenging. It’s a very simple premise: Beat up the bad guys, get to the boss, kick their teeth down their throat, move on. It’s also worth noting that there are tons and tons of special moves, new ones and old, that are pretty damn easy to do. Truly, we are in the golden age of the Sōsetsuken
I won’t spoil the story, but I assume it’s pretty standard fare for the Double Dragon franchise: Evil Dojo of Assholes, save Mariann probably, beat up the bad dudes. Makes sense. But they did something magical. Something wonderful. It brought a tear to my eye. In Double Dragon II, if you kick, you kicked behind you. You didn’t kick forward. It was used to hit enemies behind you. In Double Dragon IV, you kick in front of you! Thank you so much. The special moves are easier to hit, and happen everytime I do them. The rising knee is disgustingly powerful, the whirlwind/tatsumaki is glorious. It feels and looks like II in the best way. Lots of challenging, different looking stages, catchy ear-worm music such as we expect in the DD series. However, I think you must always start at stage 1, and that bothers me a little. And there is one minor thing I need to point out. Why did we bring back Double Dragon II platforming? Why!? It’s the worst! I used two of my continues just on platforming areas. I understand that it’s for a challenge, and to break up the action, but Ugh. Is it really useful? It’s hair-pullingly bad. Other than that? It’s side-scrolling perfection, and if you need a trip back in time from a delightful group, love martial arts games or Double Dragon in general? Get it.
Worth the price of admission: 4/5, Hype Train has no breaks
Frankly, the only thing I think it really is missing is being able to play someone like Machine Gun Willy or Mariann. Or saving between stages. I’d love that. But I have virtually no complaints about it, it’s fantastic and fun. I love that you can change it to retro music, but I love the fresh-but-familiar style. There’s not too lot bad to say about Double Dragon IV. The lack of difficulty settings was kind of a downer, but on the opposite side of that coin. . . beating it on the middle difficulty [DDII] then having to go back through on the hardest to see the real ending? That made me want to flush the game down the toilet, and push the toilet out of a window. But difficulty settings would be neat. Though I think even solo, this game is just challenging enough. Not bone-breakingly hard. Anyone can feel like a Master of the Sōsetsuken here. It’s the little things that make me happy. Like when Billy or Jimmy finish a kick, they shift their stance and pose in such a perfect, martial-artist way. It just made me smile. And tear up a little.