PS5 Review: Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons

Rise or Fall?

It’s the year 199X, and nuclear war has devastated New York City leaving its citizens to fight for survival as riots and crime engulf the streets. The city has been overtaken by criminal gangs who terrorize its ruins as they fight for total dominance. Unwilling to endure these conditions any longer, young Billy and Jimmy Lee take it upon themselves to drive the gangs out of their city. Tag in and out as the classic duo Billy and Jimmy, switch it up with Marian and Uncle Matin, or experiment with 9 additional unlockable characters, each with their own special moves and unique playstyles. With 2 player local co-op, the action quadruples as you and a friend clean up the mean streets.

The original Double Dragon games for the NES were some of my earliest memories as a gamer. Double Dragon II still sits in my memory as a tough game, but ultimately satisfying to beat and I had a great time playing it 2 player at the time. I hadn’t played any of the other games in the series since then and was a bit dubious about it’s return, but was I right to be skeptical or would I be surprised?

There’s been a resurgence of sorts with beat-em-up sidescrollers like this. The likes of Streets of Rage 4 and TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge come to mind and those were superb in their own right, so what of Rise of the Dragons? It definitely has the feel of the original games in its design and the controls feel solid enough, while also adding new elements to the gameplay for a fresher feel. Multiple paths to choose from, tagging in and out characters is also an interesting idea and adding roguelite elements is smart too.

Local co-op with another player definitely improves things, but it does seem a shame that online isn’t an option at this point, but it’ll definitely be more interesting when that eventually drops. The visuals are retro by design and while it can’t quite capture the visual aesthetic of the original NES games, it still does a good job in feeling like you are playing a classic game. The soundtrack is also pretty decent and the sound effects do what you would expect.

The Verdict

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is a decent beat-em-up sidescroller that tries to mix things up and does it quite well. The lack of online co-op is disappointing, but it won’t be forever. Ultimately, a surprisingly good revival of a classic series.

Score: 7.5