in 1987, the arcade version of Double Dragon became the first co-op beat 'em up. After the original developer, Technos, closed down, the property started getting licensed to different developers with their own unique visions. WayForward released Double Dragon Neon, a Korean developer unleashed the awkward Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons (the game that brought me to Co-Optimus), and Arc System Works, the current IP holder, created the retro-style Double Dragon IV. Now, Secret Base Games and Modus Games are throwing their hats into the ring with Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons, coming to consoles and PC this summer.
Double Dragon Gaiden, like Neon, is a reboot that starts its own fresh continuity. The original game takes place in post-apocalyptic New York (probably), and so does Gaiden, moving the timeline forward to the 1990s. The city has been overtaken by multiple gangs this time, including the Killers, the Triangle, and the Okada. The Shadow Warriors, the traditional Double Dragon enemy gang, seem to be absent. Their leader Willy is still here, though, leading the Killers. Maybe a translation issue?
The two most notable tweaks to this new Double Dragon are the characters and the art style. Four playable characters have been announced: Billy Lee, Jimmy Lee (sporting black hair for some reason), Marian, and Matin. Marian is Billy's girlfriend who was kidnapped in the original arcade game. She was recently playable in River City Girls 2, but Gaiden's version looks much different and wields firearms (!). As for the oddly-named Matin, his name comes from the "Matin" sign above the garage in Mission 1 of the original Double Dragon. He's a new character, though, who wears a military uniform and carries a riot shield. Gaiden will have 9 unlockable characters as well, but their identities haven't been revealed yet.
The other big change is the art style. Gaiden features a chibi art style that somewhat resembles that of TMNT: Shredder's Revenge. Given how popular Shredder's Revenge has been since before it even launched last year, it's no surprise that another beat 'em up would be inspired by its distinctive look. I've witnessed a bit of negativity on social media about the art style, but I find it distinctive and appealing. Some folks whined about Neon's creative art style back in the day, and that game is now regarded as a classic! If the game is good, people will wrap their heads around the style.
The new Double Dragon will also feature some new gameplay mechanics. In single-player, gamers get two pick two characters and control them tag-team style! Additionally, this will be the first Double Dragon to feature Rogue-like elements. Runs will be harder or easier depending on the order of the stages that players select. Performing Special KO moves on enemies will make them drop money, whereas Crowd Control moves provide health refills. Players will be able to unlock characters, upgrades, and modifiers in the Token Shop.
It's very exciting to see a new Double Dragon with plenty of fresh ideas on the horizon. One big feature that Gaiden won't have, though, is online co-op. This game will only support 2-player local co-op. That's a shame, but maybe if the game sells well enough, the developer will consider an upgrade.
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons will arrive on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and Steam this summer. It will sell for $24.99 digitally and $29.99 for physical versions. We'll have plenty more coverage to come!