Co-Optimus: Gaiden is the first roguelite in the series. How do the game’s roguelite elements work?
It’s important to note that the game is first and foremost a beat ’em up, borrowing inspiration from roguelite games to improve the game’s replayability, rather than a roguelite game with extra emphasis on combat.
At the end of each section, the player is given an opportunity to purchase one out of four random upgrades for each character with the cash they’ve earned. On top of that, players are given random challenges which they can attempt to earn more cash. The sub-bosses that appear in each level are also random, to spice up the challenge.
Most importantly, there is no persistent upgrade which requires you to grind and get better. Each run is entirely skill-based, and if you are very good at it, you can finish the game on your first try. However, with each run, depending on how well you do, you can earn tokens that allow you to unlock more characters, tips, artwork and music, so hopefully there are reasons to keep you coming back for more.
Co-Optimus: One of Double Dragon Gaiden’s cool features is that players can select from missions focused on different gangs, playing levels in the order of their choosing. Can you tell us about these gangs?
The game was very much influenced by the classic cult movie, The Warriors, so we wanted to create gangs with different looks and identities. On top of that, we’ve always wanted to bring back as many of the recognizable characters as we can from the mainline series, so what we ended up doing was to have each gang representing one of the classic villains - some more directly, while others took reference and general inspiration from them.
Co-Optimus: Willy, the boss of the first Double Dragon, is depicted as the leader of the Killers in Gaiden. Traditionally, Willy has been a leader of the Black Warriors/Shadow Warriors. Are the Killers a reference to Double Dragon lore?
Yes, indeed! It's a very small part of the original lore, where it was mentioned that Willy was the leader of Killers before he founded the Black Warriors/Shadow Warriors. Since we are making an alternate timeline prequel, this seems like a great time to make use of this super trivial knowledge I have.
Co-Optimus: Speaking of references, Gaiden clearly draws characters and cameos from past games in the series, such as Chin Tai Mei from Double Dragon II, Haruko from Double Dragon III, and even Duke from Super Double Dragon. Double Dragon IV, on the other hand, isn’t exactly known for introducing memorable characters.
- Does Gaiden have any specific references to Double Dragon IV?
- One of the gangs is known as the Okada Clan. And that is based on the final boss of Double Dragon IV, the Okada Sisters.
- Does Gaiden have any cameos or references from Arc System Works’ Kunio/River City series?
- Not at the moment, but I would love to get my hands on drawing Kunio and friends, and hopefully we will have some chance for a crossover.
- Were there any characters or references you wanted to include but couldn’t?
- Yes, there’s always limits to how much we can [accomplish] within the limited [development] time. However, if the game does well, I do hope to release them as DLC in the future!
Co-Optimus: Now then, Double Dragon Gaiden features 2-player local co-op. Can you tell us about the game’s cooperative experience?
Two players can juggle enemies together, or perform moves which create opportunities for others. Or when one gets hurt, they can easily be swarmed by the massive number of enemies, and if there’s another player around, you might want to help and free the player.
But combat aside, one interesting mechanic is that the two players share the same cash pool. So, you actually have to decide who should purchase the revive and who should not, based on the randomized upgrade option provided. Money is also used to revive, and each time you do the price for the next revive will increase, so you want to be careful about dying too much and causing problems for the other player.
Co-Optimus: One feature that Gaiden lacks compared to beat ‘em ups like TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, River City Girls 2, and Streets of Rage 4 is online co-op. Is there a possibility of adding online multiplayer after release?
Yes! As you can imagine, we are a significantly smaller team [than the developers of those games], and given the scope of our project, we had to first make sure we make a good, solid game. Now that that’s done, we are working on the online multiplayer, and hopefully we’ll have it [ready] sooner [rather] than later.
Co-Optimus: Before we jet, let’s discuss Gaiden’s art and music. When a game goes with a creative art style over a realistic one, there are sometimes complaints from finicky gamers. The first Borderlands dealt with similar naysayers. What would you say to gamers who complain that Gaiden doesn’t use a realistic art style?
Double Dragon is to many gamers [part of] their childhood memories, so I can understand how people get emotionally involved. And a lot of that is a testament to how influential the original game was.
I think for those players that struggle with the art style, perhaps wait a little to [see] what others think about the game. If you change your mind, you’re free to give it a shot then.
Co-Optimus: Gaiden’s trailers showcase catchy renditions of classic Double Dragon songs. Can you tell us about the game’s soundtrack?
Just like how the playable characters are made up of the most popular cast of characters from each Double Dragon game, the soundtrack is [also composed of] remixes of classic songs from different games in the main series.
Due to the very tight timeline, instead of working on one track at a time, I gathered a group of composers that I have been following. Each person [took] 3-4 tunes to work on.
Co-Optimus: Finally, is there anything you’re proud of about Double Dragon Gaiden that we haven’t already touched on?
We spent a lot of time building the tech to allow us to have a world with terrain that brings you high and low across the different gang hideouts. The game will launch on July 27th, so be sure to try it once it’s out!
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons sells for $24.99 digitally on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and Steam. Physical versions for Xbox, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Switch cost $29.99. The Steam version is fully Steam Deck compatible. Read our co-op review for more details!