Double Dragon is a noteworthy franchise in so many ways, despite its near absence from the modern gaming landscape. With eight games in the series, a major film, a cartoon in the mid-90s, and a couple cross-over titles including the warmly remembered Battletoads mashup, that’s a legitimate legacy – if not a storied one. Yet, a bankruptcy and the purchase of the property by Arc System Works has given the franchise new life, culminating now. Today saw the announcement of Double Dragon IV.
Arc System Works published a surprise trailer revealing Double Dragon IV, tied into a celebration of the franchise’s 30th anniversary which is in 2017. The trailer briefly showcases each of the first three games in the series: Double Dragon, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stones. That’s all capped off with the reveal of Double Dragon IV, which appears to use the NES sprites of Double Dragon II. It’s a retro revitalization like what Capcom once tried to do with Mega Man. To punctuate the reveal, Arc System Works also announced that the game would launch on January 30 for the PC and PlayStation 4.
The game, as previously mentioned, uses the same sprites as the NES version of Double Dragon II. That design choice stands for protagonists Billy and Jimmy as well as, as far as what’s shown in the trailer, several of the enemies players will encounter in Double Dragon IV. Going further, the gameplay in Double Dragon IV also seems similar to the mechanics of the original games. There are knees, uppercuts, grabs, and mid-air spin kicks. But judging by the footage Double Dragon IV does seem to be putting some priority into a combat system that encourage combining those into strings of attacks. Or it just seems that way to make the Double Dragon IV footage seem that much more cool than the other games.
A question that is likely popping into many people’s minds is, “Wasn’t there already a Double Dragon IV?” And the answer to that is, “Kind of.” Following Double Dragon III‘s release on the NES, Technos Japan rushed the development of Super Double Dragon. The title was made with an all new, inexperienced director and a lot of content was cut from the final product. It never even saw release in arcades, which was a large part of the franchise’s popularity up to that point.
After Super Double Dragon‘s poor performance, Double Dragon V was ultimately licensed to a third-party and the franchise has suffered since. Double Dragon Neon attempted to reboot the series in 2012, but ultimately was garnered a wavering reception. That led into the property’s resale in 2015 to Arc System Works, who appears to have decided that the best direction for Double Dragon is a return to its roots. If Arc System Works can manage to erase the post-NES games from memory and pick up where Double Dragon III left off, it might be on to something.
Double Dragon IV, a retro beat-em-up with 2-player co-op, will launch on January 30, 2017 for the PlayStation 4 and PC. Stay tuned for more information in the weeks to come.