A Preview of Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons
The golden age of side scroller beat ‘em ups is long gone, but that’s ok. Right now, we are in the midst of a beat ‘em up games renaissance! The latest, freshest addition to the iconic Double Dragon franchise is set to drop on July 27th, 2023: Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons.
Never mind Bruce Lee, let’s welcome back our favorite martial arts brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee. This summer, get ready to clean up the mean, dirty, post nuclear apocalyptic streets of New York once and for all. Read on to find out everything that you need to know about Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons.
What’s the story?
“Summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy.” Mick Jagger first sang these iconic lines in 1968, possibly predicting the arrival of the first Double Dragon video game nearly two decades later, in 1987. Before we get stuck into Double Dragon, let’s step back even further, to 1986, when game developer Technōs Japan released Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun. Kunio-kun was released as Renegade in the West, this beat ‘em up arcade classic set the stage for Double Dragon, establishing the belt scroll format, combo attacks, and of course, the street brawl theme featuring multiple enemies, and end of level bosses.
The gameplay and knock-down brawl style combat in Renegade is largely based on the fight scenes that video game developer Yoshihisa Kishimoto saw in Bruce Lee’s 1973 classic, Enter the Dragon. Kishimoto cited daily scraps during his high school years as another influence in the plotline of Renegade. Kishimoto is the mastermind behind both Renegade and Double Dragon, and is now fittingly known as the grandfather of the beat ‘em up genre.
1987 may feel like a long time ago, but if you were around in the late 80s and early 90s, you may have been lucky enough to have played in the hallowed halls of your local arcade during the golden age of the beat ‘em up game. Perhaps you poured all of your pocket money into arcade machines, playing the first installment of Double Dragon. If not, here’s the arcade long play for your reference!
Double Dragon was an instant hit, sparking the aforementioned golden age in beat ‘em ups. Double Dragon set the bar for this exciting genre, simultaneously laying down the foundations for the slew of beat ‘em ups that would follow.
Featuring two-player cooperative gameplay in a belt scroll format, the player selects one of the twin dragon brothers, Billy Lee or Jimmy. The martial artists fight their way through the hood of the Black Warriors to rescue Billy’s damsel in distress, Marian. The action is viewed from a slightly downward camera angle, following a side-scrolling format. Players move vertically and horizontally along the horizontally scrolling streets engaging hordes of street gangs, and larger, stronger, end of level bosses including Abobo and Willy Mackey.
Following the conventions established in Renegade, players must employ combo attacks to defeat enemies. Punches, kicks, elbows, and throws are complemented with a range of melee weapons that can be taken from enemies, including baseball bats, whips, and throwing knives. On top of these weapons, randomly found objects like barrels and boxes can be picked up and hurled at enemies.
What’s new in Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons?
Since the first installment of Double Dragon, there have been many sequels, as well as a rather unfortunate Double Dragon movie, released in 1994. Now, let’s leave the past behind, and fast forward to 2023. Singapore-based developer Secret Base and California based publisher Modus are behind this revival of the Lee brothers, in Double Dragon Gaiden.
There is a clue in the title, Gaiden means “side-story” in Japanese, and in Double Dragon Gaiden, the side story finds us playing younger versions of Billy and Jimmy Lee. The action takes place in the nuclear wasteland of New York City, during the interestingly named year 199X. Poor old New York has been infested by criminal gangs, who terrorize the citizens and ruthlessly fight for dominance. Thankfully, the young brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee, have decided to put a stop to this thuggery and beat the gangs out of their beloved Big Apple…
Gameplay and more
There are 13 playable characters in Double Dragon Gaiden. Play as the Lee brothers, of course, and you have the option of seamlessly tagging between Billy and Jimmy as you beat up hordes of baddies. Marian is no longer the kidnapped maiden helplessly waiting to be rescued, in Double Dragon Gaiden, gun toting Marian is a playable character, and she is armed and dangerous. A new playable character for Double Dragon Gaiden is Uncle Matin, proprietor of the MATIN garage that Jimmy and Billy exit from in the first Double Dragon. As you progress through the game, there are also nine more unlockable characters, each with their own styles, special moves, strengths, and weaknesses.
Local co-op mode supports up to two players, letting you and a friend wash all the scum off the streets, Travis Bickle style. On top of this, an exciting, unique level structure adjusts the difficulty of the missions in relation to the order in which you select them. Roguelite elements and old school graphics offer a sweet taste of late 80s nostalgia to those who were there back in the day and provide a taste of what once was to new Double Dragon fans.
Skill, as well as strategy, will be required to beat the criminal gangs of New York City. But be warned, after defeating each gang, the other surviving gangs will grow in strength! By defeating opponents with special moves, players can earn cash to upgrade their characters and stand a chance against bigger, meaner baddies! Cash earned brawling is converted into tokens at the end of each gaming session, and can be used to unlock tips, music, artwork and new playable characters. These different characters, tag partners, and routes promise that each play through of Double Dragon Gaiden will be truly unique.
Slated for release on July 27th, 2023, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons will be available on most current generation platforms, including PC via Steam, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. While you wait for the release of Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons, be sure to check out our brief history of beat ‘em up games. While you’re at it, here’s some more info on platform games to broaden your gaming horizons. Finally, be sure to check out Game Pass, to discover your next favorite game, and much, much more!
Edmund is an English copywriter based in New Taipei City, Taiwan. He is a widely published writer and translator with two decades of experience in the field of bridging linguistic and cultural gaps between Chinese and English.