When a game made in the year of our lord 2023 opens with the line "It's the year 199X...", I already know I'm in for something special. Developed by Secret Base and published by Modus Games, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons seeks to channel the classic Beat-em Up genre with newer innovations in gaming. I got the chance to preview the first 90 minutes of the game, so read on for our Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Preview!
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Preview - Revamping The Genre
What's clear from my time with our Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Preview is that the game takes the familiar and gives it a healthy twist. In the game, you play as the classic DD characters Billy, Jimmy, Marion, and Uncle Martin in a quest to save New York City after a nuclear attack leaves the city in shambles.
Four rival gangs have taken over, and you begin the game by choosing two of the above-mentioned heroes and striking out on the map. Divided into four territories, you can take on the machine-gun wielding Willy and his Killers gang, the fancy lad Duke and his gang The Royals, the enigmatic Lady Okada and her Okada Gang, and the mysterious Anubis, leader of the Triangle Gang.
Once you choose a gang to start attacking, you'll punch, attack, shoot, and club your way through a legion of henchmen in the classic side-scrolling Beat-em Up style until you make it to the boss. Defeat that boss, and you'll see how this empowers all the other gangs still standing. Their levels will get longer, and you'll likely fight a mini-boss halfway through your run at them.
Defeat your second boss, and the remaining gangs' stages get longer again, with more challenges and mini-bosses thrown your way. It's a unique way to approach level design, and makes me want to try attacking the bosses in different orders, to see how their stages progress.
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Preview - 'F You, Pay Me'
The aspect of this game that I find most intriguing in this initial playthrough is the roguelike elements they've added to the game. This isn't roguelike in the sense that the levels or enemy challenges change with each play-through, but when you use your special ability against enemies coins will fly out for you to collect.
Also, just about everything not tied down is destructible, and it's a joy to hunt down coins and stacks of cash throughout the game. Collect those coins, and in between each mini-boss and boss you'll be able to spend those coins on upgrades that give you an edge in the game.
Maybe your special meter will charge faster, or maybe you'll gain more health, or do some other exciting benefit, all in a quest to make it further in your run.
At first, these power-ups may not feel that impressive, but as you continue your run you'll soon notice the benefit of stacking them all together. Once both of the characters you choose to play with die, you can choose to spend coins to get back in the fight or trade them in for poker chip-esque tokens.
In between runs, those tokens can be used to purchase gameplay tips, new music tracks, and even new playable characters. In my initial run, I was able to save up enough tokens to purchase Abobo, a classic Double Dragon mini-boss.
With a whole new move set and special ability all his own, bringing Abobo into the fight really mixed up the gameplay in a fun and rewarding way, and made me want to keep saving up my coins.
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Preview - Will You Pull Punches?
Another fun aspect worth highlighting in this preview is the exchange rate of coins to tokens. With every setting in the game set to the normal standards, you can trade 1000 coins at the end of a run for 1 token.
But as you adjust the difficulty -- making enemies more or less aggressive, giving yourself more or less health, etc. -- that exchange rate changes. This creates a highly personable difficulty setting and lets you balance risk and reward at the start of each run.
The Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons Preview Has Me Locked In So Far
After my first 90 minutes playing Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons I've only defeated one gang and made it halfway through a second base, but I've been playing carefully to save up enough tokens to unlock more characters. Because of this gameplay loop, I'm never frustrated when I get steamrolled by a mini-boss or fall off the level to my doom.
Instead, I'm totally locked in, looking to get back into the fight as soon as possible and find as many coins as I can. We'll see how the game develops after a full playthrough, but in this initial burst of gaming I find the controls intuitive, the challenge perfectly suited to my tastes, and the sound design and graphic treatment bright, poppy, and crisp.
Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons was previewed on the Nintendo Switch using a code provided by the publisher over the course of 90 minutes of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of preview.