Skip to main content

Double Dragon Gaiden isn’t easy nostalgia bait. It’s a full-on retro reinvention

While some game series are lost to the annals of the industry’s history, others meet a fate that’s a bit worse in some ways. I’m talking about franchises like Star Fox or Double Dragon that just keep going but almost solely focus on recapturing their former glory. Yes, Double Dragon continued after its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it’s also a series that feels stuck in the designs and iconography of that era. Games like Double Dragon Advance, Double Dragon Neon, and Double Dragon IV called back to the original but lost the ability to craft their own identity in the process.

Thankfully, Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons doesn’t have that problem.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons - Release Date Trailer

Releasing later this month, Secret Base and Modus Games’ Double Dragon Gaiden looks like it will be the freshest feeling game in this series since 1994’s Double Dragon V (which was a fighting game, for some reason). It does this not only with its new visual style and four distinct playable characters but with a roguelite setup that feels wholly unique within the beat ’em up genre, even within just 90 minutes of playtime.

More than a retread

Double Dragon Gaiden follows Billy and Jimmy, the original two protagonists of Double Dragon — as well as damsel-in-distress-turned-cop Marian and their Uncle Matin — as they fight the four gangs that have to most power in a post-apocalyptic world. These games have never had the deepest stories, but they don’t need to. That simple setup provides a solid enough backdrop for enjoyable beat ’em-up gameplay and roguelite runs.

At the start of a run, players choose two of the four characters to use (either as a tag team or in co-op) and can tailor various aspects for the run’s difficulty — like the cost of respawning or the difficulty of bosses — to their liking. After that, the run begins, and players can tackle Double Dragon Gaiden’s four main stages in whatever order they want. These levels play out in typical beat ’em up fashion, as you bring the hurt to the waves of enemies you come across with various combo and special attacks.

Like the best Double Dragon games, Gaiden’s combat is simple but satisfying, rewarding smart special ability usage by giving players healing items if they kill three or more enemies simultaneously. All four characters feel distinct from each other; my favorite ended up being Marian, as her long-distance gun and rocket launcher attacks allowed me to deal tons of damage from a distance to preserve health, which is vital in a roguelite.

Jimmy and Billy fight enemies in Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons
Modus Gmaes

While most of that is to be expected in a beat ’em up, Double Dragon Gaiden starts to differentiate itself in how it’s structured as a roguelike. Beat ’em up games are typically concise and encourage multiple replays, so it’s a genre that seems like it would mesh well with roguelike elements. My time with Double Dragon Gaiden so far indicates this is the case.

Every time you beat a boss, the remaining stages get harder by adding more sub-levels within the stage. The boss fight differs if you fight them after three sub-levels instead of one. I could see how this makes the experience feel fresh on repeated runs, as I’ll see new parts of certain levels depending on the order I choose to tackle them. This, along with the in-run power boosts players can choose between after each sub-level and stage completion, gives Double Dragon Gaiden welcome variety, which is something roguelites sometimes miss.

That’s not to say the game entirely abandons its roots. Some enemies and locales might be familiar to longtime Double Dragon fans, and it’s a reasonably easy-to-pick-up beat ’em-up. Still, it takes those elements and recontextualizes how players look at them. Because of that, it doesn’t feel like yet another retro retread but an interesting new interpretation of a storied formula. That’s ultimately what we need to see more when it comes to franchises that seem stuck in their ways.

Billy and Jimmy fight enemies on a train in Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons
Modus Games

When it might seem like a good idea to tap into fans’ nostalgia and play the series’ greatest hits over and over again, game series are at their best when they are constantly reinventing themselves; look at the reception to games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which went above and beyond as a sequel to an already fantastic game. Even after 90 minutes of playing, I already appreciate Secret Base’s efforts to make something that feels like Double Dragon but still pushes the series forward.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons launches for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch on July 27.

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
How to get every ending in Lies of P
Pinocchio in Lies of P.

It's no lie that Lies of P is one of the toughest games in the Soulslike genre. Every other puppet and creature in and around the city of Krat will want a piece of this version of Pinocchio, but something inside him is different. The ability to lie is one of the key gameplay and narrative mechanics of the game, and it presents you with many choices throughout the adventure. These aren't just placed there for flavor or as throwaway moments, as they can actually impact the story. Lies of P has three possible endings to get, but unless you're actively going for one, you will be hard-pressed to get them all. Aside from showing different events, some endings offer you some exclusive items that could make your next playthrough a bit easier. We'll guide your conscience to get all the endings in Lies of P.

Note: Spoilers ahead for the endings of Lies of P.
Real Boy: They Lived Happily Ever After ending

Read more
This Alienware gaming PC with an RTX 4090 is $500 off today
Alienware Aurora R15 placed at an angle on a table.

If you're planning to invest in gaming PC deals, you should expect to shell out a significant amount of cash if you want a powerful machine. You have the chance at enjoying huge savings along the way though, through offers like Dell's discount for the Alienware Aurora R15. Instead of the gaming desktop's sticker price of $3,700, you'll only have to pay $3,200 -- it's still not what you'd call affordable, but the $500 in savings will go a long way towards building your setup as you can spend it on monitor deals and video games. You need to push through with the purchase today though, as we're not sure if the offer will still be around tomorrow.

Why you should buy the Alienware Aurora R15 gaming desktop
The Alienware Aurora R15 looks out of this world, but that's not the only reason why the machine is in our list of the best gaming PCs. Inside the stylish exterior are the 13th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card, and 32GB of RAM. With these specifications, not only can you play the best PC games at their highest settings, but you'll also be prepared for all of the best upcoming PC games. When the time comes that you need faster components, the tool-less design of the Alienware Aurora R15 will make it easy to upgrade its RAM and GPU.

Read more
This Alienware gaming laptop deal cuts $450 off the price
The Alienware m16 gaming laptop with Baldur's Gate 3 on the screen.

The gaming laptop deals that are worth buying don't come cheap, but you'll at least enjoy some savings with your purchase. Here's one that gamers wouldn't want to miss -- the Alienware m16 for $1,500 from Dell, following a $450 discount on its sticker price of $1,950. We're not sure how much time is left before the offer gets taken down, so if you're interested in this powerful machine, you shouldn't hesitate. You need to complete the transaction today because if you delay to tomorrow, it may already be too late.

Why you should buy the Alienware m16 gaming laptop
If you want a gaming laptop that can play even the most demanding titles among the best PC games, you should be looking at the Alienware m16. With a configuration that includes the 13th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card, and 16GB of RAM, it's also prepared to run the best upcoming PC games. All that power will be displayed properly on the Alienware m16's 16-inch screen with QHD+ resolution and a 165Hz refresh rate, so you'll be able to appreciate the graphics of modern video games.

Read more