Game Review | Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is All Smoke, No Fire

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons, on the surface, appears to be a promising revival of the classic arcade beat-em up series, complete with modern twists. Developed by Secret Base, the game combines the beloved 2D side-scrolling action with roguelite elements, wrapped in appealing pixel art. However, while the concept sounds enticing, the execution doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

Launching on July 27 for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC, the game introduces players to brothers Jimmy and Bill Lee, each with distinct attributes that complement one another. The game’s unique structure lets players select the gang they wish to tackle at the start of each run, with increasing difficulty as they progress through a crime-ridden, Regan-era New York City. A cash economy system allows players to spend earned money on upgrades and second chances.

Despite these inventive tweaks to the classic formula, Double Dragon Gaiden struggles to make a cohesive impact. The shifting boss order adds temporary variety, but the upgrades between levels lack transformative impact, leading to combat that sometimes feels more about brute force than skill. While the satisfaction of using weapons against enemies is intact, the combat mechanics are occasionally finicky, and the overall experience lacks the polish seen in recent standout brawlers like Streets of Rage 4 and TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge.

The roguelite approach, while promising on paper, falls short of fully immersing players in the manner of titles like Hades. Double Dragon Gaiden’s occasional lack of precision and the floating feel of its combat hamper its potential. Despite the inclusion of additional characters unlocked through tokens earned in each run, the game fails to sustain long-term engagement.


Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons possesses the ingredients of a compelling revival, blending nostalgia with contemporary gameplay elements. However, the execution struggles to fully capitalize on its potential, leaving fans yearning for a more satisfying return to the franchise. While not without its charms, this attempt at modernizing the classic series falls short of its mark.

Despite the title’s missteps, there are aspects of Double Dragon Gaiden that show promise. The level designs, while uneven in quality, manage to catch the eye, and the game’s ability to reward players with health refills for well-executed combos adds a satisfying layer of strategy. The inclusion of various characters that can be unlocked using in-game tokens provides an incentive for continued play, even after completing the initial run.

However, the game’s overall impact is diluted by its occasional lack of commitment to its roguelite mechanics. The depth and engagement seen in other successful roguelites are missing here, leading to a gameplay experience that lacks the gripping longevity seen in genre leaders like Hades. The combat, though satisfying in moments, sometimes feels floaty and imprecise, detracting from the core enjoyment.

While Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons isn’t the renaissance that fans might have hoped for, it does offer a glimpse into what could have been a successful modern adaptation of the classic franchise. The inclusion of roguelite elements and a revamped progression structure show promise, but the game falls short in delivering a truly cohesive and captivating experience.

As the gaming industry continues to explore the potential of reviving classic titles with modern twists, Double Dragon Gaiden serves as a reminder that nostalgia alone isn’t enough to carry a game. Striking the right balance between retaining the essence of the original while integrating innovative gameplay mechanics is a challenging endeavor, and not always successfully achieved.

In conclusion, Double Dragon Gaiden’s attempt at blending nostalgia with roguelite elements and modernized gameplay mechanics offers a glimpse of potential, but ultimately falls short due to imprecise combat and a lack of depth. While it delivers some moments of enjoyment for fans of the beat-em-up genre, it doesn’t quite achieve the transformative revival that many were hoping for.

The gaming industry’s ongoing pursuit of reviving classic franchises should take note of Double Dragon Gaiden’s challenges and aim to strike a harmonious balance between honoring the past and embracing the future.

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