Nostalgia can be a powerful thing, and video games are hardly exempt. Remasters and remakes are everywhere in this current age of games and while Double Dragon IV is neither of those things, the spirit of it is firmly placed in the vein of "Hey remember this thing from your childhood?” In some cases these sorts of callback can be very successful and there's ample evidence of long dormant franchises that can recapture that old glory and even improve on a decades old concept. Unfortunately, Double Dragon IV is not one of those games. It's adherence to the NES games hold it back from being an exciting return for Jimmy and Billy and left me wondering if side scrolling beat'em ups have a relevant place in 2017.
Double Dragon IV has three different modes. Story, 2 Player Duel and an unlockable Tower mode. The first two should be pretty self explanatory. The Story mode has 12 missions and can of course be played in co-op. There is no online option though so it's couch co-op or nothing. It feels like a strange omission considering the market this game seems to be targeting. Even played solo though the story is exceedingly short. It can easily be wrapped an about an hour or so. Given its brevity it's worth noting that I still found myself having varying feelings or boredom and frustration before the end. It's frustrating elements don't really come from the game being difficult so much as the way I usually did get killed felt pretty lame. There's nothing worse than taking a ton of damage because you get caught in a knockdown loop and have to rely on either a respawn or for enemies to just dumbly wait around for you to use a recovery attack. This isn't much of a problem when there's just a couple enemies but once you get surrounded, which is more likely to happen if you're not playing co-op there were some encounters where I couldn't get any kind of rhythm going and had to rely solely on a recovery attack just to be immediately knocked down again by the enemies I couldn't manage to hit with it. There's no real penalty for dying as you get three lives per credit and 5 credits before a game over. Game over will reset your high score but you can restart any mission you've finished up to that point from the main menu by tapping the Options button on the DS4 while "Story" is highlighted.
The new mode is this package is called Tower and it's almost rogue-like in design. Finishing floors will unlock new characters which you can then use in all game modes and by using tougher characters you'll be able to progress further into the tower. It's a neat addition and maybe the strongest part of the game given it lets the player choose to play as enemy characters and turn their moves against them. The frustrations I had with combat in the story persist here but are at least alleviated somewhat by having more options available to choose from.
Some things are best left in the past and the beat'em up formula that Double Dragon IV leans too heavily on with this release is one of them. I like the updated music and you can switch to the classic sound if you want to compare the difference but the other aspects of its presentation are simply lacking. There's frequent screen tearing around the backgrounds giving the whole thing a rather shaky look when the environment scrolls. Everything about it from the the two button controls and it's NES inspired art style are trying to scream "This is the Double Dragon you remember" when in fact it doesn't address the fact that the Double Dragon you remember hasn't aged well and is perhaps better left in your memories.