Who would have thought the scrolling beat-em-up would be getting a revival? With games like Fight'N'Rage, River City Girls and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge grabbing the genre by the throat and beating some modern twists into it.
Double Dragon Gaiden: Enter the Dragon pulls from one of the most recognised franchises in the genre (though not the oldest, which would be Kung Fu Master from 1984 - Billy and Jimmy Lee wouldn't start busting heads until '87) and adds a touch of the modern indie scene to bring it up to date. Developer Secret Base have added rogue-like elements to the game, with each run-through earning you cash with which you can upgrade your characters and their stats to make each new attempt at capturing the city's bosses a little easier.
Using some absolutely gorgeous pixel-art as a starting point, the game offers up 4 locations, each run by a different boss, as your playground for busting heads. With four initial fighters to choose from, you'll pick 2 (with one as a main, the second as a continuity character as the other falls) which include the brothers (your brawlers), the gun-toting Marian and the tank that is Uncle Matin. As you earn more rewards, you'll be able to unlock 8 more fighters, including the bosses, making for plenty of unique styles to mix and match as you tear your way through the lively game stages.
And here the game is clever. Each level has 3 main sections, but whichever gang you pick first will only show the first section before pitting you against the boss. For example, the Killers will have you square off against Machine Gun Willie in a standard room if you head there first, whereas if you save this lot for later, you'll fight across 3 stages and MG Kelly will be fighting you from a helicopter on the roof. Success with one gang will alert the others, who will recruit more members and expand their territory to make your job tougher. This allows for a genuine reason to play through again picking a different order for your fights, a much appreciated way to make the game seem larger and revealing new areas to you each time.
Combat is lots of fun, with simple controls granting you quick mastery of the characters, which is of course ideal for an arcade button masher like this. The cartoony style, breakable scenery, combo possibilities and general tone of the game are all very appealing, and as such it's a genuine pleasure to take control of a couple of pixel cuties and start pounding the gangs up and down the streets. There are a lot of enemies on screen at once, and there are times when you'll feel trapped into taking damage (guns especially) but overall I was never frustrated with the game, more at myself for not reading the room and acting appropriately.
Fair to say that Double Dragon Gaiden has been well-received. We're a little late on this one due to my holiday kicking in the day the code arrived, so most of my playing has been on the move. The gaming-on-the-go aspect really suits this title, as I kept firing it up for "just one more go" in a bid to unlock more content. Given how expensive characters are to unlock, this will take you a while.
There's enough that's unique to Double Dragon Gaiden to make it stand out from the other titles I've mentioned, all of which I've enjoyed for their own gameplay quirks, or even downright nostalgia and humour in the case of the Turtles. It's certainly a strong title in the genre, and one I can wholeheartedly recommend picking up.
Smooth, cute and fun to play, this is probably the strongest title with the legendary Double Dragon name to date.