Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons review

by on August 1, 2023
Release Date

July 27, 2023


Double Dragon is back, and this time it’s taking a stab at the roguelike genre, featuring the familiar beat-em-up trappings of old. It’s easy to get stuck into, and while it might not blow you away with its repetitive combat, it does try to offer a mix of fighters all with specific traits and abilities. Throw in the unlockable fighters and the tag mechanics, and Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is a fundamentally good fighter that has moments of fun and a decent amount of variety.

Set after a nuclear war has devastated New York City, rival gangs are vowing for dominance. Enough is enough, and young Billy and Jimmy Lee decide to go out and fight these punks in an effort to make the streets free from violence and corruption. It’s your generic story, but let’s be honest, we’re not playing for an Oscar-winning narrative. What Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons offers is a lot of fighting with some nicely designed environments.

You start off with four fighters to choose from. Billy and Jimmy are martial artists with fast fists, Marian has a gun and is great for ranged combat, and Matin is a big boy with brutish strength. You can unlock a range of characters to utilise later on, all with plenty of abilities that make the tag team elements enjoyable, as you can experiment with different combinations depending on the situation. In the earlier levels, you beat up enemies with ease, but more start to populate the screen, and new attacks present a threat.

There’s an element of strategy as you can switch between two characters at will. Maybe Billy is getting his ass handed to him and you’re low on life, so switching to Uncle Matin who’s been biding his time on the sidelines is a worthy option, especially as he’s a tank of a man. Maybe enemies need to be dispatched from a distance, so bringing in Marian is going to be a better option. Combos flow well, and when a character’s special is included, clearing the screen becomes a lot easier.

After every level, you can purchase buffs and abilities like an increase in SP attacks or extra lives, so deciding whether to spend or save in case future opportunities are more worthwhile becomes another thing to think about. This is when the roguelike elements start to show, and they’re not going to change things massively, but they do help in the tougher levels. Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons doesn’t feel vastly different for these inclusions, as combat for the most part follows the same familiar flow, but it’s frantic nature does keep you wanting to play more.

You can double jump and move pretty swiftly, and the window of enemy attacks is rather forgiving. When combat becomes overwhelming, it’s switching to your partner on the fly that helps improve the fighting. Combos can be extended when tagging, and hitting a special isn’t a rare occurrence, as the gauge fills often. You’re never starved for options, making the fighting – which is the core mechanic of Gaiden – its most exciting feature. It does start to get repetitive, even with the additional buffs, and some characters are more enjoyable to play as than others.

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is good for short bursts, and the pixel art style is nicely designed regardless of the level. The combat is fast and responsive, and combos are easy to initiate, but it does become more repetitive as you progress. There’s definitely a difficulty spike after a few levels, but you’re rarely left struggling as long as you’re utilising the tag mechanic, and the roguelike elements, if a little sparse, are a neat addition to help mix up the combat.


Fast and responsive combat
Nice mix of characters
Lovely pixel art


Repetitive combat
Some fighters are lacking in variety

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons is a fast and responsive fighter, with some roguelike mechanics that add some enjoyment.