Double Dragon is one of those classic game franchises that a generation grew up. Not just on the NES, but in arcades and whole slew of home computers as well, including the likes of Atari 520ST. With time other franchises came along and did things better than Double Dragon, namely Final Fight and Streets of Rage, not to forget all the belt-scrolling-action games Konami put out. There is a huge legacy for Double Dragon, which has been tapped on an occasion after the disaster that was the 1990’s. These range from extremely poor to absolutely incredible. In hindsight, Double Dragon Neon is a terrible game, only beaten by that Korean Double Dragon II title nobody ever played. The best game in the franchise, and one of the best games on GameBoy Advance no less, is Double Dragon Advance. That game didn’t just aim to push the game to its possible peaks without compromising much with what the series had already built up, but also expanded what the series could be. Every game that have upheld the Double Dragon name since then have been utter trash in comparison. Oh yes, this’ll be one of those more personal posts again.
So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that ArcSys was going to release Double Dragon IV early next year. What possibilities had opened up. ArcSys could do even better than what Million did in 2003.
Of course, if I had not just taken triangle pills to kill down my fever and chugged down a bottle or two, I would have remembered that ArcSys has been milking the Kunio-kun franchise as a retro dot graphics throwback for number of years now. Even the opening text announcing the 30th year anniversary looks lazy and thrown in there by a six years old.
These throwbakcs work once in a blue moon when there has been sufficient time between releases. Hell, people flocked New Super Mario Bros. because it was a new 2D Mario game decades and New Super Mario Bros. Wii outsold Super Mario Galaxy just by the fact Nintendo brought back the Koopalings. However, the main reason why these two titles succeeded was because consumers fucking love 2D Mario boatloads more than 3D Mario. The same happened with Mega Man 9 and 10. Mega Man 9 saw some success because it was the original Mega Man back in action in a title that was based on a survey… that the hardcore fans had filled out. No wonder the game played into perceived tropes the series has instead to the ones it actually has. Mega Man 10 didn’t just have worse design overall, but at that point these dot graphics games were dime in a dozen. Hell, most indie titles seem to go for faux-old school look or use Minecraft‘s voxels.
The Kunio-kun warm ups were fun little games, I can’t argue against that. Nevertheless they still feel disappointing in how they look and play, because the cutesy dot graphics don’t carry the impact the game should have. It’s playing on the nostalgia of the consumers while ignoring to advance the game franchise further. Even the silliness the new Kunio-kun titles had worked for their favour, because those games were inherently silly… after the first arcade title, at least. Nevertheless they had an air of seriousness about them and each new title in the franchise tried to push a little bit farther.
Double Dragon Advance is still a retro throwback on its own rights, utilising pretty much the same overall visual design, just upgraded to be more detailed and fluid than the original games, whatever system you want to pick Double Dragon from. Perhaps this has been deemed to sell less than using the same fucking sprites they made thirty years ago. Who am I to judge a business decision that’ll make a company more money? Well, everything really, as it’s my damn money I want to spend that hard-earned cash for something else than just another rehash of 8-bit sprites with a new overlay.
Even 2D Mario saw declining sales with New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U, partly because nobody owns a Wii U, but mostly because the New Super Mario Bros. had run its course. There was nothing new in the games and the production values were laughable compared to its 3D sisters. If the same care would have been put in the 2D games, given the same orchestral treatment and not the WAH WAH music, Nintendo wouldn’t bat an eye at a suggestion of a new 2D Mario game. At the surface, it would seem the same thing happened with the new Kunio-kun titles, except the nostalgic cashgrab element they had going on. As mentioned, Mega Man met the same faith.
I don’t expect anything major from Double Dragon IV and no way in Hell I’m willing to put money down on it. Personally, I’m sick and tired of 8-bit graphics on old franchises. I would have expected game developers to want increase the potential of their games with new hardware and find ways to breathe new life franchises of bygone years. All I’m getting now is sprites from thirty years ago with terrible remixes. Somebody tell ArcSys to hire Vertexguy to remix their music rather than using shitty synth.
Perhaps the current hardware and retroware worship has made developers lazy, and kids and nostalgia blinded forty years old still eat up these titles. Just gimme new entries in these old franchises that aim to be their own thing with the aim of pushing the envelope.