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Double Dragon Advance (PlayStation 4) artwork

Double Dragon Advance (PlayStation 4) review

"Dragon Extension"

When Double Dragon Advance came out at the end of 2003, it had been nearly nine years since the last new game in the series. Contextualizing the timeframe, Double Dragon pretty much crashed and burned during the mid-1990s, after a saturation of questionable releases flooded the market in succession; the "super hero" cartoon series, the awful fighting game based on the cartoon, and the live-action movie didn't help the franchise's image. After the original creators, Technos, released their own Double Dragon fighting game in 1995, the company shortly shut down a year later, and the series was pretty much considered dead at that point. To say that Advance's appearance on the Game Boy Advance was seen as a hopeful comeback would be quite the understatement.

You know what's crazier than the nine year gap? It took 20 years for this game to see release on another platform.

So what's special about this once-exclusive GBA title? Well... it's a remake of the original Double Dragon.

Once more, you gain control of Billy and Jimmy Lee in their neverending quest to rescue the kidnapped Marian from the fearless Shadow Warriors gang. Emerging from their garage within the city, the brothers roam the streets littered with the usual suspects to pummel, whether it's men in wifebeater shirts, whip-wielding women wearing tight spandex outfits, or the Hulked-out Kool-Aid Man impersonator Abobo who loves bursting through walls. As one of the two brothers, or both with a friend in co-op play, you'll use their martial arts skills to punch and kick your way to the gang's fortress. The original arcade title has a surprising array of moves to perform, such as a backwards elbow for sneak attacks, a jump kick, and even grapples, all of which have carried over to this version.

Note that the Volkswagen Beetle picture from the original GBA version has now been removed from this port.

Everything sounds about the same so far, however Advance isn't just a straightforward remake, instead acting as an amalgamation of several aspects of the series. The first two stages, the streets and the factory, play out the same, but things diverge towards the end of the second. Different enemies begin attacking, with one example being ferocious men in black suits, inspired by a character from Super Double Dragon. The stage then concludes with a boss encounter with Burnov, a masked boss originating from Double Dragon II.

But it's not just enemy additions, as becomes apparent the moment stage three begins. Instead of walking into a forest area, the brothers materialize within two new back-to-back stages, Chinatown and a battle atop a moving truck, both influenced by stages from Super Double Dragon. Later, you'll do combat inside a cavern and a somewhat remixed version of the fortress finale that uses vague elements, like the spike pit, from the NES version of Double Dragon II. You also have an even larger assortment of moves this time, ranging from a hyper uppercut and the ability to run, to using nunchaku and flail weapons; by now, it shouldn't come as a surprise that most of these come from Double Dragon II and Super, and even some from Renegade.

It's definitely refreshing for anyone thinking this to be just a visually-reconstructed remake. And depending on how you perceive the original, Advance makes improvements concerning the overall gameplay experience. The arcade version was pretty simplistic in that there could only be up to three enemies on screen before the game succumbs to slowdown, meaning that co-op play would be much slower. Advance not only doesn't have any slowdown, but includes more enemies on screen! There are many, many sections where you're forced to solo fight against five opponents simultaneously. The restructure certainly gives players a different experience, as you're now expected to play it more like Final Fight due to crowd controlling a larger group with your arsenal of moves.

Advance isn't without faults, as demonstrated by two of the new stages. Specifically, the truck and cavern stages can be a pain with their limited spacing amongst a horde of enemies. It's very easy to fall off the truck or into the water and lose a life. Another oversight is something that plagues most Double Dragon games, one where you can exploit a single strong attack ad nauseam. But in defense of Advance, it's trickier to do here due to the inclusion of more enemies, plus it's actually fun to perform and string various moves together. Though, of those two complaints, the stage deaths are the most egregious, especially considering you have limited lives and continues.

However, this port allows you to save progress anywhere, so if you're struggling, you can just bounce back to an earlier spot. Thankfully, and this one is a given, this port also allows you to play couch co-op with a buddy, something that was only possible with a GBA link cable for obvious reasons. If you didn't have friends with their own copies, there's an additional mode that allows you to switch between brothers. It's a weird mode because, when you control one brother, the other is lifeless and easily susceptible to abuse. It's still available here if you're feeling masochistic. Another distinct addition is the ability to do sessions with either the English or Japanese versions, with the latter being slightly tinkered with in terms of balance and other small changes.

If you're casually looking for a fun, brief beat'em up without having to track down a used GBA cartridge at an unreasonable cost, this new digital port is the ideal way to play it at a very sound price point. As for the actual quality of the game, Advance lives up to its name by being an extension of the original, providing upgrades concerning gameplay and upping the challenge. While there are odd bits and pieces as previously mentioned, the overall product is solid enough to view them as just nuisances. If you want an improved version of the arcade title that stays close to its aesthetics, without having to go for different interpretations like Neon or Gaiden, then Double Dragon Advance is the one to get.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (February 05, 2024)

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