Review: Arcade Archives Double Dragon (PS4)


Title: Arcade Archives Double Dragon
Format: PlayStation Network Download (18.4 MB)
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: HAMSTER Corporation
Developer: Arc System Works
Original MSRP: $7.99
ESRB Rating: T
Arcade Archives Double Dragon is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Probably one of the very first games in the Brawler/Beat ’em Up genre that I’ve played, Double Dragon makes its way to the PS4 in its original arcade glory. Originally released in 1987, I remember playing this game at the Exhilarama arcade that was in the basement of the shopping mall, or at places like Pizza Hut, etc. I’d beg my parents for quarters to pump into the machine so I could try to get just a little further.

For those of you who have never played the original Double Dragon, much less in the arcade, it’s a straightforward co-op Beat ’em Up. It was one of the very first games that I’ve ever played that incorporated weapons that you’d steal from your enemies to use on them.

Arcade Archives DOUBLE DRAGON_20150604194735

Even today, I still recall the iconic opening cutscene where your girlfriend gets punched in the gut and hauled away by random thugs.

For the most part, the game is a two dimensional side-scroller in which you progress from left to right, making pauses at certain points to battle varying bands of thugs. There are mainly two types of enemies, regular and giant bad-asses, that normally attack you in pairs.

The normal enemies come in differing varieties, but are generally the same. Sometimes normal enemies will be carrying around weapons such as baseball bats, whips, dynamite, and throwing knives. If you hit one, they may drop their weapon, giving you a chance to pick it up and use it against them.

I never did manage to get to the alien Mr. T in the original arcade game.

I never did manage to get to the alien Mr. T in the original arcade game.

There is a slightly complicated set of moves that I couldn’t quite recall how to use. If you use the punch button, you’re able to throw a character over your shoulder by hitting the directional control opposite the way your character is facing. Also, at certain times, you can hit the directional button down then up while punching to do an uppercut. If you’re using the kick button to attack, and if the enemy doubles over, you can sometimes get them into a headlock and knee them in the face until they fall down. There is also a jump-kick that’s a bit tough to get the timing right, but it’s mostly effective on larger enemies.

Normal-sized enemies take four or five rounds of knockouts to die, but the larger ones take quite a pounding. Also, the special attacks, such as throws and headlocks, do not work on large enemies.

… using an arcade stick is the best way to play it …
While I won’t really critique this twenty-eight year old game, I will mainly focus on the PS4 port. The game is clearly a straight port of the arcade version directly onto PS4 with little to no visual enhancement. For the default controls, the punch, jump, and kick buttons are mapped to Square, Cross, and Circle respectively. The Triangle button is used to insert more “coins” to buy more credits (one credit gets you two extra lives in addition to your current life), and the Options button is used to continue if you run out of lives.

Like I indicated earlier, the arcade game was pretty brutal. It was a lot easier to play with two players, but I never managed to get to the end. This port allows you to pretty much have unlimited lives, and I was finally able to see the ending for the first time in my life (which was a pretty great experience).

I decided to try my Hori Real Arcade Pro 4 fighting stick with the game, and I think using an arcade stick is the best way to play it. Using the stick gives you the feel of playing the game as it was originally intended to be played.

In addition to the button mapping, the Options menu allows you to change the number of lives you get per credit, change the orientation of the screen, change the sound to make the bass deeper, etc. It also gives you the ability to change the difficulty level and how many points you need to gain extra lives.

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Overall, I think this game is a pretty good one to have if you don’t own it on any other system. I kept confusing the original for one of the sequels I had played on the NES or SNES, so I was a bit shocked to see that the game ended as soon as it did. I have a couple of memories of certain scenes that weren’t in this game, so I’m guessing they were from one of the sequels.

… the sprites will flicker once in a while …
It’s kind of hard to capture the same feeling as the original arcade machine, because these games were built to keep you pumping in quarters. With this version, all you need to do is hit the Triangle button to feed in a virtual coin and hit the Options button when you die. I think most of the fun here is to replay it several times and see how far you can get on one credit. It’s somehow missing a bit of the mystique it once had when I was younger, but I can’t hold that against this version.

The visuals look almost as good as I remember. With many of these games, my memory of them looks much better than the actual game does. I did notice that it would slow down quite a bit if you got too many characters on the screen at once. Also, the sprites will flicker once in a while if there’s too much action going on. I don’t recall this happening in the original arcade, but I cannot verify this for sure.

Arcade Archives DOUBLE DRAGON_20150603180852

I would have hoped that the emulation would compensate for the faster processor and make this play a bit smoother. According to Hamster’s website, they’re aiming for a faithful reproduction of a selection of retro arcade titles, but still taking advantage of some of the PS4’s features—like the Share functionality.

Another thing that I’d like to have, that wasn’t included with the game, is an enhanced version of the original (similar to Tales of Monkey Island, where you could switch back and forth to the original with the press of a button). I can’t really hold the lack of these features against the game, since the aim was to bring a faithful reproduction of the arcade to current-gen systems.

The audio sounds pretty good and, from what I can tell, faithfully retains the sounds of the arcade. I seem to recall the arcade game having a deeper bass, so I changed the sound setting to deeper bass, and pumped up my surround sound with great results. With the tweaked audio setting in surround sound, the game brings back the feel of the original arcade game.

I was pretty impressed with some of the sounds, how realistic they sounded for a game this old. For example, when you throw a big oil drum, it sounds like you’d imagine. It’s hard to believe that they could have sound effects like this back then. I did not notice that it uses any sort of surround sound, but the original arcade was sure to have only been in stereo, so it is as expected to be.

… a classic that holds many great memories for me …
For the most part, the game is single-player only, but online leaderboards were incorporated into the game. It does seem a bit self-defeating since many arcade games had a maximum high score, so it’s not like you can really do much better than the maximum.

I haven’t seen how or when the scores get uploaded, so it seems that the entire leaderboard is completely maxed out at this point. Another negative is that it does not seem like there is a way that you can sort by your friends list to compare your score with your friend’s score, so there isn’t even the added value of being able to score chase with people you know.

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I do feel that this port does most everything the developers aimed to do, which seems to be to bring the this classic game to PS4 utilizing the new features of the system while preserving the original game. The inability to use the online leaderboards to compare scores with friends seems like an oversight.

I think the people who will enjoy this game the most are those of you who played the original, and like me, were never able to get very far (or didn’t have the money to do so). For eight dollars, you can have fun with this for about an hour or so and maybe show it to your kids when they’re old enough. But for newer players, unless you’re into retro titles, I can’t see that this would have much value to you. It doesn’t quite capture the magic that it did back when arcades were popular and it’s rather short for a console game.

Without the nostalgia to go along with it, the game will seem like there’s not much to it. Even with that said, Double Dragon itself is a classic that holds many great memories for me. So if you haven’t played this one in a while, I would highly recommend picking it up.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Jason Honaker

Jason Honaker

A software developer for over 15 years, originally from St. Louis, MO and currently living in Seattle, WA. Started gaming in 1979 on the Atari 800 8-bit PC. I play all sorts of games, but am partial to RPGs and 3rd person brawlers and shooters.

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