Double Dragon: Neon ReviewSeptember 13, 2012
If you couldn’t tell from the title, Double Dragon: Neon sticks pretty firmly to its 80s roots. The gameplay is updated with more complexity, but retains the classic, simplistic beat-em up feel. The soundtrack is full of upbeat keyboards and synths. All the characters dress and talk like it’s 1987. And the main villain is a Skeletor-esque villain named Skullmageddon. Just reading those last few sentences, you can tell that this game is either going to be incredibly awesome or a gigantic failure. Luckily, Double Dragon: Neon hits most of the right notes.
Credit goes in large part to recruiting developer WayForward for Double Dragon: Neon. They have a lot of experience updating classic titles, while retaining the vital components that made us fall in love with these titles so many years ago. Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob, and BloodRayne: Betrayal are all notches on WayForward’s belt. Within minutes of playing you can tell that Double Dragon: Neon is in capable hands. It has the familiar, yet updated soundtrack – something that the Turtles In Time remake noticeably lacked. The graphics are a sharp mix of 2D and 3D characters. The game starts off with Marian getting punched in the gut and hauled off by a group of thugs, and soon you’re fighting familiar faces like the whip-wielding dominatrix Linda and the roided-out Abobo. Brothers Billy and Jimmy must fight through a legion of enemies to win back the girl.
The first stage seems very familiar, and you get the feeling this will be a pretty straightforward update to the original. But soon you’ll make your way into Skullmageddon’s trap lair, which will launch into space (really), and the game gets decidedly more insane from there.
Double Dragon: Neon’s gameplay has evolved a bit, but is still grounded in the faithfulness to its predecessor. Notable updates include the ability to dodge/ roll away from attacks, which when triggered at the proper moment, will give you a Gleam! temporary damage upgrade. The brothers can High-Five each other in different ways for varying power-ups, such as Gleam! and Life-Split. One of the biggest changes is the involvement of cassette tapes, which when collected offer stat upgrades and power-up moves, such as thunder casting, bomb-throwing, fireball-shooting, life absorb, etc. It helps flesh out the game a bit more, and also gives DD: N more of a grind feel, similar to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. If the game feels too difficult for you the first time around (it probably will if you weren’t raised on old-school NES games), you will be able to earn points and cassettes and purchase extra lives, upgraded stats etc. The game definitely does throw a solid challenge your way, especially in the later levels. The fact that losing all your lives means continuing from the start of a level, and not right where you were, will likely be frustrating to some. That said, Double Dragon: Neon is nowhere near as difficult as BloodRayne: Betrayal was.
Playing with a buddy is really the only way to go in Double Dragon: Neon. You can play with a buddy on the couch currently, but online co-op will be patched in soon. The extra lives of your partner are almost a necessity, and you can steal lives from your buddy when you die. Also, you’ll be surprised how often the High-Five will be employed to help you overcome a tough level. Some new things have been added, such as a lot of platforming which doesn’t mesh well with the old-school controls, and will probably cost players many lives. And sometimes, such as in the Tank battle, there is just way too much going on – missiles and enemies and knives coming from every direction. I understand it’s meant to be challenging, but these moments can be more frustrating than exhilarating.
Overall, Double Dragon: Neon is a great update to a classic game that I played a hell of a lot as a child. It retains everything that was fun about the original, while updating it a bit for the modern generation. The difficulty may be a turn-off for some, but those seeking an old-school challenge will love it. And as long as you’re willing to grind a bit, even the worst players will be able to complete the game.
[easyreview title=”Double Dragon: Neon – Final Score” cat1title=”Verdict” cat1detail=”With Double Dragon: Neon, WayForward has lovingly crafted yet another update to a childhood classic. They’re the anti-Michael Bay!” cat1rating=”4.5″ summary=”4.5 out of 5 – Great”]