Published on September 14th, 2012 | by octaneblue4
Review: Double Dragon Neon
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
System(s): PlayStation Network, Xbox LIVE Arcade
Release Date: September 11, 2012 (PSN), September 12, 2012 (XBLA)
The 80’s were an interesting time. Mullets, cheesy metal, denim, and cassette tapes were just some elements of that era. Developer WayForward Technologies brings in all of those and more in Double Dragon Neon, an HD reboot of the 80’s classic beat-’em-up Double Dragon. Is this a failed attempt at reviving the franchise, or is Double Dragon Neon a radical trip that’s worth taking?
The story begins just like the first Double Dragon game; Marion, Billy Lee’s girlfriend, is beaten and abducted by a gang. It’s up to Billy, and his brother Jimmy, if you’re playing the two-player mode, to save her. And while the story starts out the same way, the rest of the game takes quite a dramatic turn.
The core gameplay of Double Dragon Neon is similar to its predecessors. You’ll go through the stages, beat up punks along the way, and move on. But there are definitely some new additions to that formula. In the original games on the NES, you only had two buttons to use: one to punch, one to kick, and both simultaneously to jump. Here, you have more buttons to use and more actions to perform, such as grabbing, special attacks, and running. The running in this game may take a bit to get used to. Instead of double tapping forward, you’ll hit a button to run. And your character doesn’t immediately run, they take a step back and then sprint. If you’re trying to do a running attack, you’ll have to time it a bit differently because of that little pause.
Scattered throughout the stages are weapons that the Lee brothers can use. These are really helpful in taking down some of the more troublesome enemies. These weapons include baseball bats, swords, whips, and so on, but the game also features some rather unconventional ones, including, of all things, an afro pick. The enemies in the game have interesting AI. If there’s a stray weapon on the ground, they will pick it up and use it against you. But some of the enemies aren’t so bright; some accidentally walk right off the stage, which is actually a pretty funny sight to see.
Special moves can be executed once the appropriate meter is filled, which leads to the game’s mixtape feature. As you defeat enemies, some of them drop mixtapes, and these fall into one of two categories: Sosetsitsu and Stances. Sosetsitsu tapes are your special moves. There are 12 different ones to unlock, and they are completely different from one another. These moves include an invincible spinning kick, a diving knee attack, a bomb, and a giant fire dragon summon. Stances alter your stats in a specific way. For example, if you want higher attack but lower defense, you can equip the appropriate tape. Or if you want a higher special attack meter, there’s a tape for that too. Once they’re collected, you can equip one Sosetsitsu tape and one Stance tape, and you can change them on the fly. In addition to finding them from some enemies, you can buy more mixtapes in the game’s shop; you can carry 10 of each and reaching that amount powers up that ability. A Tapesmith that’s located in specific levels can upgrade the maximum amount of each tape you can carry, all the way up to 50. To do this, you’ll have to use rare ores that are only found after defeating the bosses of the game.
Each of the ten levels features a boss fight. These can be pretty chaotic, but most of them are pretty fun. Some of the later bosses get quite frustrating, as they are much, much stronger and faster than you, and they get some pretty cheap hits in. Some of them will take quite a while to beat too. It’s worth noting that for the final stage of the game, which is definitely the longest one, you’ll want to find and collect as many lives in the level as you can. The level provides a good amount of them for you, but the final boss is extremely fast and strong, so you’ll need what you can get when it comes to facing him.
The graphics in the game aren’t exactly mind-blowing, but they do look quite nice. The animations are pretty solid, and the character models have an interesting, cartoon-like look to them. The environments look great too, especially the street levels, which give off a suitable 80’s vibe with (surprise!) lots of neon.
Jake “virt” Kaufman, a frequent WayForward collaborator, composed the Double Dragon Neon soundtrack, and it’s absolutely fantastic. The background music fits in perfectly with the 80’s theme of the game. Longtime fans of the series will recognize remixes of themes from Double Dragon and Double Dragon II: The Revenge in certain levels. A nice little musical touch are the themes for each of the Sosetsitsu mixtapes that you collect. When selected, they’ll play a short, specific jingle. Most of them are hilarious parodies of 80’s songs by various artists, including Rick Astley, Marvin Gaye, Run DMC, and Devo. Even if it’s a minor part of the game, it’s definitely appreciated. There’s some purposely bad voice acting scattered about the game in some parts, adding to that 80’s cheese.
Double Dragon Neon features a co-op (or “Bro-Op”, as it’s known in the game) mode in which Billy teams up with his twin brother Jimmy. Unfortunately, as of this review, this mode is offline-only. WayForward announced that a patch for online co-op will be implemented at a later date, at no extra cost. The gameplay is good enough to provide entertainment even in a single-player setting, but co-op is definitely where it’s at. The game lasts about 2 hours or so your first time through. When you beat it, you’ll unlock concept art and a harder difficulty, but there aren’t any major unlockables to obtain. The replay value is a bit lacking here, but the online co-op patch should definitely make up for it once it’s released.
WayForward Technologies did an excellent job with Double Dragon Neon. It has several elements from the original games, but the foundation has been greatly expanded upon. While the game is rather short and lacks replay value, the great gameplay really makes up for it. The soundtrack is fantastic, and there’s plenty of great humor here too; there’s even a “Bimmy” reference in the game! Double Dragon Neon is highly recommended to fans of the franchise and the beat-’em-up genre. Rock on!
+ Awesome soundtrack
+ Easy-to-learn gameplay
+ Nice presentation
– Short length
– No online co-op (as of this review)
– Cheap bosses
Final score: 4 out of 5