Double Dragon: Neon review
Double Dragon was a pivotal video game franchise years ago, and it embodied all of the ‘80s flair that was so prominent at the time. Decades later, Double Dragon: Neon marks the return of the series, and the return of that same ‘80s style that was so cherished all those years ago. The game starts out the way any fan of the series would want it to: with Marian getting punched in the gut by some thugs and being kidnapped. It’s up to Billy and Jimmy Lee to traverse 10 stages across Earth and in space to rescue her from the clutches of Skullmageddon, a hilariously voiced interstellar skeleton.
The bulk of what you’ll be doing in Double Dragon: Neon is punching, kicking, and tossing dudes (and dudettes) around. The combat remains entertaining throughout due in part to the game’s upgrade system. Enemies frequently drop cassette tapes that can boost stats such as health, attack, and magic, or grant you special abilities like executing a super spin kick, tossing a fireball, or summoning a powerful dragon. As you progress, you continue to collect tapes and upgrade your skills further. You can even visit sporadically placed shops to up your stats and purchase more tapes.
The addition of shops in Double Dragon: Neon is a nice little detail that gives you something to do aside from just beating people up the entire time. That said, when you’re taking out Skullmageddon’s cronies, it’s incredibly satisfying. You’ll find a variety of weapons scattered around the levels and equipped by enemies. You're definitely going to want to use these tools to your advantage. I can't stress enough how rewarding it was hearing the crack of a baseball bat as I whacked an enemy in the gut with it, or watching as baddies flinched after I tossed a boomerang at them.
Another element that keeps the combat interesting is the large cast of bad guys and tough chicks that you’ll encounter on your quest to save Marian. While you’ve got your standard grunts, there are also plenty of ridiculous enemies that will require you to approach them with different battle strategies. Vanishing geisha girls, somersaulting karate dudes, and even undead villains impede your adventure. And while the end goal is always to beat the crap out of these fools, getting there often requires some slick dodging skills.
A lot of the enjoyment in the original Double Dragon games spawned from the inclusion of two-player co-op. Double Dragon: Neon offers that same feature, and while it’s still fun going it alone, teaming up with a partner is an absolute blast. There’s just something exciting about having a buddy watching your back and taking on Skullmaggedon’s minions together in order to save Marian, all the while performing rad double-team moves that are executed with a slick high five animation. Unfortunately at this time, the game is lacking online co-op, but at least there are definite plans to patch that component in at a later time.
Visually, Double Dragon: Neon is a throwback to the ‘80s, with characters sporting tacky clothing and weird hairstyles, all the while duking it out in locales that are rife with bright lights. Environments look great, and character models are just as spectacular. As pretty as Double Dragon: Neon may look, its best attribute is its sound. All of the game’s original music sounds like it was ripped right out of the ‘80s. The upgrade menu features love ballads, pop, punk rock, and old school rap, all infused with that great ‘80s sound. The levels themselves also sport some incredible tunes. The voice acting is great, too, with characters spouting out enjoyably cheesy one-liners. Of course, Skullmageddon takes home the award as the star of Double Dragon: Neon.
As much as I enjoyed Double Dragon: Neon, there are a few quirks that stand out. If you’re not a fan of beat ‘em ups, you won’t find much enjoyment here. Additionally, because you can get through the whole game in about three hours, there’s no denying that Double Dragon: Neon is a bit light on content. There’s also an old school level of difficulty in the game that will likely put off a few gamers, especially if they’re playing the game without a co-op partner. If you’re into the series, the genre, and the time period it ever so successfully emulates, however, you’ll definitely be able to look past these minor gripes.
Double Dragon: Neon is proof that the beat ‘em up genre is still alive and kicking (and punching and summoning flaming dragons). The game is also proof that developer WayForward has a special golden touch when it comes to reviving beloved franchises and making them relevant. To put it bluntly, this is a true revival of Double Dragon, something I never thought I’d see. The game successfully captures that distinct ‘80s style in everything that it does. If you love Double Dragon, enjoy the raw action of beat ‘em ups, and have an adoration for the vibrant energy of the ‘80s, don’t deny yourself the privilege of experiencing this awesome amalgamation of all those elements. To call this game a revival wouldn’t do it justice. Double Dragon: Neon is a resurrection.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]
For a bunch of indie game and burrito talk, follow @thesanchezdavid on Twitter.