Double Dragon Neon Review

September 18, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): WayForward
Publisher(s): MajescoEntertainment
Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network
Release Date: September 11, 2012

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer couch co-op to most online multiplayer gameplay options.  It’s an experience that you simply cannot replicate with a headset strapped to your head, and Double Dragon Neon is a perfect example of why the old school method still works so well.  This little throwback to the eighties was developed by WayForward, the talents that reintroduced us to franchise favorites like Blood Rayne: Betrayal, A Boy and His Blob, and Contra 4.  This is a remake of the classic 2-d brawler; a re-imagining of a time when games were punishingly hard and a high spot on the score charts was something worth bragging about.

The Good
- Fantastic 80’s art style
- It’s tough as nails
- Couch co-op
- Brilliant Soundtrack

The Bad
- Controls are still stuck in the past
- Extremely repetitive enemies
- Only 3-4 hours long

The story is as nonexistent as before, but honestly who cares.  This is a straightforward brawler at heart, and it’s the gameplay that matters.  Like the original Double Dragon, you’re moving in a very grid-like manner, meaning you have to line up with enemies to connect the punches and kicks.  I know this is intentional because the game is trying to pay homage to classic gameplay mechanics, but it should have been tweaked to provide more precision and responsiveness.  Nevertheless, if you’ve grown up playing the series, you already know what to expect, and as a traditional sidescroller, Double Dragon Neon shines.

The most striking change is the vibrant visuals.  The game looks like an 80’s music video with pink and baby blue colors exploding all over the stylish menus, and a cell-shaded style that’s reminiscent of my favorite childhood cartoons.  I’m a sucker for 80’s nostalgia and this game is as old school as mix tapes.  The character models look great, especially the ridiculous bosses, but like in the original, most enemies repeat over and over with different color variations that symbolize their difficulty.  What bugs me though is that Billy and Jimmy are treated the same way.  If you’re playing with a buddy and you have a ton of thugs coming at you while rockets are circling the screen, it’s easy to confuse your own character with your partner’s and get smacked in the face.  This is definitely an old school element that should have been updated.  Surprisingly, the environments are treated with great diversity.  From cityscapes to space stations, you’re constantly brawling through a new setting with beautifully rendered, 2-d backdrops.

But how does gameplay from twenty-five years ago measure up to today’s standards?  Well it depends on how awesome you are.  This is a game for the hardcore gamer.  Casual players will rip their hair out once they reach later levels, and for that, I applaud the developers.  The game preserves the integrity of the original by staying true to its hardcore nature.  Things that might frustrate some gamers are the things that make the title so charming and iconic.  The developers did a fantastic job of combining classic gameplay elements with new, updated features to keep things interesting.  As before, you can pick up objects like baseball bats and knives to deal extra damage, but the coolest addition is the ability to utilize mix tape magic.  By collecting songs you unlock special moves that you can execute with the RB button, and there’s even a Tapesmith that can level up and customize your mix tapes.  There are a ton of unlockable moves and they can be equipped on the fly by hitting the back button.

Double Dragon Neon is a two-player game; so if you’re planning on tackling this solo, forget about it. You will get ripped to shreds in the first few levels and you’ll miss out on the cool partner-specific abilities.  If you’re knocked out, your partner has seconds to resurrect you by tapping B and trying to go by yourself through some of the later stages is complete suicide.  You can also high five your buddy to boost the special move meter, which tends to run out rather quickly.  Considering that so many games these days have completely abandoned couch co-op, Double Dragon Neon is a great choice for anyone looking for a fun time with their buddy.  The developers have also promised that they’ll deliver online multiplayer support with a future patch, so that should appeal to an even broader crowd.

But even with all the cool moves, the amazing soundtrack, the incredible aesthetics, the game stumbles in some silly areas that could have been easily ironed out.  As mentioned earlier, the grid-like movement means you always need precise positioning to make your attacks count.  But for some reason, a lot of your opponents don’t have the same problem.  Their hits always connect, whether they’re perfectly aligned or not.  I feel that it’s an even greater issue now than it was in the original, especially when the screen is overflowing with enemies.  But where the game really loses points is in its length.  Sure, it’s only ten bucks, but you’ll be done with it in less than four hours.  Aside from the additional difficulty settings, there’s little reason to go back.

But let's be real here.  The game sets out to recreate the feeling of the classic mullet haired duo with updated visuals, a superb soundtrack, and a crazy difficulty; so as a remake of a classic, it succeeds beautifully.  The younger generation might not appreciate the now ancient gameplay mechanics and grueling difficulty, but those that are in the mood for a video game history lesson, or veterans that wish to reminisce the old days on their shiny new consoles, should pick this up as soon as possible.   

Final Score “As Classic as the Original” 8.5
A fantastic 80's aesthetic with gorgeously drawn backgrounds. Characters look superb, but unfortunately most enemies are clones with different color combinations, including our heroes.
It has the same challenging, addictive, couch co-op gameplay as the original. But it also carries the same problems, like the rigid, grid-like movement and imprecision.
It's just barely under four hours, which is a real bummer. But this is one of those games that you can always pickup with a buddy and play over and over to get the highest score and unlock all special moves.
A superb 80's soundtrack that deserves an award. This is definitely the game's strongest element. It's so good, it deserves its own album release.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator at night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Articles by Tin. 

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  1. Finally, couch co-op! Thank you, thank you!!!!!

  2. Awesome XBLA title, loved the I just need ten bucks. :)


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