GAME REVIEW: Double Dragon: Neon (2012): The classic makes a comeback.

Aw yeah. It's time to brawl.

One of the big daddies of the beat em up genre was resurrected back to life in a era where when this genre was getting no love. Only recently has this type of gameplay seen a resurgence in popularity. You'd be hard pressed to not find something within this genre these days. The amount of choice has been growing along with this well loved type of game and I love seeing this general trend.

Double Dragon was one of the huge arcade hits when it hit the scene in 1987. Technos Japan brought this game to the forefront and even though it's not the first of its kind, this is the one that most people will often remember from the arcades. Pretty soon people learned about the elbow smash move and that would be all you see. This makes sense as it's the best move in the game. That combined with two player co-operative play, large sprites and great audio created a memorable experience.

Punch your way through 10 levels of mean streets. Actually, you're only on the streets for a short amount of time. The locations vary quite a bit.

Decades passed and the beatemup is no longer the powerhouse that it once was. First-person shooters have essentially replaced this once dominant gameplay style these days. So what do you do to bring back a long lost arcade favorite? Attempt to evolve the gameplay and present it in a new light.

You don't always use your feet or fists. Batter up! Ouch.

WayForward Technologies took the license and had a ball with it. This is a parody of the game and the genre as a whole. You'll tell right at the start of the game as you exit the iconic garage door like the original game. This time your character says "Aw man, not this again!". Not to mention the original intro whereby your girlfriend is punched and taken by the gang.

Blending the old with the new in an inventive way is not easy. Thankfully here it works well.

Unleash your inner dragon. One of the more powerful special moves at your disposal throughout your playthrough.

The art style is very different from the pixel art normally found in the earlier games. The neon is present everywhere in a 1980's afterglow that permeates the entire game. The art has been a source of contention for many. You either love it or hate it. For me, it works.

The music is a standout part of the game. Typical 80s synth and rocking balads. These elements work well together with the mechanic of tapes that help upgrade your stats through your gameplay experience. Shops are found in certain open and secret spots that further allow you to upgrade your player abilities. Enemies also drop these tapes during the stage along with money which you can also use to buy better abilities.

High five to the sound design team. Rocking tunes are waiting for you in this game.

Fun note, Double Dragon 3 was one of the first games that allowed a pay-to-win mechanic in the arcades back in 1990. You'd actually put in quarters to buy abilities and lives. Who knew this trend would become the norm these days? I sure didn't.

Most of the original enemies are back here in a newly drawn style that works. Abobo, the huge lumbering strong man is always the one I remember and he doesn't disappoint. He's huge and intimidating just like the original.

Abobo gets a bat to the face and pays off in cassette tapes. One of the ways to power yourself up. He is one huge and deadly enemy you'll encounter.

The gameplay is tight yet very different from the original games. This threw me for a loop early on in the game as I was not expecting this at all. A heavy emphasis is now on Gleam, a mechanic where you dodge at the appropriate time which gives you a limited stronger attack for a small amount of time. The dodge window is tight so it will take some time to get used to when you should duck/dodge.

The game further adds a combo and juggle mechanic to keep the player interested. Local and online co-op is here too. This isn't Double Dragon on the NES with only single player haha.

Skullmageddon is up to no good again. You gotta love that name.
The neon lights are a required touch, it's in the title of the game afterall.

As for the story, you can tell WayForward are having fun here. Our main antagonist is Skullmageddon, a riff perhaps on Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Skeletor from the He-Man franchise. The voice actor does a cheesy but recognizible pun-riddled version of Skeletor that's a real treat to hear.

You'll eventually find out his motives in the end which are quite funny. Otherwise this is standard genre fair. Your girlfriend is kidnapped and that's all we need to know. Now go battle your way through the hordes of enemies until the end credits screen.

Fighting in silhouette is a nice artistic choice to vary up the presentation. I see Abobo there too, the huge lug.

The presentation is nicely done with quality, original drawn art on the menu with a kicking rendition of the Double Dragon theme song. We also get a overall progress map with some throwback pixel art of our protagonist making their way to the next area. Each point on the map also lets us know if a store in available in a level. Some of these are hidden so you'll need to do some hunting. The hidden ones often involve a platform that lowers to another level but most of them actually fall to your doom. Pay attention and you should be able to tell which one is the secret.

Fun is the name of the game here and there is plenty of it. Tropes of the genre are here aplenty. The hilarious misspelling of Bimmy and Jimmy from the third NES game makes a comeback here as mutated bosses that caught me offguard. This is just one of the many different fun things put in for those who have followed the series over the years.

This is an equal opportunity brawler. I love those leg warmers, it must be the 80's!

The difficulty curve is a strange one and is one of my gripes with this release. The game is 10 levels which are a relative breeze once you figure out the mechanics. The last two levels ramp up the difficulty to a large degree especially on level 9. This level starts you off on a platform where you can knock of enemies and they can knock you off. A lot of time was spent here often getting myself knocked off the platform and losing a life each time. Super frustrating considering the earlier part of the game.

As for the feel of the gameplay, initially I was put off. This does not play like the standard games within the series. Slowly I became more accustomed and was able to get more into the game itself. The mechanics are deeper than the originals which is certainly a requirement these days. There is some replay value here to upgrade your stats but once you finish the game I don't think I'll be going back. The co-op would be the main reason for me, given this is an older title the matchmaking was barren as to be expected. Local co-op would be a blast especially with another person that has played through the many different games within the Double Dragon franchise.

You'll eventually make your way through all the stages. Those latter ones will put you to the test. Love these air guitar riffs the brothers show at the end of a stage. Party on!

Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me. The game scratched the nostalgia vibes while at the same time bringing something new to the table for those who have been playing since the series dubut. The difficulty in certain parts may throw off players as that's a complaint I'm often seeing. You can do it as they say. Skullmageddon and his gang can't get away with their kidnapping, you're the only hope!

Thanks for the read 🙂

All media courtesy of Steam. Thank you very much.

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