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Review

Double Dragon: Neon Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: September 12, 2012
  • X360

Double Dragon Neon revitalizes the classic franchise, but a few missteps derail the silly fun.

What would a magical skeleton want with an ordinary woman? The answer isn't important (and is most likely pretty gross), but the rescue mission that follows this kidnapping sure is fun. Double Dragon Neon is a smart update to the arcade classic from decades ago. By melding the iconic characters and traditional beat-'em-up structure from the original Double Dragon with an overhauled combat system that rewards precise defensive counters and clever skill manipulation, Neon is much more than a merry trip down nostalgia lane. Billy and Jimmy Lee do occasionally stumble on their way to vanquishing Skullmageddon, but Double Dragon Neon overcomes that clumsiness with style.

The opening scene sends shivers down your spine. The sultry Marian walks alone down a dark alley, only to be greeted by a gang of lowly street toughs. With one punch to the stomach, she passes out in pain, and the trio of miscreants march away with their prize slung over one shoulder. A garage door opens, and out walk Billy and Jimmy Lee, searching for vengeance. For anyone who has played the original Double Dragon, this situation should be familiar, and the remixed music ties into the 1980s hit. By the time you square off against whip-wielding Linda and the abnormally large Abobo a few minutes into your adventure, you might think that you have a good idea of how this game is going to play out.

But you'd be wrong. Although Neon makes many references to the original game, it doesn't take long for it to forge its own path. It's a side-scrolling beat-'em-up, so the basic left-to-right kickathon is kept intact, but the combat has layers of depth that make it exciting for anyone itching for a challenge. Your basic moves are punches and kicks, and you dole out flashy combos by alternating between these standard techniques. Once you pound enemies in the head a few times, they become stunned, and their vulnerability is your gain. Toss them into a group of enemies or into a bottomless pit if you wish, or you can deliver a crushing uppercut that suspends them in midair long enough for you to juggle them like a hacky sack.

Don't leave me hanging, bro!

Making smart use of these core mechanics leads to satisfying encounters. A half dozen or more enemies often flood the screen, and you need to attack with precision if you're going to keep the crowd at bay. Mashing buttons delivers jaw-breaking attacks, but you won't get far if you ignore your defensive maneuvers. The Lee brothers have a handy duck technique that becomes the foundation for your success as the difficulty ramps up. By hitting the ground right as an enemy attacks, you avoid damage and you gain a gleam bonus. This makes you twice as strong for a few seconds. Mastering the gleam makes even the toughest bosses pushovers, but it takes practice to get the timing down. Sadly, finicky collision detection sometimes means you get hit even if you moved well in advance. Also, you earn the gleam bonus only by ducking. If you roll or jump out of the way, you still avoid pain, but there's less incentive without the temporary strength boost.

The avoid-and-attack rhythm of combat is strengthened by perks you unlock as you play. Called songs, these add passive and special abilities to your repertoire. If you're dying too quickly, you may want to imbue your character with more health, or you could add damage bonuses when you land successive attacks. Super attacks are just as specialized. A screen-clearing, flaming dragon deals out a ton of damage but drains your magic bar, whereas the one-inch punch doesn't deplete as much health, but you can pull it off more often.

As rewarding as it is to mix and match the perfect abilities for your style, the leveling-up aspect drags the adventure down. Extra songs can be purchased at stores or collected from defeated enemies, and the more you have, the more potent the ability. But unlocking the full potential of these buffs demands tedious grinding. You need to kill bosses to earn the precious currency needed to raise the limit of how many songs you can carry, so you have to repeatedly play through levels to make your character strong enough to survive. This isn't a huge problem in the default difficulty because ducking at the right time and then laying the smack down is enough to defeat anyone, but things become significantly more challenging on the harder difficulty settings. When only one or two hits can take you down, you need your abilities maxed out, and that takes hours of tedious busywork.

Bimmy and Jimmy never looked better.

If you want to conquer Neon, you need to spend a lot of time punching fools, but just having fun doesn't take any investment. The over-the-top atmosphere not only taps into your happy memories, but introduces a layer of ridiculousness that wasn't present in the original game. Billy and Jimmy Lee are unabashedly bro, and they wear that distinction with style. They dole out manly high fives, shout outdated catchphrases like they mean them ("Tubular!"), and wear skin-tight T-shirts that accentuate their PED-defined abs. When Jimmy smacks a goon with a baseball bat, he shouts "Touchdown!" without the slightest hint of irony. Neon is consistently funny and doesn't shy away from crazy situations. From a helicopter that hovers upside down, to the weaker enemies referred to as "cartwheeling cannon fodder," Neon is happy to make fun of itself.

Double Dragon Neon is a good update to the arcade classic precisely because it's not handcuffed to what the original started. By shifting the tone from serious to crazy and making the combat system rewarding for the most dedicated players, this is a beat-'em-up that fits alongside modern games. The downsides are noticeable. Grinding turns even the brightest games dull, and local-only co-op means you have to invite your friends to your house rather than partake in online shenanigans. But for the few hours it takes to reach the end, Neon is a satisfying brawler that's as deep as it is humorous. Double Dragon Neon doesn't quite live up to its prestigious heritage, but it's a well-made game nonetheless.

The Good
Goofy atmosphere with amusing jokes
Defensive mechanics reward skilled players
Passive and special abilities allow for smart customization
The Bad
Tedious grinding in harder difficulties
No online co-op
7
Good
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Discussion

0 comments
adityafunda
adityafunda

is AI co-op available? as no online coop is there, I don't have anyone to play with :(

FreedomPrime
FreedomPrime

by far the most fun Ive had with a beat em up in a long time. I love the 80's theme and the 80's jokes. this game is a blast. it can be repetitive but then again so was the original. at least this game has a sense of humor to keep you entertained. all in all id recommend this game to anyone. oh and how can I forget about the awesome music!

Alucard_Prime
Alucard_Prime

Great review, makes much more sense than the IGN one. 

alenth
alenth

This game is fun, i didn't like the first double dragon (i liked DD2: the revenge more :D) but i think it is a good choice, i like the combat system because it rewards skill imo, also the game is really funny (the final song lol), the people complaining about the difficulty of the game is clear that they never played the original games, and who cares about online? just play like the old way: with your friends. 

Bubble_Man
Bubble_Man

This review is spot-on. Great job, Tom. For those talking about online play, it should be mentioned that there is a patch coming that will enable online "bro-op."

SpardisJX
SpardisJX

After reading this review, I decided to give the game a try.  And I must say, I'm glad I only downloaded the trial and not the full version.  I'm going to set the technical issues aside and address a crime that is far graver than the rest.

 

I remember playing the original Double Dragon at the arcade in the mall back in the day, and it was one of more mature, adult-themed games of its time.  This reincarnation is an insult to the classic's legacy.  The cheesy, outdated humor coupled with the kid-friendly overtones is just too much for me.

 

At what point in the series did Billy and Jimmy Lee turn into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  It was their gritty, no nonsense personas that originally made their characters appealing and badass.   Not spouting off lame one-liners throughout the entire level and then breaking out an air guitar solo at the end...  *sigh*

 

I don't mind the RPG elements, I felt it added some more depth to the game.  But the ends don't justify the means in my opinion.  Give me back the old Billy and Jimmy Lee and I'll return to you the pair of douchebags that replaced them.

 

Ongpower
Ongpower

Yeah it sucks it doesn't have online because I moved away from my friends that game with me but yeah these peeps are right.  Invite some of your buddies and DOUBLE DRAGON IT UP!!!!!!

PereM03s
PereM03s

"No online, that sucks feet"... Grow up, get a social life and invite people over to play this game. Online cant match with that  

hugoodin
hugoodin

Call one of your friends to play just like old times and stop complaining about online co-op. This tipe of game is so much fun with people around you, not with some onlinem co-op.

Lionhartt1
Lionhartt1

playin the demo and its a must have for me. i grew playin the old school dd and this takes me back plus adds some new mechanics. im soured by the fact that theres no online coop but im still getting it. now streets of rage remake would b just as sweet. i say give it to capcom and let them take a crack at it

angubaranar123
angubaranar123

The game is awesome imho.It's the right mix between the original Double Dragon and the 21° century. I'm having a lot of fun with this game right now, I love retrogaming and this is retrogaming with updated graphics.Too bad you don't have an IWIN button that you are prompted to push to start an amazing instakill of various enemies or a silly fake stealth system, wich are so innovative! This game was clearly made as tribute to old school games and from that point of view it's a complete success.No online coop? Wow... the fun thing of this kind of games is to play them with a friend on your side and an arcade stick for each player (a cabinet would be the top). Me and my friend are only at level 10, but we REALLY REALLY hope that at the end of the game, if both characters are alive they have to kill each other just like in the first DD, in game+real life fight.

billwood661
billwood661

Hey, IGN. This is how you approach a classic genre with your game reviews. Someone over there may want to take notes.

Infinite_713
Infinite_713

No online co-op, in 2012?

Wow. I'm definitely not going to get this now. I'll just wait and hopefully Sony gives it out free with Playstation Plus

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

Did it to Double Dragon

*****n' your face, it's time to duke it

Billy and Jimmy Lee, bitch, fighting is useless

Bout to break out and smash to get my girl back.

**** it now it's time to taste this Sosetsuken!

With the lightnin' speed, you can't be ****in' with me.

I'll ****in' punch you in the face until my fist bleeds.

My bro Jimmy's got my back, he'll always be my ******.

He won't think twice about pullin' the trigger.

Cos New York's gone to s*** since the apocalypse hit.

Me and my brother are the only people here legit.

Damn bitch, take this fist I'm gonna steal your whip!

Grab your face and straight kick it like I'm tryin' to break it, c'mon!

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

Good touch with the cassette tape collectible.

torrne667
torrne667

I didnt see the trademark 'grabbing hold of the hair and kneeing them in the face over and over' move :( That to me is the double dragon i remember and love. Althought this looks very polished it also somehow looks a lot less violent and a bit too squeeky clean for me.

registeredpunk
registeredpunk

So this game is slightly worse than skyward sword. Yeah, gamespot logic..

ShinChuck
ShinChuck

Online co-op is coming!  Surprised GameSpot didn't mention this, but Wayforward has mentioned this several times.  It was in, and the only removed it to optimized it before patching it, in their words, "ASAP".

 

Doesn't excuse it's absence at launch, but still.

HiroArka
HiroArka

This game is so 80s, but its pretty awesome!

shinspikes
shinspikes

No online?  What a game breaker.

SolidTy
SolidTy

I got this game for "free" from PS+, It's pretty kewl. :P

tachsniper
tachsniper

i guess its a faithful reboot because i sucked at it in 1987 and i suck at it now

King9999
King9999

The music in this game is great.  I especially like the final level music.

Urizen5
Urizen5

How can you not have online co op? Seems as simple as waiting for an opponent in a fighting game. The better connection hosts. What a wasted potential, to just sit down and maybe do a pop in pop out co op like an arcade game.

Bubble_Man
Bubble_Man

 @Dragon-Power

  It is at first, but becomes absurdly easy as you level up. Just choose a stat-related skill like balance or training wheels and max out the number of tapes you can have for it. The shop in stage 2 sells the balance tapes.

FreedomPrime
FreedomPrime

 @SpardisJX don't you mean bimmy?? LOL the original games were not realistic nor were they gitty. this game is a great reincarnations and you clearly remember the old double dragon too fondly. go back today and you will see how ridiculous it was.

thepyrethatburn
thepyrethatburn

Are we talking about the same Lee brothers who eventually teamed up with the Battletoads?  Because, if we are, then I would argue the "gritty" aspect of Double Dragon died even before the Mov....well, that thing they put on film.

Infinite_713
Infinite_713

 @registeredpunk Well there's the door if you don't like these reviews. You actually compare score of different genre games? LOL WOW!

Zepthire95
Zepthire95

 @registeredpunk It's an XBL game that costs much less than Skyward Sword, I don't think its exactly comparable.

3v1LR0n1N
3v1LR0n1N

 @tachsniper dont give up! go for broke! round 1..........wait

 

but seriously dont give up ;) after a while you'll laugh at it :P

Dragon-Power
Dragon-Power

 @Bubble_Man

 

Thanks Bubble_Man. I finished the Game twos , I repeat the stages many times and upgrade my skills , Now it is really easy .

ToTs_00
ToTs_00

 @Gelugon_baat   He's probably saying that not because of the score IGN gave the game but just how badly written it was. You should go read it yourself just to see how bad it is.

ShinChuck
ShinChuck

 @Warlord_Irochi Unfortunately!  The great thing about the digital age of gaming is that devs can patch things up, little things that may have missed them or big things that they simply couldn't get done.  The bad side is that it gives them something of a pass, and I can't help but wonder if devs anymore are too lax with deadlines because "Eh, we can patch it later."

 

Still, looking forward to the online Bro-op... hopefully they get it done quick, it's definitely hurting their review scores.

Urizen5
Urizen5

 @Gelugon_baat i know, but i meant sit down, though shitting down might be just as fun??

sayoose
sayoose

 @Gelugon_baat  @ToTs_00

 Nope, it's just poorly written. These guys won't be working for the associated press any time soon

Double Dragon: Neon More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Double Dragon: Neon is WayForward's love letter to the decade that spawned the franchise.
    7.2
    Average User RatingOut of 114 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Double Dragon: Neon
    Developed by:
    WayForward
    Published by:
    Midnight City, Arc System Works, Majesco Games
    Genres:
    Action, Beat-'Em-Up
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes