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Review

Double Dragon: Neon Review

  • Game release: September 11, 2012
  • Reviewed: September 12, 2012
  • PS3

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

by

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.

Street toughs have nothing on a conjuring 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.

Fan vs man, only one will come out alive.

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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0 comments
JazzFromHell
JazzFromHell

I love Double Dragon but I can't believe it got a longer and better review than The Last of Us LOL.

mooseyspaz
mooseyspaz

I was a big fan of the original two Double Dragon games and I really think this is a great update of those games. It is heavily based on the elements from Double Dragon 2 (Tank, spikes, columns, pits, treadmill of death, etc) and updates them all to look great and gives you the sense that this was definitely what it would have looked like had the technology existed then. I think the game play is awesome. It requires skill but is intuitive and seamless, exactly the way this kind of arcade brawler should be. I'm almost through it on Dragon mode, and so far it hasn't been too hard. I haven't run into any of the grueling repetition mentioned in this review. I am wondering how much harder DD mode is though, as I have already maxed out the two mix tapes I have been using (Balanced and Spin Kick.) Worse case scenario is the hardest mode is actually difficult to beat, and takes time and maybe a little help from my friends. Either way, I hope they make a sequel or add some DLC. I could play this all day long!

ELEMENTZERO707
ELEMENTZERO707

This game is fun-tastic and crazy/funny :D

Reminds me a bit  of the scott pilgrim beat'em up in terms of style an such, so thats always a plus !

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

i really liked that they used Genzoman for the artwork

jgzalez2006
jgzalez2006

I thought the game would be like the Double Dragon in the arcade, a combination of buttons give an elbow or a simple foward forward will make a dragon throw a headbutt.

There is no comparisson between this one an the arcade version or the SNES, or the GBA versions, but one can compare this one (gameplay) to the one in the Nintendo. The nintendo version was a simple just like the DD NEON. I like the fact that we can select powers waht type of powers to play with or switch powers while playing. For me the Arcade versions were easier just because I can throw an elbow allday without losing any magic because the in the arcade version it wasn't required and there were no magic meter. I just hope that the people that reinvented the game come out with addons or updates to make the game play better. I already beat the game in DDragon mode and I can beat it all day.    

Uchiha_Sasuke1
Uchiha_Sasuke1

It looks like a downgraded version of the real double dragon game.  I hope this game is not a facebook version made application. I can really see the difference between the older and this new version of dd.

RonRec
RonRec

When did playing with friends in the same room become a bad thing??? Jesus...

Okami13
Okami13

i want this but won't get it until they patch in online co-op.  disappointing.  just like scott pilgrim

BloodMist
BloodMist

Uh, news flash McFly, local co-op has always been the way games like these are supposed to be played.That's not really a detriment.Not every freakin game released has to have online just because.Ugh, I gotta avoid GS reviews more.

wcleung9
wcleung9

Wayforward says they will add online-coop by patch.

SolidTy
SolidTy

I got this game for free from PS+, loved the couch co op with budz during a BBQ. Good ol' times. Not for the new kidz on the block tho.

NTM23
NTM23

I feel like everything in the game is intentional, so all the bad stuff, like voice acting, the lines said from the characters, those are all intentional. 

demonkingx5
demonkingx5

No online co-op WTf were they thinking its 2012 

NTM23
NTM23

Yeah, it's a well made game. I don't understand why some others say it's a bad game. Beat 'em ups aren't necessarily dead, they just have to be made well, just as any other game in any other genre. I wouldn't call it a great game, but I was playing it on co-op with my brother, and I don't believe he disliked it, it's not like him, but for me, it was one of the first times I've played a beat 'em up and still wanted to play after he was done with it for the time. It's not a great game, but still, it's not as bad as some people are making it out to believe. Also, the 80's style is goofy and great.

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

 @Gelugon_baat dang I didn't even realize it wasn't online co-op was really looking forward to playing online with my best friend. i kind of assumed it had online co-op...kind of standard now

Diogladius
Diogladius

 @RonRec  It's because these people are assholes and have no friends.

jonajacket
jonajacket

 @wcleung9 

I didn't realise Wayforward made this. I wish publishers would highlight devs. Wayforward have released a load of great 2D/pseudo 2D titles over the last 20 years. I'll be even happier to buy this now, thanks for the info :)

 

Ima_Grey
Ima_Grey

 @wcleung9 I am sure they will, but the problem with that, by the time they get the coop online, there probably will not be too many people still playing the game anymore.  

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

 @NTM23 I liked that about it actually. It obviously doesn't take itself seriously

RonRec
RonRec

 @Gelugon_baat Actually he said that, but I'm not against online gaming, it's just some recent releases just seem to not care about local multiplayer, and when they do, people complain. For example, I could never imagine a Tony Hawk game without the split screen, yet there is THPSHD, and no local multiplayer. It kinda looks like there's a campaign against playing with people side by side in the industry these days...

It's kinda sad =/

BloodMist
BloodMist

 @Gelugon_baatDo you know what the term "detriment" means?I wasn't referring to what the reviewer thinks about local co-op either way.Maybe you should work on that.

Double Dragon: Neon

  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
  • PC
Double Dragon: Neon is WayForward's love letter to the decade that spawned the franchise.
ESRB
Teen
All Platforms
Fantasy Violence, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes