Double Dragon Neon review (PSN)

Double Dragon Neon was developed by WarForward Technologies and published by Majesco. It was released September 11, 2012 in for $9.99. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.

By now, almost everyone knows of the infamous Double Dragon duo, twin brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee. For those who grew up with this series on the original 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System, the franchise is remembered as an elbow throwing good time. Who can forget the first time they saw Marian get punched in the gut or that moment when the massive Abobo came busting through a wall. Double Dragon Neon takes every measure to recapture these moments and feelings.

In this new rebirth of the series, WayForward Technologies pays homage the best way possible: blaten flattery. Taking everything you love about the original three games, wrapping it in a shiny new skin and injecting it with a huge shot of 80′s nostalgia. Adding in elements of RPG with the mixtape system, all new boss’s and as always a damsel in distress and we are ready to travel back in time.

Here’s what we liked:

Ode to the 80′s – This game screams old school, you can feel it in everything that you see and hear. The developers at WayForward have woven this into every little aspect, from the ‘power glove’ that points you forward to the original 8 bit sprites of Billy and Jimmy on the level select screen. As mentioned before, you can hear the sounds of the 80′s all around you. Each level has that ‘original’ Double Dragon feeling, but it’s the mix-tapes that really help make this 80′s vibe sink in, but more on that later.

True to the series - WayForward Technologies does not try to change what was good about the series. Instead they reinvented it, wiping off just enough of the dust to give it a slightly new shine, while still retaining that ‘classic’ touch. Double Dragon Neon constantly flashes you back to the original series, with enemies, moves and stage design–they even brought the shops back. Many of the bosses are completely new and still fit right in, like they should have always been there.

Combo system - This is a small, but important factor of the game. Having this (combo system) in place helps give Double Dragon Neon an almost fighter-esque attitude. Allowing you to mix and match punches, kicks, air-moves, throws and specials in almost any manner you see fit.

Mix-Tapes - ‘Later’ is finally here, so lets talk about those tapes. This is essentially the bread and butter of the game, adding depth and a bit of strategy. Each tape represents a ‘stance’ or ‘special’ that can be equipped. Eight of these mix-tapes give you a direct boost, depending on which one is equipped, it could be attack, defense or even magic. The other eight tapes gives you a specific special move such as a tornado kick, summoning a dragon or a healing touch that will heal anyone, including the enemy. With 16 mix-tapes in all and only being able to have two selected–one of each kind–you will have to combine and swap these abilities to whatever is best at each moment. Each tape also has its own unique track, sounding like it came right out of an 80′s disco, hence the tie in from before.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Difficulty settings - There are three settings: Normal, Dragon and Double Dragon, the absence of an easy mode is troubling. First off, normal is in no way simple, many gamers will have to use their first continue before the end of stage 1. In the 80′s when this series first launched, gamers expected an ‘arcade’ level of difficulty. As much as Wayforward is honoring this classic game, they seem to have forgotten that it isn’t the 80′s anymore and casual gamers make up just as much of the market as hardcore ones do. It shows when you’re by yourself, that the Double Dragon Neon difficulty was designed from the ground up with mutliplayer in mind, though with the lack of online, your options are pretty limited.

No online multiplayer - In a world filled with millions of people connected online in one way or another, it seems like couch co-op is often overlooked. A mistake made in the first Double Dragon console adventure, forcing you to rescue Marian all by yourself. WayForward Technologies has made a similar mistake this time around by only including local co-op. This does not ruin the game, but it definitely puts a damper on some of the excitement and fun that games allow this day and age.

Weighted controls - As much fun as this game can be, most of the issues lie in the poor mapping and response time of a few of the buttons. Certain moves, like the flying-knee or sweep-kick are routed to a simultaneous two-button press. This can become a problem as timing of the buttons is critical–pressing one slightly before or after the other, will result in you just standing there taking one right to the chin. Another stumbled step is run, requiring you to hold R2 for what feels like an eternity before you start charging across the screen. Making your ability to shoulder dash useless in a crowded fight.

Noticeable fillers - Needing to make sure you get enough bang for your buck is something all developers have to worry about. The meaningless chatter and go get’em speech in the helicopter as you fly into battle or the story that ‘woman’ tells about how her life used to be before the zombies, are all tactics used to make a story a little deeper and longer. Though this time around it is completely unnecessary–being forced to walk down empty paths or up/down exceptionally long ladders can get very annoying and truly breaks the flow of the game.

Double Dragon Neon is an amazing journey back to a simpler time in gaming. When decent one liners, quirky enemies and a bunch of fists were all you needed to have a good time. This new iteration will definitely not replace the originals, but then again, it was never really meant to. It will however, show you why they were great, why a generation of gamers holds them so close to their hearts. WayForward may have stumbled here and there along the way– but they never fall down. Staying true to its (Double Dragon) roots is one of the most redeeming qualities and is why this game feels right on so many levels.

Score: Try It!

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About John Drawdy

John is a father, gamer, a little bit of a weirdo and a lover of games. Normally he can be found in front of his laptop, typing away or playing a game (sometimes both). Writing is something that he has always loved to do and what better place to do that than in the world he loves: video games.