Posted on September 18, 2012 AT 12:58pm
As gamers, there are times where some of us wish we could go back into the past and play a game that gives us a nostalgic feeling of playing video games as kids but without substituting from current gen graphics. It takes you back, helps bring back great memories, and fill you with nostalgia to an absolute apex. I am happy to report that Double Dragon Neon from WayForward does exactly that, and takes it to a whole new level.
If you aren’t familiar with Double Dragon, this is your typical side scrolling beat em’ up game that was extremely popular in the late 80′s and early 90′s. The original game released back in 1987 in arcades across the United States but was released a year later in 1988 for the NES. The game follows the story of Billy & Jimmy Lee as they fight to save their girlfriend (apparently the brothers share the same girl? Isn’t she lucky to have two boyfriends!) Marian who was kidnapped by a gang working in collaboration with the evil Skullmageddon. The brothers fight through multiple levels beating up whatever enemies come in their path to save Marian at all costs.
The first thing I noticed with Double Dragon Neon that I absolutely loved was the similarities to it’s predecessors. WayForward did a superb job with this. I found myself recognizing tunes from games past such as Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and the original Double Dragon as well. I’ll get into that a little more in a bit; but it doesn’t stop with the music. The levels are similar (see the image below), and the bosses are as well. For example, the first boss you encounter in the original Double Dragon is Abobo. That stands true as well in Double Dragon Neon. Another boss from Double Dragon II: The Revenge was a giant tank. A similar giant tank battle is in Double Dragon Neon as well. These are the types similarities that make your nostalgic senses go into complete overdrive and give you a complete feeling of satisfaction and happiness.
Another item in Double Dragon Neon that I absolutely loved was the soundtrack. As I have previously mentioned, from someone who has played these games in the past, you will immediately recognize the catchy remixed soundtracks from the series. It’s extremely well done. No complaints from the sound effects either. Every punch, kick, throw and baseball bat strike (which sounds like you actually got a base hit) sound superb. Another thing I liked is the characters have personalities to them. Enemies like Williams will do their cartwheel kicks to knock you down, and yell, “One, Two!” and “Batter Up!” when hitting you with the baseball bat. When exchanging blows to your face. Abobo will scream his name and holler as he attacks you as you would expect an over sized giant that is ready to rip your head off do. Linda will talk about teaching you a lesson with her whip and occasionally say, “Naughty, Naughty!” which seems to go along well with her weapon of choice. Regardless how cheesy these remarks from the enemies may or may not be, they’re a nice touch to the game and I thought it was a nice touch to the sound.
Gameplay in Double Dragon Neon is exactly what you would expect from a beat em’ up game – a button masher. However, this isn’t a bad thing because that is how Double Dragon has and always will be. A few extra elements were added including ducking, running, and special move which comes in handy when multiple enemies at once have you seized. Gameplay is generally smooth in the game but I did notice a couple hiccups while playing that I didn’t care for too much. When attempting run in the game, there is a slight pause while Billy (or Jimmy) gathers his energy before he takes off. Also when stopping, releasing the R2 button doesn’t slow him down as you’d expect. You seem to have to move the joystick or directional pad in the opposite direction. Not a big deal, but something that some users may find a little quarky. I also found another gameplay issue when fighting an enemy between a cliff. I initially jumped and missed the other platform and fell into the cliff. When I re-spawned, I continued to re-spawn recurrently over the cliff thus looping me into continuously falling until I was out of lives and my game was over. This only happened to me once but the fact that it did happen tended to frustrate me as you could imagine.
This game can also be somewhat difficult if you do not know how to upgrade your fighting style and abilities. While fighting enemies in combat as they are defeated, some will drop cassette tapes or songs that can be used to upgrade your character’s fighting style and special moves; which gives the game a somewhat small RPG element. I thought this was really neat because it gives you the option of how you want to play your game. Changing your style through these cassette tapes is all done within the select menu. The more you progress through the game and collect these tapes, the higher your skills and abilities will increase for that style. Enemies also drop cash which can be spent so you can use weapons or additional songs to aid in your style of gameplay.
Fighting enemies is pretty straight forward with a light attack/strong attack/special move combination. There aren’t any blocking elements in Double Dragon Neon; it’s all about the timing of your hits and combos. And if you have any trouble there are plenty of weapons to pick up along the way such as the iconic baseball bat, lead pipe, dynamite, knife, and much more.
One gameplay element that seemed to be missing in the game was online co-op. At the time of this review, there wasn’t any co-op available in the game. WayForward announced that they plan on releasing an online co-op mode but it was not ready yet. Understanding that these things do take time to develop, but I was still somewhat disappointed to not be able to engage in co-op mode right away. It should be released as a patch in the game very soon. Once it is released however I can assure you that it will be a great addition to the game. Double Dragon was one of the very first games outside of the arcade to initiate co-operative play in gameplay. So it’s only tradition that this gets patched in as soon as possible and when it does; it’s something that you’ll definitely want to tap into.
The graphics in Double Dragon Neon are very well done and the artwork works very well with the environments within the game. This game won’t be remembered for it’s graphics but it certainly isn’t a weakness in the game either. Everything looks great and flows very smoothly. I never noticed a single frame rate drop or lag while engaged in combat – although that would have given it the ultimate old school NES feel right? But overall, I think this is an solid graphical game which should yield no complaints.
SUMMARY: All in all, Double Dragon Neon is pretty much what I wanted and expected it to be; something I like to call a nostalgic ride. This game is for fans of the side scrolling beat em’ up games. If you aren’t a fan of those types of games, you are not going to like Double Dragon Neon – plain and simple. However, if you are looking for a game that gives you a trip down memory lane with a modern feel, this is certainly the game for you – don’t hesitate to pick it up and try it out. Double Dragon Neon is available on the PlayStation Store for $9.99 (Free for PlayStation Plus Members) and also for Xbox Live Arcade for 800 MS Points.
- THE GOOD: This game takes you down memory lane so many times that you will want to explode in nostalgic happiness.
- THE BAD: The game doesn’t have much replay value, and there are a few gameplay issues that some may find frustrating.
- THE UGLY: Although promised very soon in a future patch update, at the time of this review the lack of online co-op mode really removes how much more fun this game can be with a friend online.
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