Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Double Dragon Neon: A Love Letter To 80s Gamers Everywhere

The Beat Em Up is a genre that has seen better days. There hasn't been a really good entrant into the genre in a long time, and no gamer worth his salt is going to spend $60 for a Beat Em Up. This means download services like Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network have become the home for Beat Em Ups on consoles as well as other genres. With that in mind, what does a beloved franchise like Double Dragon do when it is poised to make a return to the gaming world? You make it extremely colorful, undeniably influenced by the 80s, and add a general truck load of nostalgia. The result is Double Dragon Neon, which isn't perfect, but it's fun and that's he most important thing.

Double Dragon Neon is essentially a remake of the original game, with a few tweaks here and there. The game even starts with the iconic exhibition of objectionable activity the led to the Lee brothers' mission to rescue Billy's girlfriend, Marian from The Shadow Warrior gang. Players guide their respective Lee brother through a number of levels, from gritty downtown streets, to a fortress in orbit around earth, to a graveyard, to the Shadow Warrior hideout. The traditional Double Dragon gameplay has been tweaked, adding special moves and powerups to accompany the punches and kicks gamers have been throwing at enemies since the original title hit arcades in 1987. The special attacks range from Double Dragon staples like the Whirlwind Kick and Knee Drop to new techniques like fireballs, lightning strikes, and a dragon summon. They can all be leveled up via collecting mixtapes (another beautiful nod to the 80s), as can a series of attribute boosts.

The atmosphere in Double Dragon Neon feels like an overly exaggerated version of the 80s, as does the soundtrack. Jake Kaufman's reimagining of the music that drove every jumpkick attached to the Double Dragon series is a blissful throwback to the cheesy martial arts movies that were a staple of late night and Saturday afternoon tv back then (you can get the soundtrack here: http://virt.bandcamp.com/album/double-dragon-neon ). all in all, Double Dragon Neon proves to be a joy both visually and aurally.

My negatives are few because I'm honestly used to the difficulty games of this genre provide, even in the case of insanely cheap boss fights. I must warn those who didn't cut their teeth on "quarter thief" arcade games that would get your money strictly because they were brutal or home ports that were just as hard or harder, this one may send you running. There's also a mild issue with floatiness that initially turned me off when I played the demo, but after a few minutes, things settled down, and I thoroughly enjoyed this title. In all though, I'm not sure if this game is for everybody, though, as it is decidedly and unapologetically a product of the 80s.

Double Dragon Neon is at it's core a love letter to the 80s. It's politically incorrect, loud, a little stupid, and full of eye-bleeding color. It definitely won't appeal to everybody, but the folks at Wayforward made a Double Dragon game that feels as fun as the one from Technos Japan back in 1987. If you remember the differences in the NES and Master System versions of Double Dragon, and you know what you can do when you get your third heart, Double Dragon Neon may be right up your alley.

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