A while back, I wrote an article about one of my favorite video games of all time, Double Dragon. It was one of my first articles ever, and I wrote it to celebrate the franchise’s 25th anniversary. Of course, I wasn’t the only person who recognized this milestone. WayForward Technologies, one of my favorite modern-day developers, released a download-only title to commemorate and resurrect the franchise, Double Dragon Neon. Unfortunately, I didn’t play Neon when it first released, so I pined for its badass embrace for two long years before I finally got a chance to play it.
Was the wait worth it? Does Neon do the Double Dragon legacy justice? There’s only one way to find out! It’s time for some Bro-op! Let’s win back our girl!
Game: Double Dragon Neon
Console: PSN, XBLA, Microsoft Windows
Developer: WayForward Technologies; Abstraction Games (PC)
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment; Midnight City
Release Year: 2012
As you can no doubt gather from the above trailer, Double Dragon Neon harkens back to a time when mullets weren’t just the subject of ridicule and overly bright pastel colors weren’t only okay for men to wear, but encouraged. That’s right; DDN is a sinewy love letter to the 80s! From its eye-scorching aesthetics to its embarrassingly liberal use of the age’s slang, DDN plays up the Reagan Era as if Mother Russia were back on the attack!
Its devotion to the 80s extends past its graphics and can be heard and seen in its corny quips and outrageous set pieces. The whole experience is reminiscent of Saturday Morning Cartoons, a staple for 80s and 90s kids, and seems nostalgic and new all at once, which is a pretty impressive feat. More impressive is the fact that the game is actually quite funny. There were many moments when I couldn’t help but crack up. For instance, there’s a part when Billy and Jimmy are in Outer Space and resolve that holding their breath will protect them. And it totally does!
Because – let’s face it – we were all dumb as hell in the 80s.
DDN‘s jocular approach is almost disrespectful to the Double Dragon name. The key word here being “almost.” I’d be pretty upset if it weren’t so damn funny! Needless to say, DDN is satirical by nature, as is apparent with the game’s over-the-top action.
That’s one way to attack with a helicopter…
And then there’s Skullmageddeon, the Skeletor-sounding antagonist that exhales hilarity with each and every fourth-wall-breaking line of dialogue he delivers.
Ironically, he’s been in my dreams ever since…
Skullmageddon is introduced in the second stage and heckles you via PA systems throughout the rest of the game, mocking the brothers and poking fun at video game tropes all the while. The stuff he says when you pause the game during the final battle is incredibly humorous (“When I’m about to swing my sword, just punch me and I’ll stop. There, I just saved you a trip to the internet.”), but it’s the sorrowful lament he croons during the ending credits that wins at Video Games.
*Sniff* Don’t stop dreamin’, big guy.
And the rest of the game’s music is just as good! DDN‘s soundtrack (which you can totally download for free, courtesy of the game’s composer and sound designer, Jack Kaufman) is balls awesome! Though, you’d already know that if you’d read my thoughts on the matter in The g1 Best Ever Soundtrack article I was a part of. To sum it up, the soundtrack complements the game’s tongue-in-cheek self-awareness while simultaneously sounding straight-up awesome! Some level tracks have vocals (and they’re cheesy and amazing, by the way), but it’s the remixed/rearranged tracks from the original game I love the most. My favorite is Kaufman’s Surf-Rock rendition of the “Palace Theme” from the original Double Dragon.
Anyone else suddenly feel like kicking ass with the Beach Boys?
Caricature of the 80s? Check. Successful at being funny? Check. Sweet tunes? Check. Looks like we have the makings of something truly badass here. We’re just missing one ingredient: Fighting! So does Double Dragon Neon have fighting in it? YOU BET YOUR SWEET AUNT MATILDA’S ASS IT DOES!
Don’t mess with Aunt Matilda. She has a Dragon Tattoo under that shawl.
DDN‘s combat is as you’d expect from a Beat-Em-Up: Simple. But don’t mistake simple as being bad. You can punch, kick, jump, and grab. There are also special moves you can equip, such as a hadouken-like projectile or summoning a screen-clearing dragon. Though you can only have one special move equipped at a time, it does add some variety.
Suck it, Falcor!
Where the game shines (pun totally intended) is with its dodge system. Dodging does just that: dodges. But, if done right, you get “The Gleam.”
Close. Think “Whiter.”
Duck right when an attack is thrown, and a red sheen will envelope your body.
Now who’s the baddest mofo low down around this town?
The Gleam temporarily doubles your attack power, adding a sweet risk/reward factor to every fight. Dodging and activating the Gleam provides much needed strategy to a potentially repetitive game, thus keeping it fresher longer. The plethora of weapons you get along the way helps in shaking up things as well. But the real fun comes with the boss fights.
The bosses aren’t too difficult, yet they’re challenging enough to warrant your undivided attention. If you’re not watching closely, you may miss your chance to get in and do some real damage. The Gleam becomes essential during boss fights, so you’ll need to figure out their patterns. My favorite boss is the plant monster that’s a cross between Audrey II from The Little Shop of Horrors, a T-Rex, and a shark.
Yup. It’s as glorious as it sounds. I’m a mean, green mother from outer space, and I’m bad!
Another intricacy that adds more flavor to battles are Stances. There are several Stances, and each gives specific stat boosts and/or passive abilities, e.g. increase your defense or let you absorb life with each attack you land. Stances can enhance your play style, and they can be leveled up by collecting cassette tapes (the music format before CDs, kids). Furthermore, you can increase the amount of tapes you can collect for each Stance by upgrading in the game’s shops. These shops can only be accessed by replaying levels, which is really annoying.
All shops should have fire billowing behind the shopkeeper.
In addition to replaying levels to visit shops, I have a few other complaints. First off, I understand DDN is spoofing the 80s, but did they really have to include the stupid, cute character that so many 80s movies just had to make room for even though nobody but little kids liked them, despite the fact that kids shouldn’t be watching the movie anyway because it’s too violent? I’m obviously referring to Fuzz Face.
Seriously? Why did so many 80s movies have this annoying character? Even Rocky IV had that goddamn robot.
Goddamn you, Robot!
Secondly, for a game that’s supposed to paint Billy and Jimmy as badasses, they sure do beat up a bunch of women. I’d say about 50% of the enemies are female. I’m not trying to sound sexist, but it’s a little weird beating on chicks when you’ve been told “Boys don’t hit Girls” all your life.
The Lee Brothers call this play “The Chris Brown.”
Lastly, in the concept art that unlocks after beating the game there’s some art depicting what is unmistakably mogwai and gremlins. That’s bullshit, WayFoward! You can’t just show us that! Make this happen!
Actually, water makes them multiply. Eating after midnight turns them into dicks. Nerds.
Minor complaints aside, Double Dragon Neon is a fantastic game I love replaying. Of course, it’s a ton more fun when you’re playing “Bro-Op.” Not just because it makes the game easier and spending time with a close bud is fun, but because you get to use the High-Five Stick! That’s right; the right analogue stick is reserved exclusively for high-fiving your bro. And it is magnificent.
You will never be this cool.
Thanks for Your Playing! If you like Beat-Em-Ups or enjoy games that don’t take themselves seriously, you need to give Double Dragon Neon a playthrough. It’s a short game (about 2-3 hours long) with high replayability and a bunch of funny moments that you just have to see. Just make sure you bring a Bro to help you thrash all those Williamses.