Double Dragon Neon – Successors of Badass!

DDN Feature

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!

Double_Dragon_Neon_promotional_poster

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!

Hold Breath

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.

Killcopter

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.

Skullmageddon

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!

Aunt Matilda

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.

Dragon

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.”

The Gleam

Close.  Think “Whiter.”

Duck right when an attack is thrown, and a red sheen will envelope your body.

Gleam

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.  Plant BossI’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.

Tapesmith

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.

Fuzz FaceYour existence feels like a kick in the balls.

Seriously?  Why did so many 80s movies have this annoying character?  Even Rocky IV had that goddamn robot.

Rocky 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.

Chicks

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!

Gremlins

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.

High Five

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.

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Toilet Kids – A Real Turd of a Game

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I recently did a review of a possibly gay import game for the PC Engine that caught the eye of one JimmyHapa.  Not because it might be gay (I think), but because it’s an import title and he’s the host of Import Gaming FTW, an excellent show that takes a look at great games that didn’t make it to the West (or at least North America).  We got to talking, and he showed interest in reading about Toilet Kids, another japan-only PC Engine “gem.” Being the nice guy that I am, I obliged.  If only I had known what I was getting myself into.  If only I’d known…

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Guacamelee! – ¡Viva Los Luchadores!

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Quick! Think of some of the most badass things in the entire universe!

[Pause for Your Thinking…]

Times up!  I’m sure you thought of a bunch of things, but if Batman, monster trucks, fire, Mr. Rogers, or Luchadores didn’t come to mind, then please forfeit your testicles to your closest internet because you are a disgrace to all things that dangle.

If you did happen to think of those things, then Congratulations!  You may proceed to read my funny rambles about a game that focuses on the badassness that is the Luchador!  And that game is none other than Guacamelee! Continue reading

3D Space Harrier – Get Ready!

3D Space Harrier

I’m not a fan of 3D.  It’s an interesting concept… for a few minutes.  That probably sounds weird coming from a guy who loves his 3DS, but I bought the handheld because I knew the games would be awesome, not for its 3D capabilities.  I rarely ever turn up the 3D slider, and, when I do, it’s usually because I accidentally bumped it.  Keeping that in mind, I recently downloaded 3D Space Harrier from the 3DS eShop.  Not for the promise of a beloved classic coming to the third dimension, but because I’ve always been a huge fan of Space Harrier.  Throw in the fact that it was going to be a portable, arcade-perfect port, and you know I had some high expectations.  After playing through the game, I’m ecstatic to say 3D Space Harrier crushed my expectations, and, surprisingly, its 3D effects played a big part in that crushing.

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone!  GET READY!

Boxart

Game: 3D Space Harrier

Console: 3DS

Developer: M2

Publisher: Sega

Release Year: 2013

“Space Harrier is a great game.  3D Space Harrier is Space Harrier; therefore, 3D Space Harrier is a great game.”

-Bygjuce

It’s simple logic, people.  I really can’t break it down any more than that for you.  I love Space Harrier and 3D Space Harrier, and you should, too!  But, for the love of God, don’t get 3D Space Harrier confused with Space Harrier 3-D, the original Space Harrier‘s shitty sequel on the Sega Master System with the shitty 3D glasses that made the game look like shit.

Space Harrier 3-D

 I bet the cartridge even tasted like shit.

Unlike the shit that was Shit Harrier 3-D, 3D Space Harrier is a fantastic game.  Sure, looking at the embedded trailer above pretty much shows all the game has to offer, but, to me, that’s not a bad thing.  The game is 18 levels of Harrier zooming forward while enemies and obstacles happen, and it’s your job to shoot and avoid them.  Simply put, there’s a beginning and an end to the game with some points to get in between – if you’re so inclined – and that’s it.  Though derivative, what the game lacks in gameplay variety it more then makes up for in bat-shit craziness, and isn’t that important, too?  I mean, what other game pits you up against fighter jets, wizards, aliens, dragons, mech suits, sentient boulders, and cyclopean wooly mammoths, all while flying around with a jetpack gun and rocking sweet blonde hair and a set of blue jeans and shades?  That’s right; only Space Harrier had the balls to shoot whatever!  And since it was the 80s, you better believe it all exploded!

Explosion

WOO!  REAGAN!

Obviously, Space Harrier‘s fun, but it was also pretty revolutionary when it released to arcades in 1985 because its deluxe cabinet was very immersing.  Players could sit while they played the game and, as they moved the joystick to move their in-game character, the entire cabinet would move as well, simulating the direction Harrier was flying.  This was done by using a couple of motors, a wheel, a nut, and a shaft, which – besides being the sexiest sentence I’ve ever typed in my blog – is interesting because only until recently I was under the impression that the cabinet used hydraulics.  I honestly don’t care what kind of Black Magic Sega used to make the cabinet move as long as it kicked ass!  Which it totally did!

There was nary an uncrowded bowling alley or Chuck E. Cheese if they had one of these babies.

And that music!  Man, it takes me back!  There are only a few tracks in the game, but the Main Theme (which you heard in the above video) is the one you’ll hear the most.  There are other tracks you’ll hear during end-stage boss fights, but those are fleeting.  VERY fleeting.  Most bosses in Space Harrier can be taken out in mere seconds.  But it’s all good because 3D Space Harrier lets you listen to the game’s soundtrack in the Settings menu.  So you can rock out to your heart’s content!

But music isn’t the only thing 3D Space Harrier‘s Settings menu lets you tinker with.  Along with standard things like “Difficulty” and “Number of Lives,” you can also toggle on and off “Arcade Cabinet Noises” (whenever you shot your gun in the original cabinet, there was a very satisfying clicking noise that accompanied each shot) and “Moving Cabinet” (the top screen on the 3DS will tilt as if you were looking at the monitor in a moving cabinet).

Screen Size

Errbody in Fantasy Zone gettin’ tipsy…

The above picture isn’t the result of your drinking problem (though you should get that checked out), nor is the 3DS cocked to the side.  That’s a head-on screenshot.  What you see is the screen tilting as Harrier goes left, a result of toggling on the “Moving Cabinet” option.  And the border isn’t the 3DS.  In the Settings Menu, you can alter the “Screen Size,” creating a border that looks like you’re viewing a monitor deep within a cabinet.  All of these customizable options found in the Settings menu really help to recreate the deluxe cabinet experience I grew up with.  Granted, there was no way M2, the game’s developer, was going to exactly replicate that experience, but all the little details they added are more than enough to bring back all those fuzzy feelings I felt way back when, and I honestly can’t thank M2 enough for working so hard to simulate the deluxe cabinet.

M2

Thank you, M2’s Naoki Horii and Sega’s Yosuke Okunari, for all the love you put in this game!  I’ll do my best not to make you the subject of any dick or fart jokes.

Though I’m not a fan of 3D, the tilting screen and deep-cabinet border only get better when you crank up that 3D slider.  I can say that the effect truly enhances 3D Space Harrier‘s gameplay and “feel.”  I’ve played through the game a few times now, and I can’t get enough of its 3D: the way it makes everything pop out at you as you zoom by, the way the deep-cabinet border makes you feel like you’re staring down into the monitor, the way those levels where you’re sandwiched between two checker-patterned surfaces blow my fucking mind!

Enclosed

If you value your soul, do not stare into the horizon…

There are 3 ways to move Harrier: The Circle Pad, the D-Pad, and the stylus.  Using the Circle Pad takes some getting used to because taking your thumb off the pad returns Harrier to the center of the screen.  If you don’t like that, use the D-Pad.  Lifting your thumb up doesn’t affect Harrier and he’ll stay put.  Lastly, the stylus moves Harrier to wherever you touch, and holding the stylus on the touch pad makes Harrier fire automatically, a wise design decision that would have greatly benefited another on-rails shooter for the 3DS…

Kid Icarus Stand

I can’t even make a funny caption.  The sight of this thing pisses me off too much.

What else can I say about 3D Space Harrier?  It’s an amazingly polished and entertaining love letter from M2 to Space Harrier and Sega fans, and it’s one of the only games I can think of that actually uses 3D effects in a way that makes the gaming experience better.  If you like shooters with a side order of campiness, or if you’re an 80s kid who remembers the deluxe cabinet and wants to relive those memories using the game’s unique settings, then I highly recommend this game.  M2 needs our support on this one, guys.  They did a wonderful job, and the industry needs to know we appreciate it.  I already downloaded my copy.  Have you?

Thanks for Your Playing!  What do you guys think about 3D in gaming?  Do you know of any ports that are actually better than their original game?  Hit me up in the comments!

Now, for your pleasure, here’s the bonus stage in Space Harrier, where Harrier gets to ride a dragon – Neverending Storystyle! – recklessly into trees in order to destroy them for points!  And, of course, the trees explode upon impact.  Because it’s the 80s, and FUCK TREES!

Bonus Stage

REAGAN!  WOO!

Ai Cho Aniki – Have A Gay Ol’ Time!

Ai Cho Aniki Feature PicYou ever play a game that’s just… odd, almost to the point of making you uncomfortable?  If so, then you’ve probably played the game I’m talking about today, Ai Cho Aniki.  It’s viewed as being “gay” and just all kinds of weird.  But that’s a very shallow way of looking at the game.  Is there anything beneath its sweaty, half-naked-man laden exterior that could be seen as beautiful?  Could Ai Cho Aniki just be misunderstood? Could it actually be a brilliant and fun game?  I think it’s time we gave this game a chance.  It’s 2014, after all!  Let’s try new things and new experience.  Who knows?  You just might like it… Continue reading

Toejam & Earl – What the Funk!?

TJ&E Feature Pic

Man, Toejam & Earl for the Genesis is one of my most nostalgic games!  A buddy and I used to play it a lot when we were kids.  Now, you’d already know that if you’d read my post, Top Ten Things I’m Ashamed of as a Gamer.  If you’d read that, you’d know I’m ashamed I’ve never actually beaten this game.  Well, it turns out people I know actually read what I write, and one of my closest friends since junior high texted me to let me know how much bullshit me not beating TJ&E was.  He demanded I stop crying on the internet and come over so we could beat this shit.  Of course I obliged.  It’s not everyday two dudes can get together, sit down, and cuss at a 20-plus-year-old video game while his pregnant wife barfs in the bathroom all night. Continue reading

Doctor Who: Google Edition – Fish Fingers and Custard!

Doctor Who Feature Pic

Whovians rejoice!  I know the Doctor hasn’t had much luck in the gaming world, but Google has recently released a game worthy of the Doctor’s legacy!  After 50 years of outwitting Daleks, Google has decided to celebrate this monumental anniversary by finally crafting a game that won’t only make you think and solve puzzles like the Doctor, but you’ll actually feel as if you are the Doctor!  Come along as we take a journey through time and space!  Allons-y!  Geronimo! and… um… Are you my mummy? Continue reading

Project X Zone – X = Cross

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Crossovers kick ass.  Period.  I’ve loved crossovers ever since The Battletoads and The Double Dragons deemed the Earth worthy enough of their combined presence.  A good crossover can really get my inner fanboy going.  Hell, even a bad crossover can get me a little giddy if it’s at least humorous or campy with a cheesy after-school message. Continue reading

Earthbound – The Third Strongest Earthbound Review!

Earthbound Feature

I had recently undergone a surgery that had me more or less bedridden for a while.  This was a planned surgery that went well, in case you were wondering.  Being that I knew the surgery was coming and that I’d require bed rest afterward, I knew I’d have to find something to fill the time to prevent myself from going insane and eating my pillows or whatever it is gun-less insane people do nowadays.  Thankfully, a certain cult classic for the SNES had recently (surprisingly and enthusiastically) hit the Wii U Virtual Console a couple months prior to my surgery date.  And, with its arrival to the West, I knew exactly what I was doing during my recovery.  With my plan set, I eagerly awaited my surgery just so I could have some time off work to take down this RPG classic once again.  Oh, and to recover from heart surgery, too, I guess.

Welcome to Earfbound!
EarthBound_Box Continue reading

LIMBO – More Fartsy Than Artsy

Limbo Feature

3 years Ago...

LIMBO? This game looks sweet!  Everyone keeps talking about how spooky and thought-provoking the game’s art style and narrative is!  What’s it coming out for?  Xbox!?  Damn!  I’m too poor for an Xbox!  I hope it comes out for other platforms… Continue reading