WayForward Technologies is responsible for a glut of some of the best reboots available over the past few years, including the excellent A Boy and His Blob and BloodRayne: Betrayal. Revitalizing classic franchises is a lucrative operation, and WayForward seems to have pioneered a fantastic formula for them. Double Dragon is the latest to receive this treatment, in the form of Double Dragon Neon. The classic brawler is brought back to life with some decidedly different energy, a facelift, and new reasons to kick some more butt with Billy and Jimmy. Trust us -- it looks gaudy, loud, and silly, but there's tons of fun to be had here.
Double Dragon Neon (PS3)
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Perhaps it's better to call Double Dragon Neon more of an homage to the side-scrolling beat-'em-ups of our childhood, as everything is improved in ways that normally wouldn't accompany a straight remake. For one thing, this bro-tastic adventure exudes an extremely playful, wink-wink nudge-nudge aura that you just can't help but laugh with and not at.
When Marian, the babe that brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee have their eyes on, is kidnapped by a gang of thugs, it's time for the dynamic duo to bust up radical groups of riff-raff. Like Peach's plight, except Bowser doesn't go around punching the princess to incapacitate her. And for the most part, at least for the first few rounds of the game, things feel like the Double Dragon of yesteryear. After you settle in for a nostalgia trip, things turn decidedly weird, but in the most radical way possible. Soon, Billy and Jimmy transcend vanilla punchfests between biker dudes and tough bros with fros to traveling to outer space. It's baffling to be sure, but insanely fun. From these seemingly out of place scenery changes to the over-the-top Kool-Aid colored aesthetics, there's tons of action teeming from this update.
Wrecking the baddies' business is just like it was in the original Double Dragon, and controls are largely unchanged. There are plenty of ways to mess with the thugs who stole Marian away: baseball bats, knives, tasers, some well-timed kicked and punches, hair picks...you name it. Each enemy packs a specific set of moves and combos as well, so whether you're dispatching a robot or a plain old ne'er-do-well, you'll need to learn to react accordingly.
Downed enemies drop cassette tapes (presumable Blondie or Tears for Fears mixtapes) that may be in turn used to upgrade stats or augment Billy and Jimmy's special moves. The sosetsitsu tapes even allow for healing abilities and unlock the power of the whirlwind kick among other attacks. You can upgrade tapes by collecting additional ones or by heading over to a Tapesmith to grab a boost, (though Tapesmith upgrades require Mithril) and choosing to collect only needs ten of the same tape to up your level. It's a system that brings the brilliant Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game to mind, and one that provides depth for what could have been a less robust brawler.
Aside from the obvious visual cues that made me long for my trusty Wayfarers and electric blue eyeshadow, the over-the-top soundtrack was the main attraction. It's riddled with ridiculosity (especially the accompanying tunes for each tape) and clever touches that go a long way to cement the feeling that you're really getting an '80s revival here -- plus, Billy and Jimmy toss out some hilarious one-liners here and there.
Double Dragon Neon is a brilliant throwback to classic brawlers and a decidedly different feel for the series, and it knows how to please fans willing to travel that road, but gameplay aside its hammy nature may put some players off. With a raucous good time for single-player mode and couch co-op (with online support coming soon) this is a jewel from WayForward that should be examined despite any preconceived notions of quality or content. Let your rockstar hair down, grab some stirrup pants, and strap in for a tubular quest to save Marian. Like, this game is totally bad. In a good way.
8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)