Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Platform: XBLA, PSN
Release Date: Out Now
ESRB: T for Teen
This review is based on the PSN version of the game
It's no secret that WayForward Technologies loves to give a helping hand in rebooting old franchises, what with Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob, and BloodRayne: Betrayal all previously under their belt. And now it seems they've gotten their hands on the Double Dragon license and decided to release a retro reboot Double Dragon: Neon for XBLA and PSN. Borrowing so heavily from its forefathers, you may think this game's a remake at first glance, but once you get to know it a little better, you'll soon see what makes Neon something new. Unfortunately, this game has too many flaws to be as enjoyable as it could have been...
What do you get when twin brothers fight an evil Skeletor wannabe to save a girl they both like? What? New Super Mario Bros.? What on Earth gave you THAT idea? Anyway, the correct answer is the story for this game, because that's basically the gist of it. In Double Dragon: Neon, twins Billy and Jimmy Lee chase after the boney Skullmageddon to rescue their kidnapped love interest. Why does Skeletor Skullmageddon want to kidnap her? Who cares! The details aren't important. In fact, neither is the story in general. Similar to the vast majority of the beat-'em-up arcade games of yore, this game is all about the gameplay. The story is just an excuse to catapult us into the action.
And the action sure is fun. Correction: the action sure is fun if you have a bro playing with you. Arcade beat-'em-ups were always meant to be played in co-op (or in this case, "bro-op"), and Double Dragon: Neon is no exception (it's called "Double Dragon," not "Single Dragon"). In that sense, it's a shame that the game doesn't currently have any online bro-op. Basically, you'll have to invite someone over or play with a relative/roommate/clone to get the most out of your brawling experience until a patch can be released. Take away that other person, and the game gets significantly less fun. Especially considering how cumbersome the mechanics can be. For instance, if you aren't lined up EXACTLY on the same level as your enemy, you will almost definitely miss. Neon expects you to be precise in your attacks when the game itself just doesn't allow it.
Furthermore, the game moves far too slowly. Seriously, this game is supposed to be a reboot, not a remake. So why do the Lee bros. have to keep up with their slower-than-molasses past selves? You won't save the girl at that pace, boys! Sure, they threw in a sprint, but it's way too sluggish for you to use it very often. And with the slow walking and sluggish running, the platforming segments are frustrating as hell. Yes, I said it; Neon throws in platforming segments in most of its levels, and...let's just say I fell to my doom enough times to know that it doesn't do a very good job.
It goes without saying (but I'm gonna say it anyway) that Double Dragon: Neon pretty much nails it when it comes to catering to nostalgics. With its powerful mullets, air-guitar solos, and era-appropriate music, this update is actually much more '80s than the '80s original. And speaking of music, that may very well be the best thing this game has going for it. With such radical, groovy, and [some other silly word from back then] songs, the soundtrack sounds like it stepped right out of 80s radio. Basically, the music is so...um...gnarly that the soundtrack itself might be worth owning (it's free), even if you feel the game isn't.
Sadly, I can't say the same about the God-awful voice acting. I swear, Double Dragon: Neon has some truly atrocious voice acting, and when you throw some horribly-cheesy dialogue into the pot, things sometimes get a little hard to bear. Thankfully, Neon also has some pretty humorous dialogue that compliments the cheese like it's delicious fondue. Especially when the game makes fun of itself. I love when games do that.
Going back to the subject of music, Neon made it a point to make music a hugely emphasized part of this game. Namely, some of the newly-added features were â€œtunedâ€ up for the game. For example, when your broâ€™s health hits zero, you must rewind a cassette tape with a pencil if you hope to keep him alive.
Another of these music-themed features is the skills system, otherwise known as â€œsongs.â€ As you progress through each level, you will find songs to build your supply of passive and special abilities, whether from enemies dropping them or purchasing from shops. And the more you find, the higher your songs will level up. And as you defeat bosses, you gain a certain currency that you can spend at the â€œTapesmithâ€ to increase your song limit. Unfortunately, the game is too short for these things to have much meaning, and playing through levels multiple times to master skills just gets tedious. But as tough as Neon gets on harder difficulties, that may be your only option if you hope to reach the creditsâ€¦
Also, you know how this game has the sub-title â€œNeonâ€ (if you donâ€™t, where have you been?)? Well, thatâ€™s exactly what the gameâ€™s graphical style reminds me of. Like neon lights, Double Dragon: Neon is a very bright and colorful game. Itâ€™s beautiful, and makes the game a pleasure to look at.
Double Dragon: Neon is a nice little update to a great arcade classic. It brings back some of the magic of the original while still managing to spice things up a bit with things like a unique skills system, awesome '80s-esque music, and of course, a fresh, modern look. But none of that hides the obvious flaws the game throws at you, such as clunky gameplay mechanics, lackluster level design choices, and someâ€¦questionable voice acting. Itâ€™s such a hit-and-miss sort of game, itâ€™s hard to say whether or not you should spend ten bucks on it. I guess if you like beat-â€˜em-ups and have someone to play with, itâ€™s worth a buy.
+ Bro-op play is really fun
+ The radical soundtrack is fun to listen to
+ Customizable skills system allows for more interesting combat
+ Bright, colorful graphics are a pleasure to look at
- Gameplay is really cumbersome and broken in some places
- Some lackluster level design choices get in the way
- Voice acting is atrocious
- Too short for some features to have much meaning
Overall Score: 6 (out of 10)
Double Dragon: Neon is a fun trip down memory lane with great, catchy music and fun "bro-op" play. Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in this game to make it as enjoyable as it could have been.