Double Dragon Neon Reviews

Astute Vagabond
671,097 (401,254)
Astute Vagabond
TA Score for this game: 2,010
Posted on 17 September 12 at 04:58, Edited on 17 September 12 at 05:02
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Originally written by myself for Review complete with images can be found there

Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Majesco
Price: 800MSP

Double Dragon was one of the first brawler games ever. Its success made it a staple for the future games of the genre, such as Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Golden axe. Double Dragon: Neon aims to kick life into the old dog without teaching many new tricks. The result of which is hoped to be a fresh new game which is bursting with old skool flavour! Does it deliver? Can old skool gameplay still make the cut in modern day gaming? Let’s find out!

The story revolves around the cliché ‘girl gets kidnapped, best go save her’ theme with the Damsel – Marian - being kidnapped by the badass skeleton, Skullmageddon. The game then takes a very humorous path with many jokes and references to the 80’s era. Humour plays a strong part in every aspect of Double Dragon: NEON and the mockery present is ‘so bad it’s good’ in my book and had me chuckling away as I played.

Gameplay is the main constituent to a good brawler and Double Dragon: Neon gives a big metaphorical nod of the head to the early days. The gameplay is very old skool and could easily be compared to the original Double Dragon games, Final Fight and the Streets of Rage series. With the developers aiming to create a 2012 release that stays true to its roots, don’t expect to see too many new developments. The game has inherited the good, the bad and ugly from the older games but still managed to infuse some new gameplay features.

There is a ‘gleam’ system in place which gives a tactical edge to the melee. To activate gleam you must duck or roll to evade an attack. Afterwards, your character will have a glowing outline for a few seconds and during this time damage is roughly doubled. Appropriate use of gleam can quickly turn a tough encounter into a simple one - however, the feature takes some practice to know when it’s ‘just’ the right time to evade.

There are tapes that drop as loot from enemies and from chests. These tapes can then be equipped to your character providing level-up/skill system. The tapes are split into two categories, Sosetsitsu (offensive skills) and Stances (passive skills) with the player being able to equip one from each category at the same time. Each tape can increase in power as more of the same type of tape is looted up to a max level of 50. This adds replayability not usually found in brawlers as all of the tapes are in high demand to beat the harder difficulties.

Now a bit more detail about difficulty. Unlike many early brawlers, Double Dragon: Neon locks off the Dragon (hard) and Double Dragon (very hard) difficulties from the start, only allowing you to begin on Normal difficulty. This was done deliberately as the player is not equipped to take on harder difficulties initially, so must play through the game collecting tapes and upgrading skills which will carry over to the next difficulty, in a ‘new game +’ fashion.

Difficulty in this game is not for the faint of heart; normal difficulty poses more of a challenge than many brawler games, but is still very beatable. Dragon difficulty is quite a step up and will challenge gamers – even those experienced in brawlers – and although I haven’t yet reached Double Dragon difficulty, I imagine the difficulty jump to be much the same as from normal to hard! Another way the game also stays true to old style is that you have a certain amount of lives and once they are extinguished, it’s back to the beginning of the stage, no checkpoints mid-stage.

Despite being a very co-op friendly game, Double Dragon: Neon doesn’t include an online co-op feature. This is a very strange move developers often make which can make or break a game for people who would enjoy playing with friends from afar or have no-one locally to play with. Majesco did however state that online capability would be coming in a patch – no release date has been confirmed at this point.

On the graphical side of things, the game is nothing outstanding. In essence I would say the style of the graphics are that of a 90’s brawler, with a coating of HD compatibility and a dash of vigor to the colour scheme – the game isn’t subtitled neon for nothing.

If there was a checklist for enemy types and locations needed for an authentic homage to an 80’s – early 90’s brawler, Double Dragon checks them all. Thugs and dominatrix enemies in back alleys and clubs? Check. Secret bases with robots and various martial arts minions? Check. Some obscure levels with even more obscene boss battles? Check.

The music is an outstanding feature in the game and took me by surprise. It reeks (in a good way) of the 80’s music scene, with some common themes from that era like ‘we can do it if we try’ and ‘love conquers all’. The music would sit equally well in a record collection as it does a soundtrack for a videogame.

Voice acting is of a high standard, especially the voiced character of Skullmageddon, who sounds much like Skeletor from He-Man gone a little bit camp. The voice acting merged with the setting, music and story really made for an amusing and enjoyable experience.

Another unexpected surprise was the replayability and longevity. The main story takes around 2-3 hours (strikingly long for a brawler) and that is just the beginning. To get a full experience from the game involves replaying levels to upgrade tapes and therefore the character, and then it’s off to try Dragon difficulty. Once Dragon difficulty is mastered through the same process, Double Dragon difficulty is available for that extra challenge. The whole process may appear grindy and would be if playthroughs were done back-to-back. However, as Double Dragon: Neon is a ‘pick up and play’ at any time game this eliminates the grind and rewards with a sense accomplishment. With achievements related to Double Dragon difficulty for both solo and co-op play, players can expect quite a time-consuming and tough challenge – only to feel a concoction of pride and accomplishment at the end.

Overall, Double Dragon: Neon presents many fun and challenging experience to players whilst paying excellent homage to the 80’s brawlers. The cheesy humour and corny soundtrack binds with the gameplay very well. The great jumps between the difficulty settings and tape upgrade system adds many hours to an already lengthy experience. So, the price tag of 800MSP can easily be justified! If you are a fan of old skool brawlers I would definitely recommend this game – just don’t expect any ground-breaking new gameplay. However, if you dislike the genre or tend to enjoy modernised titles such as Castle Crashers, then Double Dragon: Neon should be avoided. The only other major issue some may have is the lack of online co-op - but as mentioned above, this is only temporary until Majesco release their patch.

Rating: 8.5/10
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