WayForward Technologies, the developer behind several rehashed classics such as Contra 4 and Bloodrayne: Betrayal, have added to their powerful library of nostalgia with Double Dragon Neon. Committed to helping players forget how unkind time has been to this series, WayForward is determined to bring players back to the era that spawned ever so many of our gaming lives.
Double Dragon Neon starts out in much the same way as its NES counterpart. Some thugs roll in, slug Marian in the gut and kidnap her. The garage door proceeds to roll up revealing Billy (or Bimmy if you will), Jimmy and their classic Trans Am arriving moments too late. As you expect your task is clear, kick the ass of everything between you and the girl.
Gameplay in Double Dragon Neon is practically unchanged from its predecessors; you pretty much do everything you’ve been able to in the past. Combat mechanics haven’t exactly progressed or evolved but there are many new enemies with different combat styles that add to the variety and strategy of each situation.
As in years past the preferred method of play is cooperative, though only two player co-op is available for players on the same system – WayForward has announced online co-op play will be available in a future patch. Nevertheless going the battle alone is still a challenging a rewarding experience as the 3D graphics and 80’s style pay homage to the original.
The fight style is the same with Billy and Jimmy jumping, punching and kicking their way through a slew of thugs. The addition of the grab and throw technique is not so much revolutionary as practical, but we are thankful for it regardless. Billy and Jimmy devastate enemies with baseball bats, cattle prods, knives and for some reason hair picks. The 25 year old formula still holds true to present day, beating waves of robots and Abobo is just as satisfying as it was all those years ago.
As you punch, roundhouse kick and throw your enemies across each stage, they will drop numerous items to assist you on your quest for Marian, the most significant of these being cassette tapes. Tapes fall into two categories: stance and sosetsitsu. Stance tapes affect your base stats (Hit points, Magic Power, Attack and Defense). Sosetsitsu tapes offer special abilities such as throwing fireballs or the iconic Hurricane kick. Tapes can be upgraded by collecting 10 of the same from fallen enemies or upgrading them at Tapesmiths in exchange for Mythril or other various vendors in exchange for cash.
The classic high-five even brings a new element to your co-op gameplay. Sharing a hand slap with your bro provides you with unique abilities such as sharing your Gleam (double damage), Life-Split which equally splits your remaining combined HP or just psych your bro out for jokes.
The controls can be clunky and you will find yourself punching and kicking open air as you attempt to position yourself on the same plane as your foes. Although the cassette tapes make for an interesting addition and add depth to your experience, I found myself dumping all my cash into one set of abilities. I also never felt the need to diversify my repertoire of moves until the end boss. Although the need to have a larger bag of tricks may be evident in the higher difficulties, it wasn’t in normal.
Underneath the side scrolling grind, Double Dragon Neon presents itself much like that you’d find in an 80’s arcade. The game nails the tone of the 80’s and exaggerates it when necessary. Arguably the best part of the game is the soundtrack. With upbeat synth melodies, power ballads, electro pop and hard riffs with matching air guitar solos from the dynamic duo, if something in this game disappoints you the soundtrack won’t be it.
All in all WayForwards adaptation of this classic doesn’t pull any punches and isn’t claiming to be anything bigger and better than that of its inspiration. The play hasn’t particularly evolved from the 8 and 16-bit era but the nostalgia for the 80’s sets Neon apart from anything in the genre today. Presentation is everything for this title as it prides itself in paying homage to the classic and it’s definitely hard to not get caught up in the cheese of this memorial to the franchise. For the hardcore who plan on grinding through all the difficulties, it won’t take long realize just how familiar everything is. None of these factors offset how enjoyable it is to go back in time with a classic. No game quite perfects the experience of sitting down with a bud for a couple of hours and beating the snot out of waves of meaningless enemies in that classic arcade style; $10 is worth the trip the down memory lane.