Double Dragon Neon review: Oh snap!

There’s no denying that Wayforward has solidified themselves as one of the go-to development studios when it comes to higher profile, retro-styled 2D games. Some of their projects have turned out to be fantastic, like the wonderful Mighty Switch Force on the Nintendo 3DS. Others, like Bloodrayne Betrayal, are a bit behind on the quality curve. Double Dragon Neon is their latest effort to recapture the shine of decades-gone-by. Any reservations the studio’s varying quality may have caused should be dismissed — this is a great revival of a truly influential property.

Neon is about as over-the-top as a game based on an established property can be. It feels like a caricature of the late 1980s in many ways. The Dragon Twins — Billy and Jimmy — are a couple of carefree, wisecracking karate experts. The amount of puns that come out of their mouths, clever or embarrassing, recall the spirit of a quartet of fighting reptile siblings. The villain is in the running for my favorite enemy of 2012, and while he feels like he’d be more at home on Eternia he seems to fit in almost perfectly here as well.

The extreme nature of the game extends beyond the characters, however. You start your quest to save Marian on the city streets but quickly end up in outer space. “Quickly” as in the end of the second level. Even crazier is how you get there. The enemies cartwheel and jet-pack their way around the screen, sometimes in as little as leather underwear. And true to the game’s name, there’s no shortage of bright colors in the game’s hand-illustrated art. There’s never a dull moment in terms of what the game is throwing you way during its ten stages.

The gameplay isn’t quite as off-the-wall as the presentation, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Expect a standard, though incredibly solid brawler here, with punching, kicking, multi-press combos and jump kicks. There’s also a dodge that’s pretty useful. There is a plethora of tapes that provide special attacks and statistics-altering effects, though none of them affect the game as deeply as you might hope. You’ll likely find one or two that you prefer and stick to them through the entire game.

The tapes are worth checking out for a reason other than their in-game benefits as well. Jake Kaufman, also known as Virt, crafted music for each one. In fact, the soundtrack as a whole (available at Bandcamp at any price) goes a long way toward establishing the game’s identity and spirit. While the reimagined title theme is great, Mango Tango is a pure work of genius, and really, one of several.

If you have fond memories of playing through any Double Dragon in the past — especially with a friend — or have a love for brawlers at all, then Double Dragon Neon is worth looking into. The gameplay may not rewrite the genre but the presentation is strong enough to make this one a game to experience.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Double Dragon Neon was downloaded for free due to Playstation Plus by the reviewer and is available now for $9.99 on the Playstation Network or 800 Microsoft points ($10) on the XBLA marketplace.

Posted on by Anthony Swinnich in PSN, PSN Reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized, XBLA, XBLA Reviews