Double Dragon: Neon
What was your first NES game? “Super Mario Bros. & Duck Hunt”? “Excitebike”? “Gyromite”? Would you believe that mine was “Double-friggin-Dragon”? No, seriously, it was. I woke up one Easter morning and found an NES all hooked up and sitting on my desk. I guess my parents saw me play the arcade game one too many times at the roller skating rink. Looking back now, I have to question my taste in games as I found “Double Dragon” to be both awesome and addicting. In retrospect, it was frustratingly unfair. You couldn’t even perform certain moves (jump kicks, hair pulls, uppercuts, etc.) until you earned enough hearts (the game’s version of XP). I eventually beat the game, presumably because my NES controller was tired of being spiked into the ground.
“Double Dragon: Neon” was released for consoles back in late 2012. Never having owned a PS3 or an XBox 360, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t even know about it until it appeared on Steam just the other day (2/6/14). After spending hours punching and kicking my way through waves of enemies, I began to remember what made the original “Double Dragon” so great despite its many faults. This game has everything I know and love from the “Double Dragon” series as a whole, though before I get into specifics, I’d like to thank the folks at Midnight City for sending me a free review copy.
As far as the technically nitty-gritty details go, the game supports two player local and online co-op. Players are free to host or join games at will in order to give themselves a better chance of surviving, as single player can be rather difficult even on normal. The options menu covers screen resolution, vsync, windowed mode, audio levels, and a plethora of tutorials. The tutorials aren’t interactive, but there’s plenty to read and I highly recommend scanning through it before hitting the streets. As far as controls go, you can play using the keyboard or a controller as well as customize your keybinds. If playing local co-op, both players can choose their inputs. Overall, I was pleased with the way all of this was presented.
Before I get into the gameplay, it’s important to note that your character will increase in power as you play. As such, you’ll be granted multiple save profiles from which to save and load your progress. You’re also free to go back and play levels you’ve already beaten in order to collect tapes and make your character even stronger. Yes, I said tapes. You see, the game is extremely music-oriented…not that I’m complaining. I must have spent a half hour on the title screen listening to the iconic music loop in on itself over and over…it’s that good. Going through the levels was equally as satisfying, as some of the music used was derived from the aforementioned “Double Dragon” games from the NES.
Getting back to those tapes, you’ll be collecting them off of dead enemies as they appear in order to increase a song’s power level. Songs themselves either belong to the “Sosetsitsu” (active powers) or “Stance” (passive buffs) categories. You can only have one active skill from each category at any time, but you can switch between them at will while you play. “Sosetsitsu” tapes might include fireballs, spin kicks, knee drops, and etc. while different “Stances” might favor weapons, magic, or give you balanced stats. The more tapes you collect of a particular type, the more powerful it becomes. There is a cap to prevent players from grinding levels for tapes into infinity, but you can upgrade and increase the caps of these skills by spending mithril at the in-game shop. Cash can also be collected and spent in the same manner to buy extra lives, life, or tapes.
Combat itself is actually fairly challenging, especially if you are flying solo. At least with a partner, you’ll be able to do some fancy high-five moves that do special things like share health and etc. I found myself overwhelmed by the controls at times and I felt like I couldn’t react fast enough to the enemy’s maneuvers…though I admit this is partially my fault considering that I’m getting older and my reflexes are slowing down. Punching, kicking, ducking, jumping, grabbing, running…and most of them have variants that you can utilize by hitting an extra button. “Gleam” effects activate when you successfully dodge, making your attacks more powerful for a limited time. This gave me a reason to want to do better, but I won’t lie, the controls and combat can be a bit of a learning curve. I myself died on stage one several times until I got used to the controls and earned some of those aforementioned tapes.
While combat can be overwhelming at times, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the music that went into making the game. The “Stage X” splash screen music is taken right from the NES game I mentioned in the opening paragraph. In future levels, you’ll find yourself in space (odd, I know) and there’s a part where airlocks can suck you and your enemies out into space…a nod to “Double Dragon 2” for the NES which featured such a mechanic. While you’ll run into a lot of familiar content, you’ll certainly experience some new things that will make you scratch your head a bit…fighting robots, geishas, a final boss that looks like “Yoshimitsu” (thanks Adnaan), and etc. Don’t worry, there are plenty of Lindas, Williams, and Abobos to beat the crap out of and yes, there are whips, knives, bats, trash cans…you name it.
“Double Dragon: Neon” is honestly the “Double Dragon” reboot I’ve been waiting for. The music and ambience are just icing on the cake. You’ll find a lot of familiar nods to the earlier days of “Double Dragon” gaming, but there’s plenty of new content to wrap your head around. I am really glad the developers decided to allow folks to replay levels in order to help level up their character…restarting from scratch every time you ran out of lives back in the olden days got rather tiresome after a while, not to mention frustrating. At present, the game is retailing for ten bucks…at that price, it’s practically a steal considering the amount of content the game offers. The music alone, I feel, is worth ten bucks. Speaking of which, I included a link below to the purchasable soundtrack (name your price) for you video game music lovers out there…you’re welcome.
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Double Dragon: Neon” by visiting the following websites: