Double Dragon: Neon Review

By Jonathan Deesing - Posted Sep 19, 2012

Double Dragon Neon is the complete package. WayForward Technologies has done a flawless job of modernizing the 90s brawler and delivering it with a golden bow.

The Pros
  • A perfect homage to beat-em-ups of yore
  • Even if the game gets old, the humor won't
  • Smooth gameplay and broner-inspiring visuals
The Cons
  • If you don't have a buddy for bro-op forget about it
  • No online bro-op mode
  • Checkpoints can be unforgiving

Double Dragon: Neon Review:

Double Dragon Neon is one of those video games that does almost everything right. It exceeds not only as a brawler, but as a period piece and as the best-humored side-scroller since ‘Splosion Man. I could swear to you that for three hours on my couch with one of my best friends next to me, I was six years old again, playing the SNES in his basement.



Bro! Bro! Bro!

I’ve been known to bro out on occasion. If you hand me a beer and a car key, I know what to do with it. Thankfully, with DD Neon I didn’t have to hide my inner bro. No, much like the glorious 80s, I was encouraged to embrace my mullet-swinging air-guitaring psyche that begs for release every day.

The game involves—like the original—brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee venturing through various locales to save Marian, their shared love interest. From top to bottom the game is one giant nod to the beat-em-ups of the 80s and 90s. The music is astoundingly fitting and truly captures the essence of both the time period and the genre. Gameplay is deliberately slow and methodical, which allowed me to maintain control over the endless hordes of enemies.

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As always, you can punch and kick your heart out, with occasional weapons that are dropped by enemies. However, this offers much more variety than one may think. The weapons vary vastly, from the combs that the afro-d black guys drop to the random boomerangs, you’re sure to find an asinine weapon to stab the nearest dominatrix. If you thought that sentence was weird, you should try the game. Seriously, most of what I enjoyed about DD Neon was its unbridled and ridiculous sense of humor. Some of the things Jimmy and Billy say had me in tears. If you pick up a knife and stab someone, Jimmy will exclaim, “knife knowin’ ya!” or “stabtacular!” Further, if you beat up a headstone to get loot, Billy will knowingly state, “desecratular!”

It gets better. Sometimes enemies will drop cassette tapes (because you know, the 80s) that are collected to grant and improve abilities. There are two sides to the tape you decide to play: sosetsitsu and stance. The stance tapes are essentially passive abilities, while the sosetsitsu are active abilities that have their own button. While initially confusing, they soon became an essential part of how my friend and I played the game. We found ourselves pausing every few minutes to rearrange our tape deck to maximize our character.

Double Dragon: Neon

Bro-op dude!

To be honest, the game must be played in co-op. Or as the game refers to it, bro-op. It took me just as long to reach the third level playing alone as it took my friend and me to reach the tenth level. The game is clearly designed for two players and no less, which is sort of a downside if you, you know, don’t have friends. There is currently no online offering, so it’s couch bro-op or nothing. But if you do happen to find a friend on Craigslist or something, you’ll be delighted on how fun it can be.

One huge advantage of playing with my friend was the fact that he could revive me if I died. He did so by sticking a number two pencil in a cassette tape and rewinding unwound tape (because, you know, the 80s). We also supported each other through our special abilities, like healing, and high-fived our way into the annals of Double Dragon history. Seriously there is one button dedicated solely to high-fiving.

Double Dragon: Neon

There were a few times where we certainly did not feel like high-fiving, like if both of us died. Though the game does offer a number of extra lives and allows players to revive one another, if you both lose all of your lives, you could very well be replaying a 30 minute-long level all over again. However, the game does cushion the blow by offering incentive to replay levels, with the aforementioned cassette tape RPG element. Even if we died, it was just another opportunity to stock up on sweet tapes.

Probably my favorite part of the game is the save feature. There are five save files that will carry over to whatever game or difficulty you’re playing. For example, I played by myself, and then played with a friend, and later saw that the game had logged three save files: two for me and one for my friend. These saved all of our tapes and money but also allowed us to play on whatever file we wanted to. It may seem trivial, but the brilliant save system adds countless hours of replay value to the game.

Double Dragon: Neon

Bro out right now and buy this game

Beyond being a perfect homage bro-mage to the beat-em-up games of days past, Double Dragon Neon is just fun to look at. The animations are flawless and delightfully colored. Certain scenes, like a silhouetted battle in a mountaintop monastery, shone through the silliness of the game and offered something stunning to look at. If you have a brother, a sister, a roommate or a significant other . . . you absolutely must buy this game. If you grew up in the 80s or 90s you will certainly appreciate the nostalgia, and if you didn’t, you’ll get to experience one of the seminal foundations of current video games.

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Editor's Note: Double Dragon Neon was reviewed using an PS3 copy of the game; however, we also played the Xbox 360 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the PS3 edition and the Xbox edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.