Back in the 80’s, Double Dragon was a huge hit in arcades, and is considered to be the first co-op side scrolling beat ‘em up. Or at least the first one to do it right anyway. The game became insanely popular, and spawned many sequels and ports, a cartoon show, and even a live action movie! Now, Majesco and WayForward have teamed up for a totally bro-dacious Double Dragon remake, dripping with 80’s rad-ness, downloadable for PS3 and 360 (PS3 version reviewed here).
Like the many clones that came after the original, Double Dragon Neon plays like any other side-scrolling brawler. Billy (or Billy and Jimmy Lee in co-op), must punch and kick waves of bad guys to save his girl Marian. It starts out just like the arcade game, with Marian being kidnapped by thugs, and then the heroes appearing from the garage behind her. Pick up weapons lying on the ground to give you a temporary edge, and punch objects to reveal and collect other goodies like cash and health pickups. You’ll fight familiar faces such as the whip-wielding Linda and the hulking Abobo on your quest to save Marian!
If you’re looking for a serious Double Dragon remake, this game may not be for you. Since the original was released in the ‘Me’ decade, this remake takes every opportunity to utilize 80’s references and poke fun of the franchise and the era and culture itself. The graphics are full of bright, florescent colors (it’s called Neon for good reason, folks). The remixed arcade tunes are pure 80’s cheese. There is a boss that makes blatant fun of Mega Man, and the main bad guy, Skullmageddon, looks and talks exactly like Skeletor from the old He-Man cartoon. There’s even a button that lets you high-five your partner, which serves no purpose whatsoever. Even the ‘co-op’ mode is called ‘bro-op!’
The 80’s-ness seeps into gameplay elements as well. By properly dodging enemies’ attacks, you can go into ‘gleam mode’ and deal extra damage. Some defeated enemies will drop cassette tapes, too. You can then collect these tapes and equip them to give you special moves and boost your stats. By gathering more of the same cassette, you’ll power-up those moves. Gather mythril from defeated bosses to upgrade your tapes so you can power them up even more! Even in ‘bro-op’ mode, to revive a defeated pal, you must press the circle button repeatedly to bring up a picture of a cassette tape with a pencil rewinding it!
I only had one tiny problem with Neon, and it’s really more of a personal preference, actually. I thought the game was a little bit too hard (or maybe I just suck at it). Granted, it’s WAY easier with two players, as you can revive each other multiple times. But if you lose all your lives in a stage, you’ll have to start the level over again. It’s not like an arcade game where you can put in a quarter and return where you left off. After playing with a buddy, you’ll never want to do single player again. But other than that, this is a fantastic classic remake. Fun gameplay, smooth animation, a long quest, and heck, I even liked the cheesy music (but then, 80’s music is one of my guilty pleasures, shhh, don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret to everybody).
Double Dragon Neon is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence, Partial Nudity, and Suggestive Themes. You do punch, kick, and throw all manner of bad guys and gals, but defeated characters just yell out ‘argh’ and fall over and disappear. The partial nudity and suggestive themes manly come from one of the enemy characters: Linda. She wears a skimpy, revealing outfit (although she does have the decency to wear leg warmers). Some of the things she utters is a bit suggestive, too, and it’s what you’d expect a woman with a whip to say (although I did chuckle when she bellowed out to the Lee twins, “On your knees, Lees!”). But really, the best reason why this is best for older gamers is the high difficulty level.
However, I would be OK with kids younger than teens playing this, on one condition. That parents or older gamers play WITH them! That way, you can discuss with them what things in the game you find inappropriate, and even better, share stories about what games were like when you were a kid. Plus, the game is way more fun with two players anyway!