REVIEW: Double Dragon Neon

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Sep 11, 2012 09:38 PM EDT

If you've never found yourself in the middle of an arcade where games that rewarded you with tickets outnumbered the ones that didn't, stop reading right now, because you just won't understand.

If, however, you fondly remember wasting possibly hundreds of dollars on games that saw you feverishly pounding on a set of buttons to lay the proverbial smack down on a boss character, while you watched him rapidly blink redder and redder, than keep reading, because this one's for you.

To call Double Dragon Neon "80's" is an understatement. Such a blanket statement is to include both the good and the bad of the 80's, whereas Neon has only the good. With items buried amongst garbage cans, the endless waves of nameles goons and thugs to bash, and the mullets, (dear God, the sweet, sweet, mullets...) Neon personifies everything great I can remember about the arcade glory days.

Neon sees players taking on the role of brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee, as they once again must rescue girlfriend Marian, who fell victim to the Skullmageddon gang, courtesy of one finely placed gut punch. Players will easily recognize the first two levels as a trip down memory lane. But things get weird when you enter the gang's HQ, only to have the entire building rocket off to space.

Combat begins fairly basic, but abilities can be added as you progress via the mix tape system. You begin the game with a blank tape, and can add different "songs" (abilities) to it by collecting them from enemies, or purchasing them (and upgrades) from a character called the "tapesmith." All the familiar Dragon moves are there. Jabs, high kicks, flying knees, and of course, the whirlwind kick. But Neon also adds a few new moves to mix it up a bit too. While it may not sound like a big improvement, the ability to run, roll, and duck makes gameplay completely different from when the first Double Dragon debuted in arcades oh so many years ago (about 25). 

Familiar faces return for you to pummel as you try to rescue Marian: thugs of all shapes and sizes, a veritable rainbow of whip wielding Linda Lashes, and Abobo in his massive, and no doubt steroid riddled frame.

Yes, it's cheese (Billy and Jimmy air guitar at the end of each stage victory). But it's the sweetest, richest, cave aged cheese you can only find in those really expensive artisinal shops that somehow manages to go equally well with a fine cabernet as it does with a light beer. It's important to remember not to take it seriously. The game is all about nostalgia, and ultimately, fun. Neon is well aware of this, and even parodies itself. What other game would make crystal soda a health item, or an afro pick a weapon, if not to get a laugh?

And the music...Way Forward's Pete Rosky puts it best: "They're amazing 80's ballads, rock anthems, heavy crunchy metal, and the lyrics are gold, it feels like a karate kid theme song, but it's got its own Double Dragon touch to it."

Suffice it to say, Double Dragon Neon is the quintessence of everything that was good about arcade beat 'em ups. If you're a Double Dragon fan not too busy with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, download it, because it's easily worth the $10. And if you're a PlayStation Plus member, download it, it's free.

Double Dragon Neon is available for download now on PS3, and tomorrow for XBox 360.

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