So let’s just get something straight here, alright? I’m old. The first video game console that majestically graced my family’s collective presence was an Atari 2600. A glorious brown box with that unique aesthetic that really catches the eye and screams, “Nothing says ‘cutting edge technology’ like some fake wood grain”. I remember the machine rather fondly; my father and I would sit around a convex television set (complete with plastic wood grain casing), switch the dial to point directly at the letters, “UHF”, dial in on channel three and play some goddamned Berserk. It was fantastic. Here we were, basking in the glow of artificial light, somehow magically supplied by appliances cased in wood grain, in an illuminated living room. I played the Atari more than I did much of anything else.
This was 1986, baby, and the only things that mattered were that Cyndi Lauper jam on the radio, and my absolute life or death dependence on the acquisition of a Nintendo Entertainment System. These were tough times for the young, impressionable Ryan, and indeed the world itself: Apollo Creed dies in the first twenty minutes of Rocky IV, Optimus Prime dies in The Transformers: The Movie, and we were all forced to accept the fact that Karate Kid Pt. II just wasn’t as good as the original. Hence, the need for a savior; a two-toned plastic box with the ability to heal, enlighten, and shape futures.
Video games of our current generation are spectacles of technology. Fully rendered backgrounds, motion capture, and exciting action all blend together to create…well, stuff that’s far less challenging than the games I grew up with. Enter Double Dragon. Shit was tough. Abobo was an asshole, Linda whipped all of our childhoods into submission, and Jimmy betrayed us by turning out to be the shadow boss. Make no mistake, Double Dragon was one of my favorite titles as a child. It was the dawn of brawlers as I knew it, and Double Dragon stood as the first brawler I ever played. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I ended up falling head over heels for games like River City Ransom, Turtles In Time, Final Fight, and the like. I purposely left Battletoads out of that equation because that game only served to ruin friendships and teach me the lesson that I’ll never get anywhere in life if I rely on other people. But Double Dragon was in a class of its own; a technological entity that invaded my ears with infectious melodies, and begged me to mercilessly beat the piss out of anyone in my (Billy’s) way.
The follow ups were a mixed bag. Double Dragon II on the NES, while seemingly eliminating the story in the original, offered simultaneous co-op. It was like putting fucking nacho cheese on salty tortilla chips: an obvious combination that induces extreme pleasure and conjures the illusion that life is perfect. Side note: Get yourself some nachos and play some Double Dragon for an extreme night of uncanny satisfaction. Yet if Double Dragon II was a glimpse of brawler excellence, Double Dragon III, however, was a mess of unfair challenge and unequivocal frustration. Let’s go ahead and forget about its existence for now because we have a brand new title in the storied franchise. Here is where I’ll finally discuss what this article was supposed to be about in the first place:
Double Dragon Neon. What is it? Is it a remake? Is it a sequel? I’ll call it an homage to a fantastic, but nearly forgotten series. It also stands as an homage to the decade I was born in; the 80s. Based on the video trailer, I wasn’t prepared for much of a game. These graphical updates and re-imaginings haven’t gone too well thus far this generation. The Turtles in Time update was…well it kind of sucked. How do you even accomplish that? I mean, Turtles in Time is so fucking spectacular that you’d have to give it a job in accounting for twenty years to make it as uninteresting and unfriendly as its remake turned out to be. So how did Double Dragon make sure it wouldn’t suffer a similar and unfitting fate? It made sure it was as goddamned ridiculous as possible. I mean this game is over-the-top ridiculous. While we start in familiar territory with Marian receiving a knuckle sandwich from some douche-blazer in a fucking vest, the game goes to space from here on out. I mean that. Space. Our old pals “Bimmy” and Jimmy go to fucking space to battle a skeleton-dude called “Skullmageddon”. If you were hoping for a game with a serious tone, you’re really barking up the wrong tree here. Hell, you’re barking in the wrong forest altogether.
So what else does this game offer? Gleam! That’s fucking right, you’ll be high-fiving your bro all up and down these stages in bro-op mode. Couch bro-op; the way these games were meant to be played. Sitting down next to a friend really makes the game here. The Jimmy to my Bimmy and I search tirelessly for split-screen or local co-op games as we understand just how much better physically being next to a real person makes a co-op experience. The high-fiving can actually serve the greater good as well, as it allows players to share or split health. Great for when Billy’s jump-kicking his way to a better life and Jimmy’s preparing to settle down into that desk-job.
You’ll also collect “songs”. Songs that give you unique abilities that you’re able to level up. Prepare to customize and throw fucking hot fire at your enemies with fireballs. There are shops to purchase upgrades and extra lives and such as well. It’s actually a pretty nice touch as it leaves you wanting to experience more of the games offerings. It’s fairly similar to one of the other great brawlers of this generation; Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. These two games actually share a lot in common. They both possess wonderful and deep soundtracks, the subject we’ll jam out next.
The soundtrack includes updated, yet very respectfully made, versions of the classic themes we first experienced in the original Double Dragon. I typically cower in horror when I hear these modernized themes. Not here, I fucking love them. Not only are your ears pleasantly treated to these flavorful themes, but we get original songs written as if they would have been in the 1980s. They’re great. No exaggeration, this is the best video game soundtrack of 2012 thus far. Just break out your old roller skates and boom box, glide in circles around your driveway and jam on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEANHnqiyrU
The brawling is excellent. Spin kicks, jump kicks, heavy punches, grabbing heads and butting them together. The hits feel solid and you’ll feel empowered. This is great, classic brawling with a spectacular soundtrack to boot. It’s ridiculous in its approach to satisfy the aging fan base and it offers a rewarding system of abilities. The game certainly isn’t perfect, but it brings a smile to your face and, for that, I’m leaving out all the negatives. It makes me feel positive, so that’s the review your getting; a positive one.
In conclusion, you should probably go ahead and download this title. If you’re over the age of 25 that is. If you really need some numbers to gauge its worthiness, I’ll put the numbers 8/10 down here. No if you’ll excuse me, I have some nachos and a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie awaiting my presence.
- Double Dragon Neon review: Rock me, Amadeus (joystiq.com)
- Double Dragon Neon, Scott Pilgrim vs The World free for PSN Plus this week (gamesradar.com)