The popular 80’s martial arts duo Billy and Jimmy Lee have returned for another adventure, this time a reboot of sorts of the classic series. The original 1987 Double Dragon followed the story of the two brothers whose (girl)friend Marian has been abducted by a gang called Black Warriors. It was a side scrolling beat-em-up which had simple controls to punch, kick and jump against your opponents. Neon follows the same basic storyline and beat-em-up formula with some new additions to add a modern twist.
The combat system has received a big overhaul. The standard punch/kick/jump attacks are still present but are enhanced with moves such as punching enemies while they are on the ground, as well as throwing them while they are stunned. A new feature called Gleam allows you to duck or dodge attacks which when done successfully makes you twice as powerful for a few seconds. It takes some practice to master the timing of activating Gleam, but once you do you will find enemies a lot easier and faster to kill.
Not content with a few upgrades and additions to the basic combat system, the developers have added a leveling up system which comes in the form of songs. The songs are split into two categories; a passive and a special ability. The passives change the characteristics of the player such as more health, but weaker attack power, or less health and more special power. The special abilities use up a varying portion of your ability bar which is regenerated over time and by picking up batteries. They come in a variety such as spinning kicks, one-inch punches and deadly dragons. There is a good mix to suit all play styles. Each song can be upgraded initially up to ten levels by collecting mix tapes which are dropped by defeated enemies. Defeating bosses rewards you with mythril which are used to unlock an additional ten levels for the songs.
On the normal setting you should not find the game too much of a problem if you use passives such as Training Wheels which greatly increases your health. Once you complete the game, which takes around three hours, you can try the harder difficulties which scales up to punishing levels where one or two hits can cost you a life. It does help to level up if you want to complete these harder difficulties, you will spend a lot of time grinding to gain mythril and the mixtapes if you want to get everything to level 50.
The style of the game stays true to the original in style, while the locations and story do stray from the original, it still manages to feel right in both respects. From the opening sequence where Marion is kidnapped through to the last boss, it felt like a Double Dragon game. The music is one of the highlights of the game. From the attract music on the menu and throughout the game each song is a brilliant blend of 80’s rock, pop and game themes. I also loved the little jingles that each passive and special has when you select them in the menu. Top marks for the audio!
The game features both local and online co-op. It plays just fine locally but I had nothing but issues when attempting to play online. The game is unplayable to the extent that you can not even press Escape to bring the menu up to quit the game. It appears to be a synchronisation issue, one moment you can be standing in one area on the screen, tap a button to move and several seconds later you can be anywhere depending on what actions the games host has done since. Hopefully this can be fixed with a future patch as online multiplayer was a no go for me.
Double Dragon Neon is a enjoyable game to play for both people old enough to remember the originals (like myself) and newcomers to the series. For us oldies it remains fairly true to the original with its humour and core gameplay, and for newcomers it has enough shiny stuff in terms of special attacks, nice graphics and music to keep them interested. If you are intending to play single player or local co-op then this is definitely worth checking out. If online co-op is your choice I would keep an eye on the issues to see if they are resolved before buying.
A classic beat-em-up series brought up to date with a few welcome additions including the Gleam and abilities, but level grinding can be tiresome and the online multiplayer has issues.
Nice designs which when possible stay true to the style of the original series.
Anything less than 11 would be criminal! A great selection of 80's style rock, pop and game themes. Turn it up!