Double Dragon Neon

There are few times where I pick up a game that revives a long dormant franchise and get the feeling that it’s been improved upon.  Double Dragon Neon really surprised me.  I can remember playing the NES version of Double Dragon ages ago but never quite had a burning desire to revisit it.  But I gave Neon a chance on a whim, having run across the demo while browsing XBLA.  I had listened to an episode of Sup, Holmes with Sean Valesco (director of Neon) and figured it was worth a shot.  That quickly turned into me forking over cash for the full game and it has been one of the most entertaining I’ve played since Saints Row IV.  Indeed, Neon’s brand of effortless humor takes what amounts to a standard brawler experience and shapes it into a uniquely memorable experience; partly for its interpretation of the franchise and the culture that surrounded it as well as solid humor and characterizations in the game.

It’s foundation takes the beat ’em up mechanics of the original game and builds on top of it with expanded move sets and different stat builds that can also be assigned to your character.  Cooperative elements of the game have also been spruced up with the ability to not only share lives with your partner but your life meter and trigger a double damage mode by giving each other high fives.  That last mechanic really let’s you join into the celebration/mockery of life and media in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  WayForward’s attention to detail and execution really makes the game shine and encourage you to play on to completion.  By the end of the game you’ll remember each enemy by name as well as their catch phrases and mannerisms.

One aspect I was not expecting to enjoy so much with Neon was the extent of the voice work for the characters as well as the music.  It provides a dimension to the experience that doesn’t interfere with the core gameplay but has the potential to make it far more enjoyable.  From Jimmy’s enthusiastic cry of “touchdown” when clobbering someone with a baseball bat to Williams’ boasting of getting a gold star for killing you or Skullmageddon calling you a dweebus – there are a ton of characterizations and details that bring the game to life.  The vocal work in the music was also handled quite well left me at first asking “what is this song they licensed?”  And the final song deserves special mention for providing one of the most satisfying endings I’ve encountered in quite a while.  Jake Kaufman’s work captures a very broad cross section of music from the time.  You’ll have all the entertainment of being able to step back into the past with all of the conveniences of modern console gaming.

I can’t come up with a reason not to recommend the title – especially if you’re someone that’s got even a passing experience playing the original.  It’s always hard to find games that provide a good co-op experience but Neon excels in accomplishing this.  I would hope that WayForward would be enlisted once more to bring us a sequel to Neon, but in the mean time $10 isn’t a lot to ask for this game.  And if you don’t at least get a few good laughs out of it then I’m pretty sure we can’t be friends.


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