Double Dragon Neon Review
Should have stayed in the 80’s.
I love game remakes, I really do, but they have to be done right. You either leave it alone and release it as it was, or you make some small changes to bring it up to today’s standards. In the case of Wayforward’s Double Dragon Neon, it’s a little bit of both, but neither are for the best.
Anyone who grew up the in 80’s will remember Double Dragon quite well, and more than likely spent a small fortune in quarters playing it in the arcade. When you first load up Double Dragon Neon you’ll instantly remember Marian getting punched in the gut and taken away by some thugs, but after that things start to get less familiar. You’ll still play as brothers Jimmy and Billy Lee on a quest to save her but instead of the Black Warriors taking her, it’s a new villain and a whole new cast of enemies standing in your way. There are plenty of references to the original game and a lot of the gameplay is the same but this isn’t a remake, it’s a re-imagining.
Combat is basically the same with kicks, punches and grabs, but unfortunately headbutts, elbows and knees have all been removed for some strange reason. Now when you grab an enemy you only throw them, instead of delivering those repeated vicious knees to their face. That’s strike #1. You can still pick up knives, bats, whips and other weapons, so that’s a plus, and after you defeat an enemy they may drop some loot which can consist of health pick-ups, energy for your special attacks and Mix Tapes.
What are these special attacks and Mix Tapes you ask? Well, there are two forms of Mix Tapes: Stances and Sosetsitsu. Stances are passive abilities that grant you things like gain back health with each successful hit you land, get a damage boost when you are low on health, become stronger with each hit you land and more. I personally found the Absorb Stance which gives you health back with each hit to be the best one. Sosetsitsu Mix Tapes are special attacks you can unleash if you have enough energy to use them such as Fireball, Bomb Toss, Dragon Swarm and Spinning Kick. You can only equip one of each type at a time, and the more Mix Tapes you find the more powerful they become.
As nice of an addition to the game as they are, the Mix Tapes are poorly designed. To upgrade a Mix Tape you can either find another one from a fallen enemy or you can buy one at one of the shops in the game. The problem is that the shops are only found in some levels, so you have to keep replaying those levels over and over just to get to the shop. The game is laid out on a map and you can move back and forth between levels, so why not put a shop in between some of them to ease the pain of upgrading? It’s very annoying the way it is and makes it a little less fun each time you have to do it. That’s strike #2.
I’m not going to say that Double Dragon Neon is too hard, even though much like the original it is pretty tough, but it does bother me quite a bit that there are no checkpoints in the levels. I know this is how the game was made originally but things have changed since then and this type of design should be left in the past. There’s nothing worse than making it to the final part of the level, only to die and have to replay the entire thing again. It’s not even that the levels are that long, but there are quite a few sections that are really difficult and once you make it past them, you don’t want to have to do it all over again. How about even one checkpoint in the middle of the level? Even that would be better than doing the whole thing over again. It’s 2012 and in my opinion, checkpoints are necessary if your game is this tough. That’s strike #3.
Technically speaking, the game works great and looks just as great with the nice HD graphics update, but all of the HD graphics in the world can’t cover up its weaknesses. The combat, what didn’t get cut from the original anyway, is fun, the Mix Tapes are a nice way to add in some modern-day features, but there are just so many design flaws that kept me from having fun. Having to replay levels over and over just to get to a store or because there are no checkpoints when you die made this unnecessarily frustrating to no end. All they had to do was add in a separate store on the map and include at least one checkpoint in each level and things would have been a lot different.
Double Dragon Neon supports two player local co-op right now, with online co-op coming soon we’re told, which doesn’t help much for this review since we can’t actually play and test it out. So for now it’s a local co-op game only and it’s definitely better with a friend since things are a little less frustrating with the help of another player when clearing out a level for the 10th time.
If you are a die-hard Double Dragon fan then you will probably enjoy the majority of Double Dragon Neon, with its nice HD graphics makeover and references to the original for nostalgia’s sake, but the poor design decisions kept me from having as much fun as I could have. A wise man once said “It’s almost worse when there’s nothing broken but a game just sucks.” and that sums up Double Dragon Neon perfectly.
Price: 800 MS Points ($10), Free for Playstation Plus members.
Available On: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network