Double Dragon Neon Review (Xbox 360/Playstation 3)
While not crowding headlines like other franchises of the same year, Double Dragon turns 25 this year and to celebrate Neon has hit the console stores as a memorial to a long forgotten genre.
Double Dragon Neon is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up that reimagines the classic formula slightly to try and offer a new experience for players that perhaps didn’t ever get to experience the original game in all its glory. You play either Billy or Jimmy Lee as they begin a mission to rescue Billy’s girlfriend who has been kidnapped by the evil Skullmageddon gang. Their mission takes them through classic environments reminiscent of the original game and will even find themselves on a quick, questionable, jaunt into space.
Neon trades on nostalgia from the start and doesn’t just rely on games from their own franchise to trigger it. The cheesy metal soundtrack, the brothers who could easily have been drawn from any number of popular 80s movies along with references to the decade littered throughout the game.
Neon also pushes to update the controls from a simplistic three-button formula to a less rudimentary, and more modern scheme ,in the hopes of differentiating itself just enough from the original to form its own path. Dedicated buttons to specific controls and special moves feels a lot better than forcing everything down into the original control scheme.
Co-op is available as players can pick both the brothers and play through the entire story but quite annoyingly the game doesn’t allow you to connect to friends online. That means the only way you’re going to be able to play with friends is to be sat together on a couch and that’s an antiquated approach to playing with friends; while you could make the argument this is another form of nostalgia it quite simply hampers any co-op you would probably otherwise play.
When actually in Co-op you’ll manage to have a lot of fun as these kind of games were designed around playing with friends huddled over an arcade screen and Double Dragon Neon doesn’t lose that edge when playing in a group. The 80s humour continues through Co-op as players can initiate a high-five to share health or add a score multiplier to attacks.
Hitbox detection and difficulty spikes really hamper performance throughout the game especially when you start going above the normal difficulty; you’ll go for a throw and the game simply won’t detect that you’re close enough to an enemy even if you’re stood right next to them, and that will open you up a devastating counter from your enemy that will decimate you very quickly. Progress is artificially stalled as you continually bump up against these infuriating problems that will have you restarting continually to try and simply make it to the second or third area.
Double Dragon Neon takes a classic formula and tries to update it but falls short in really installing a new entry in the modern era. With technical flaws, and absurd decisions with the Co-op system, it’s hard to simply play through the game the way it was intended and does more to harm the memories of its predecessor than play on the nostalgia.
If fans are looking for a beat ‘em up experience to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Double Dragon then I’d suggest hunting out the original which has propagated across all platforms rather than relying on this mediocre refresh of the series.