Billy and Jimmy Lee are back in this re-imagining of Technos’ side-scrolling beat-em-up classic, Double Dragon. Billy’s girlfriend, Marion, has been kidnapped by thugs outside his garage and it’s your job to rescue her from Skullmageddon and his corrupt gang of hooligans.
Double Dragon Neon, while a re-imagining of the original Double Dragon, does a fair job of replicating the core mechanics of the original game. There’s plenty of enemies to pummel as you spend the first two levels cleaning the streets in a familiar urban setting. Later levels are a drastic departure from the series as Billy and Jimmy Lee take on thugs, robotic probes, and even alien creatures in a space station-like Japanese tower called the ‘Space Lair’.
The level is adorned with flat-screen monitors, robotics, and all manners of technology. The player must stay alive in rooms with airlocks that open at random. While these airlocks work well as traps to send hapless enemies into the vacuum of space, they can also serve as a cold grave for any player not careful enough to stay away.
Once you have survived the space station menace, you’re back on Earth fighting in the far east. The variety of enemies is impressive and the game even introduces new ones as the game progresses. This adds variety to the action and prevents it from going stale. The Haunted Forest happens to be the most intriguing level in the game for its variety of undead enemies. And while skeletons, spirits, and other undead villains may seem out of place in the Double Dragon universe, they at least make the game more interesting after spending eight levels beating on thugs, robotic probes, and alien-like abominations.
Double Dragon Neon isn’t your standard beat-em-up. The game relies heavily on precision and defensive skills to fend off the half dozen enemies that constantly fill the screen. So while it may seem tempting to mash buttons, the game doesn’t reward this type of approach. Instead, the game encourages the player to juggle opponents and then combo for maximum damage. Using the spinning kick attack will juggle enemies into the air long enough to set up a devastating combo. Once the timing of this technique is learned, most enemies are easy to defeat.
Billy and Jimmy Lee now have a duck technique that awards a gleam bonus when timed correctly against an enemy’s attack. This bonus makes you twice as strong for a couple of seconds, and if used consistently, it even makes boss battles a breeze. This technique requires a lot of practice, though.
Along the way, enemies will drop cassette tapes that will either add or upgrade current skills. These skills will increase your character’s vitality, strength, and fighting abilities, and they can be changed anytime during the game by pressing the Select button. Billy and Jimmy Lee have two skill sets – Stances and Sosetsitsu. Both skill sets must be unlocked as you play through the game and each can have up to ten skills.
Sosetsitsu contains your special attacks that can summon powerful dragons that spew fire to lightning that can be used repeatedly to shock your foes. Since you can level your fighter, the Stances skill set keeps track of your HP, ATK, MP and DEF skill points. Selecting a ‘stance’ will give your fighter certain perks as well as level the skill itself. The Weapons Up skill increases the damage and vitality of every weapon used on the battlefield (this includes baseball bats, knives, etc.). Staying with a specific skill will level it faster, but sometimes certain situations will require a different skill. It’s up to the player to decide which skills should be used during certain situations.
The game isn’t without its flaws. The hit detection seems to be spotty at times, and even when you execute a perfect roll to avoid being hit, an enemy will still inflict damage. This is a rare occurrence, but when it does happen, it’s always during a crucial moment during combat. But when you weight the pluses against the minuses, and consider the amount of depth the gameplay offers, this is just a small gripe in comparison.
It should also be mentioned that Double Dragon Neon becomes increasingly difficult the longer you play it. Like the game it pays homage to, the enemies in later levels quickly learn from your attack patterns and find ways to counter your tactics. The bosses are no exception either. It’s important to vary your attacks if you plan on beating the game.
Double Dragon Neon is a solid 2D beat-em-up that delivers on its promise. It delivers a beautiful 2D world filled with bright ambiances and hard rock music. Billy and Jimmy Lee have been given new personalities (like air guttering their victory at the end of each level) and most of the bosses are breathtakingly enormous. Gamers owe it to themselves to play Double Dragon Neon even if they have never played the original game. There’s plenty of thugs to pummel and enough replay value to keep you coming back for more.
Platform: Playstation 3 (Available on PSN)
ESRB: T (Teen)
Price: $9.99 (Free for Playstation Plus users)
|Impressive 2.5D graphics and backgrounds|
|Memorable rock-n-roll soundtracks that keep your adrenaline pumping.|
|The leveling system adds to Double Dragon Neon's replay value.|
|Fans of the beat-em-up genre will not be disappointed by Double Dragon Neon.|