Game: "Double Dragon Neon"
System: Xbox 360
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: When I first heard that Double Dragon was being remade (again), I was ecstatic. It was a great game, but there was definitely room for improvement. I became a little worried when one of the earliest pieces of art for the game was a goofy drawing of the Lee brothers hi-fiving in midair. Somehow, the developers built off of that picture, and made it work.
As in the original, DDN starts off with the Lee Brothers in pursuit of the thugs that ruthlessly punched their girl, Marian, in the gut and carried her off to who knows where. That's the first level. In the second level, you enter a dojo that turns into a spaceship and launches into deep space. Therein, you learn that your true enemy is not just some guy with a gun, but a diabolical cosmic lich named Skullmageddon!
That transition from the old and familiar to the new and unusual encapsulates the game as a whole. Great care was taken in preserving elements from the early games (enemy designs, move sets, the occasional 8-bit sprite, etc.) while simultaneously incorporating modern design like an expanded fighting system. Most notably, the game has incorporated a two-choice dodge system like the one used in God Hand: to avoid attacks, you can either roll away, or duck under the blow. Ducking is tougher to pull off, and only certain attacks can be dodged that way, but a successful duck will cause you to "gleam". When you're gleaming, you'll have a few seconds of oh so rewarding double damage that, in competent hands, can be used to clear the screen of bad guys.
Also new to the series are special "mix tapes" you can recover off enemies and treasure troves around the level that will give you both active and passive special abilities, including but not limited to their signature cyclone kick. Said abilities can be further improved by grabbing more of the same tape, but only to a point. After that, you'll need the services of the other new feature: the tapesmith.
To raise the cap on your mix tape powers, you'll need to bring mythril to the tapesmith. This is where the game starts to stumble a bit: mythril is only dropped by boss characters, and there's only five of them. I'm not opposed to a little grinding once and a while, but if ever there was a need for a boss rush mode, it's here. You get the distinct impression that this mechanic was thrown in solely to pad out the game's playtime.
Where the game really shines in its style. Rather than being a straight remake, the developers decided to have fun with the idea. Billy and Jimmy Lee are designed as mid 90s cartoon characters, spouting off cheesy one-liners without a hint of irony, while Skullmageddon is portrayed as an incompetent villain with more than a little Skeletor in him. The music includes covers of classic songs from the original series, along with several original songs in the spirit of triumphant 80s songs like the works of Joe Esposito. Hell, they even threw in a disturbing, Ninja Gaiden-esque continue screen!
The downside of all this old school love is that the full game takes only slightly longer to beat than the original Double Dragon. If you dig the new combat system, then you probably won't mind going back for another shot at a higher difficulty level, but you'll still need to spend at least a little time grinding up your tapes/tape level caps so that you won't get completely destroyed. I'm not opposed to games being difficult, but on the middle-of-the-road difficulty level, enemies can drop your health by as much as half in a single hit. And most of them have two-hit combos!
The other big problem stemming from the old school style is that the game only has couch co-op. Not that big of a problem if you're rooming with someone who appreciates remakes as much as you do, but it's not often that you find a modern multiplayer game that doesn't work online. The word from the developers is that online functionality will be patched in later, but as of this writing, there has been no specific date set for its release.
In spite of being called Double Dragon, stylistically the game has more in common with Battletoads and Double Dragon, with the martial arts action quickly giving way to quasi-futuristic themes and battles with big monsters. In fact, if Wayforward ever decides to revive that particular crossover title, I'll be first in line to check it out... as long as they tone down the RPG elements.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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