October 7, 2012
As soon as the adventure unfolds we witness Marian taking a misogynistic punch to the gut and carried off into the night by Skullmegeddon's goons. Billy and Jimmy Lee, who just happen to open the garage door a few seconds after the fact, give chase laying out a path of broken and bruised hoodlums, hookers, and scientists in their wake as they come to their shared girlfriend's rescue. The action comes complete with your standard issue mixture of light and heavy strikes, air attacks, and throws, but Neon adds on additional layers with magic spells and stat enhancers that come in the form of cassette tapes that level up with more of the same type you collect.
Thrown into the collaborative ass whoopin', both brothers are able to resurrect one another (in form of pencil-in-tape manual rewind for some serious throw back), high five to divide total health amongst one another, and just for the hell of it, you can beat-box at any time, often best used after dishing out a gratifying round of brute justice.
To cancel out any form of repetitive bore, common in beat 'em ups, Neon constantly brings something new and endearing as you progress. Going along with the B-Movie randomness theme, the adventure takes you through levels that are obvious nods toward the best gimmicks in cult films of 20 years past. From neon lit china towns, to space odysseys, random asian terrain, and an evil science lab that houses the most hype-worthy boss fight seen yet within the genre.
No matter where you are in the journey, one thing that can't be overlooked is the gourmand attention to retro detail. From the characters' threads, to the architecture, and even the menu screen Wayfoward left no stone unturned in constantly reminding you that you're kicking ass in the '80s. And thanks to the musical talents of Jake Kaufman, the soundtrack helps to maintain the style throughout, going as far as dabbling in old school synth pop, British punk, House, and even the opening theme dashed in flavors of cult classic Hong Kong flicks (be sure to check out the soundtrack here).
Neon seems like a title where there is no room for issues but sadly this isn't the case. The game doesn't allow you to throw enemies at will, you're required to bust up enough hits until a target is dizzy and even when you go for a grab you have to constantly remind yourself that the opponent will be auto-thrown in the opposite direction. Additionally, Neon tries to incorporate platformer elements such as jumping your way to the top of a giant tank, a task that at times causes you to drop unintentionally as the characters are weighted. Plus, as you go further into the game, the need to duck and roll becomes a requirement, not just to avoid obstacles but to also assist in surviving certain battles where a successful evade nets a damage boost. Ducking however is not dictated by how long you hold down the appropriate button, rather the game automatically forces you to stand back up and the dodge rolls are often too quick so getting knocked off your ass accidentally will happen more times than desired.
Additionally, Neon continues to adopt dated beat 'em up physics. Back then, missing your enemies was a quietly accepted issue as you're essentially trying to line up 2D characters in order to find the point of collision. As this is a title that utilizes 3D models, you would think that there'd be more leniencies with hit detection but instead you'll find your fists and feet clipping through foes at certain points, especially against adversaries coming onto the screen.
These irks can be forgiveable, but the real downer is the fact that, at the time of this writing, online co-op is not included. While sources have advised that it will be patched at a later time, a concrete release date has yet to be announced. If your schedule doesn't match up with your roommate's, friends', or family members', you'll undoubtedly have to grind through this undertaking with only half the fun.
Double Dragon Neon is a love letter to the niche cult following of '80s B-movies. It's got the style, the soundtrack, the action, and even the purposely awful jokes, voice acting, and silly plot. This is a package that is sure to give you and a partner laughs and hollers and that's the way the game is meant to be experienced. Alone, you'll not only be deprived of certain features, but conveniences such as reviving, room to experiment with tape combinations without worrying about death, partner healing, and even friendly fire to spice things up. Beating the game alone is by no means an inaccessible feat, but is indeed a difficult one which can be riddled in frustrations with the occasional sigh and eye rolling. Whatever reasons Wayfoward has for not including online co-op from the get-go, let's face it, in this day and age there's just no excuse.
Double Dragon: Neon was reviewed on the PlayStation Network. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.