The folks at WayForward have a knack for creating 2D masterpieces. In fact, just about everything they’ve made for the DS (and 3DS) has been highly rated and critically acclaimed. Every classic series that they’ve been given the opportunity to remake, they’ve done extremely well with. So, when I heard that they were handed the reins to Double Dragon, I did a mighty flip.
Then I had the chance to play it, and I feel like I might have landed on my head.
Double Dragon Neon takes the classic arcade brawler formula and does little to change it. In fact, after my demo at PAX East I had wondered if anything had changed from the original games, minus a new coat of paint. The game aims to be as straightforward a brawler as possible, with three attack buttons, a few special moves, and random weapons strewn throughout the level.
The draw behind Neon is meant to be the visuals, locations, and classic fighting. However, the only levels available to us were street-based areas, with wide expanses of pavement and little to interact with. There were giant Abobos, though, so that was something to break up the monotony. Wait, let me rephrase that: THERE WERE GIANT ABOBOS. The enemies are fairly easy to plow through: I would grab and knee them in the face, body slam them, or punch-kick-jumpkick them until they were defeated. I noticed that they stayed on the ground for a lengthy period of time before they would get up, which was probably a glitch or timing decision.
Gameplay-wise, there was nothing interesting happening in Neon. The attacks are as basic as they get, with a few hit detection issues and some fairly unoriginal weapons to pick up (knives and combs were on the stage we played). Any of the enemies can be defeated by mashing one of the attack buttons repeatedly, which made it feel as though the only challenge would be to see how long I could go before my thumbs became tired from repetitive motions.
The draw of the game is purely Eighties nostalgia. But, even that is skewed. The characters we played on the original NES and arcade versions had a bit of super-deformation to them, and were designed so because of the limitations of the hardware. Proportionally, each of the characters in Neon is essentially the same size. It was hard to distinguish what made my “bro” more unique than anyone else on the screen. The bad haircuts, pink lights, and sweatpants are there, but they’re not exciting enough to warrant playing this.
There’s a sea of brawlers that try to differentiate themselves from each other in design, mechanic, or ingenuity. Double Dragon Neon might be sticking to the license a bit too much to separate from the pack. We’ll know how trapped in the Eighties we are when the full game releases this Summer for XBLA and PSN.