Initial release date: September 11, 2012
Composer: Jake Kaufman
Series: Double Dragon
Developers: WayForward, Abstraction
Publishers: WayForward, Majesco Entertainment, Midnight City, Arc System Works
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
"Review Copy provided by Majesco Entertainment"
1987 was the year that the belt scrolling genre aka brawlers aka beat em ups became the #1 genre the world over, and that is due to none other than one classic franchise being Double Dragon! This game exploding onto the scene and had everyone going to the local arcade to dump quarters into so that they could prove that they are a bad enough dude and beat up the Shadow Warriors and save the girl like in so many 80’s action flicks of the time. Fast forward over 30 years and the franchise has been largely forgotten if not unknown to modern gamers. In 2012 and 2013 we were given 2 remakes of Double Dragon in the form of Majesco and Wayforward’s Double Dragon Neon and Gravity Co’s Double Dragon II: Wander of Dragons of which the former was the return to glory of the franchise and the latter is a game we just don’t talk about. Hop in the DeLorean again and land in 2021 with the return of Double Dragon Neon for Nintendo Switch! The question is does it hold up after all the recent beat em up greatness that has been released or does it go back into obscurity? Let’s find out!
The Story of Double Dragon Neon starts in the same fashion as the original Double Dragon where the Shadow Warriors aka The Black Warriors show up and gut punch Marion who’s standing outside the garage area and walking off with her. The Dragons leave the garage and take the fight to the streets and face their destiny by challenging SKullMegedon.
This game plays like an amalgamation of the original DD’s simplicity, Double Dragon Advance’s additional move sets like the Hyper Knee’s functionality, and the overall speed of Super Double Dragon which is probably the slowest Double Dragon gameplay wise. You have your standard punch and kicks assigned to Y for punch and X for kick with B being your jump and A is your grab. ZR allows you to start running left or right which can be modified to allow you to run up or down the screen diagonally. ZL allows you to dodge incoming attacks by ducking which also allows you to also activate gleam which powers up your attacks if you time dodging at the moment of impact for being hit.
You’re able to chain together punches and kick attacks to create strings of combos allowing you also to juggle opponents if you are skilled enough to do so. You can press ZL and either punch or kick which will have you either do a SWEEP THE LEG or Hyper Knee attack. When running you can do either a sliding kick attack or a shoulder ram depending on whether you press kick or punch while running. Pressing R will activate one of your special attacks assigned from the mixtapes subcategory ranging from fireballs, screen nuke dragon attack, tornado kick, one inch punch, and more.
Speaking of the mixtapes, that is what sets this Double Dragon apart from the other entries because in this one you pick up what’s called mixtapes which are dropped by enemies and found when breaking destroyable items in the environment. There are two types of mixtapes in the form of the Sosetsitsu and Stance tapes; Sosetsitsu mixtapes allow you to have special moves which ultimate will drain your special move gauge under your health bar which gradually fills up over time, Stance mixtapes are where you can change out your stats for various buffs and in some cases debuffs to your health/strength/defense stats to change how you play the game. The more Mixtapes you gather, the stronger the tapes end up being and if you want you can take it a step further and go to the Smith shop where you can give ore and increase the max potential of your mixtapes.
There are shops you can go to similar to how it is in Double Dragon 3 The Arcade Game where you can buy more lives, mixtapes, and even more health.
The game can be played couch co-op (sadly no online) with you taking control of the Lee Brothers, if one of you falls in battle then the other will have a short time span to revive them by “winding up” the mixtape to bring them back into the fray. There are 3 difficulties to choose from being Normal, Dragon (hard), and Double Dragon (Very Hard) with the latter two being unlockable upon several replays of the game. Other unlockables include the Gallery mode with various artwork as well as the Robo Bro skin.
There are a total of 10 levels to fight your way through from the iconic Streets opening level of the original Double Dragon with some mix in elements of the NES original all the way to outer space where you’ll do battle with SkullMegedon. All your standard Double Dragon enemies are here from Williams and Roper to Linda and even several new enemies.
If you’re looking for the classic Fist of the North Star/Mad Max aesthetic of previous Double Dragon games then you’ll not really find that here as this game has a decidedly cheesy 80’s flair with neon (no pun intended) flair to just about everything to it. There are flattops, mullets, and the like in this game. Billy and Jimmy have their classic look albeit modified a bit to include mullets, overall straps, knee high boots, and a totally 80’s dude bro attitude to them. The characters all look really good for what they are and the game definitely screams 80’s aesthetic with its tude! The main villain SkullMegedon looks so ridiculous and out of place, yet he somehow fits in with this aesthetic take on the Lee Brothers.
When played docked the game looks to be running at 1080p at 60fps, when played portably the game runs at 720p with the same framerate of 60fps. Given that this is a port of a decade old game, there isn’t really any issues with how this game runs or looks on the Switch as it was 720p on the PS3 and 360.
At no point did I ever experience any slowdown or issues.
This game takes almost every iconic ost from the Double Dragon franchise and tells it to hold its beer as the remakes of the original Title Theme, first level, cave level, and more all sound simply spectacular! The original tracks for the game also sound awesome such as stage 2’s Mango Tango Neon Jungle theme sounds so good that it’ll make you think it was legit made in the 80’s with its synth goodness and it even incorporates elements of Double Dragon 2’s first level into it.
The soundtrack is incredible.
Voices for the characters all sound good especially the Lee brothers and their enemies with their dude bro one liners. The only outlier of this is SkullMegedon who sounds……annoying. I’ve never been a fan of his voice because he sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon villain from the 90’s.
Attacks all sound good and meaty from punches and kicks to slams and more. All special attacks have that extra goodness SFX punchiness to them and all the weapons sound like they hurt.
All in all, nothing to complain about here.
The only downside I have here is the fact that the games tone is for all intents and purposes an insult to the Double Dragon franchise and I say that as a fan of the series who grew up with it from the arcades to all the home conversions and more. What’s more is this game was many peoples first ever DD game and so many have and will continue to have an idea that DD is a self-parody of the 80’s and not only that but what’s more worrying is the fact that because of how popular this was, the future of the franchise will be going in this direction and not in the direction of the original series. Call me old fashion but I want Spike and Hammer back, the Double Dragons who waged war on the Shadow Warriors not these guys who could’ve basically been crossed over with the BattleToads. Skullmegedon is such a joke that honestly makes me laugh and then cringe making me think of classic bosses they could’ve used such as Willy, Duke, and even the Shadow Warrior.
There’s also the fact of the gameplay feeling stiff and slow which is counter to what the series has always been and hasn’t been since Super Double Dragon and while it does work here, it just isn’t my favorite DD game. I think the reality is that I’m a series fan and want to see it come back in a serious way with maybe the art style of Guilty Gear and a serious plot instead of what they did here. It’s not bad its just not what a series fan like myself would want for such an iconic franchise. I’ve also been spoiled on fan games Legend of The Double Dragon and Double Dragon Ultimate which both are made by Mahcneto and several of the original team who worked on Double Dragon and are in my opinion better Double Dragon games than this is.
I’ve said my peace here.
If you didn’t play this when it originally released in 2012 then you definitely missed out on one of the best brawlers out there and a good return of an iconic franchise and are now able to not only enjoy some belt scrolling goodness on the king of brawlers known as the Nintendo Switch on the big screen but also portably too! With good goofy humor, excellent graphics, a stupendously good soundtrack, a good combat engine, and the fact that it’s portable make this one of the best games to come out in 2021 that you need to add to your collection. Don’t pass up Double Dragon Neon!