1987 was the year that Taito first brought the original Double Dragon games to the United States, and since then, we've been fighting with the Lee brothers in both dingy arcades and our homes, across consoles like the NES and Super NES. Recently, the brothers made a comeback, of sorts, when they arrived on Xbox Live Arcade in a recreation of their original arcade effort. Unfortunately, that game has long gone due to rights issues, but don't fret. By this time next week, you'll be fighting with the brothers again in Majesco and WayForward's remake, Double Dragon Neon. We recently went hands-on with a near-final build of the game at PAX Prime to see how it was shaping up.
Like the story from the original 1987 release, Double Dragon Neon has you portraying one -- or both -- of the Lee brothers as they take on a shadowy new villain who has cast his evil upon the city. He's gone and kidnapped a girl with the help of his 80's-ized crew, and it's up to the mullet-bearing brothers to use their martial arts skills to make things right, whether they're beating up thugs with their punches or kicks or relying on weapons lying in the street, like barrels or bats, to dispense some justice.
As with the original Double Dragon, Neon is a simple beat-em-up at heart. You'll work your way through a series of side-scrolling levels, facing off against two to three thugs at a time and beating them up with stylish combos until they vanish off the face of the earth. (No, really, after you beat them, they disappear without a trace.) You can blend together punches, kicks, throws and other moves to get rid of them, and occasionally use special techniques, supercharged by an electrical meter that appears in the corner, to really dish out some damage.
Double Dragon Neon calls upon plenty of teamwork if you're playing in a cooperative session. The game supports up to two players both locally and on Xbox Live/PlayStation Network, so you can team up with a fellow bro to dish out the damage, then go in for a health-regenerating high five -- or, if you're feeling like a jerk, a low blow that simply gives you the health you need to go on. It's your call, but, obviously, no one likes a backstabber.
Along with the routine stages you'll run through, filled with ridiculous looking enemies, Double Dragon Neon also packs a few bonus stages to test your mettle, and also earn you a few extra weapons. The game's beat-em-up gameplay doesn't change much, but, then again, WayForward is simply paying tribute to the 80's classic that started it all. Why change now, after all?
From what we've played so far, Double Dragon Neon is very true to the original nature of the game, rather than relying on cheap tactics like some previous editions of the game have done. You'll have no problem executing moves like jump attacks and brutal throws, and working with a friend, you'll be able to clear the screen of enemies in no time flat. The weapons also have great use throughout each stage, especially the barrel, which, when lined up correctly, can hit more than one enemy, clearing the way for you to finish them off quickly and continue on your quest to save the girl.
As far as looks go, WayForward is trying to do a "best of both worlds" with Double Dragon Neon. On the one hand, it has the classic 2D side-scrolling vibe down, complete with a variety of stages, both within the city and the upper mountains beyond it, and also features a variety of bad guys that, let's be honest, you simply WANT to beat up. And though the heroes look a bit dorky, understand that the developer really shot for going with the 80's look. It totally fits.
Likewise, the game features a cheesy but likable Miami Vice-ish soundtrack, one that makes it easy to kick ass to. And, fortunately, it does away with the cheesy voiceovers, instead making our heroes silent, yet dedicated, when it comes to kicking some butt.
With online multiplayer intact (or local, if you prefer) and plenty of butt-kicking action intact, Double Dragon Neon should be a big hit with casual players and nostalgists alike when it debuts on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network next week. For good measure, PlayStation Plus members will gain an extra advantage, as the game will be free of charge for a limited time once it drops on Tuesday. Even if you don't subscribe, though, this definitely looks like the kind of game that's worth the small $10 price tag. We'd buy that for a dollar, dude.