TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Double Dragon Neon’ burns bright as ’80s throwback brawler
Creating new content from an established franchise is difficult business. The struggle is real, as it relates to how much you borrow from the past versus creating a totally new experience for the gamer. I’ve seen just as many failures as successes in this area of game development, and today we’re going to focus on one that I’d certainly classify as a success.
“Double Dragon Neon” (PS3)
Without question, “Double Dragon Neon” has one of the best soundtracks you will find in any game that is a remake/remaster of a franchise classic, as the composer behind much of the music was not only tasked with updating established “Double Dragon” tunes (and did so superbly), he also had to up the ante with some new music (that fits perfectly into the 1980s action flick feel of this game) and even some bonus mixtape tunes that are campy rip-offs of ‘80s tunes and genres. If you’re a fan of the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, Rick Astley, or Marvin Gaye, you’ll want to check these out.
The voice acting is humorous, campy, and well done, with lines that tie into long-running jokes in the franchise as well as giving once bland enemies a bit more character, and this is especially true of new head bad guy, Skullmageddon – think Skeletor and “Mortal Kombat’s” Raiden put in a blender. This is a hard-hitting, bone crunching beat em’ up, and the sound effects do a great job of letting you know that yes, once again, you’re playing a “Double Dragon” game.
Bright colors (yes, neon) combined with a gritty action film feel adorn the levels of “Double Dragon Neon.” Both Lee Brothers look great, and each enemy looks stellar as well but, for me, the highlight here has to be Skullmageddon. As I said, he is a combination of Skeletor (complete with a very similar voice) and Raiden and is one of most unusual bosses I’ve encountered in a game in quite some time.
“Double Dragon” is a franchise known for its difficulty, and “Double Dragon Neon” is no exception. There are some brutal jumps, tough-as-nails enemies, and some bosses that can feel impossible at times, but the beat em’ up gods take mercy on you with some power-ups that can make the game easier in spots.
If that’s not enough help, if your partner dies in co-op mode, a cassette tape emerges with a pencil above it. Your defeated friend can tap a button rapidly and rewind the cassette with the pencil, bringing them back to life! “Double Dragon Neon” does not take itself too seriously, and when the story ties itself up in the end, you realize just how true this is.
As I said, making a game like this is tricky business because not all homages or love letters to an established gaming franchise work, but “Double Dragon Neon” was thankfully made by some folks who not only did their homework, but also delved further into what “Double Dragon” would be like if it was a film, which is a super cheesy ‘80s B-movie, and we’re all better for it.
Next week, we take a look at the humble beginnings of what has become a fan favorite among those looking for a retro feel in modern gaming – “Shovel Knight!”
Until then, as the holiday festivities roll on, be sure to take some time away from the hysteria to game on!