Pretend it’s 1987 and you’re all hopped up on Nerds, Airheads, and Pop Rocks. The bright colors of the candy (and the sugar, always remember the sugar) has started to seep into your brain as you approach a new game in your favorite arcade: Double Dragon. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. There are street punks and… a chick with a whip and… whoa, does that guy have a knife? Now I have the knife! As the candy does its thing, it’s now 2012 and the neon has disappeared from the world, but it remains in Double Dragon: Neon, a downloadable tribute to the original arcade game that’ll be available this Summer.
Platforms: PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Genre: Sidescrolling Beat ‘Em Up (No Quarters Required)
Release Date: Summer 2012
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
Developed by WayForward, Double Dragon: Neon is just as much a loving tribute to the fighting franchise as the company’s other retro reboots such as Contra 4 and A Boy and His Blob were to theirs. Neon even opens in the same way as the original arcade game: Williams punches Marian in the stomach and hauls her away to the Shadow Boss. Instead of your brother, the Shadow Boss in Neon is known as Skullmageddon and he’s got his own army of Shadow Warriors ready to take on the Lee brothers.
This army consists of many of the same enemies we’ve grown to know and love over the years. There’s a tough-looking Linda, complete with her trademark whip. There’s Abobo, who’s been given a sleek makeover, meaning he’s no longer the giant blob of pixels he used to be. But there are also new enemies including an afro ninja and Skullmageddon’s personal bodyguards.
Fighting this army will feel familiar to anyone who has played a Double Dragon game over the years. There are the standard punches and kicks, along with a jumping kick (which felt a little floaty in this early build) and the ability to pick up weapons dropped by fallen enemies. The available weapons included several series mainstays (knives, bats, whips), but also a few new ones including grenades and an afro pick. An injured enemy can also be thrown if you get in close enough.
Even in this early build, the fighting felt great. Punches and kicks landed with authority and it was very true to the Double Dragon franchise. Some might say it was a little too similar to a game that’s 25 years old, but this kind of sidescrolling beat ‘em up doesn’t come along very often anymore.
But what about the Lee brothers’ patented special attacks? They weren’t available in the demo I played, but according to a nearby PR representative, the game will pay homage to the 80s with the “mixtape combat system.” When players defeat enemies, they drop giant wads of cash. This money can be used during a visit to the Tapesmith, who will fill your cassette with special moves. And like any good mixtape, players will be able to pick and choose from a wide variety of attacks, so no two mixtapes will be the same.
That said, “two” is an important number in Double Dragon: Neon. The game is being built with a strong focus on co-op (excuse me, the publisher prefers if we say “bro-op”). Players will be able to execute a series of high fives that will restore health, restore energy for special attacks, and clear the screen of enemies. And if one player loses all their health, the other player is encouraged to come over and “respool their tape” by spinning the left stick in a counter-clockwise motion. A helpful on-screen graphic even shows a pencil spinning a cassette tape… and I’ve just lost everyone under the age of 25.
The demo ended with Billy and Jimmy Lee entering the lair of the Shadow Boss. Instead of the showdown I’d been hoping for, the camera pulled back to reveal that the Asian-style castle was actually a rocket. A rumbling in the controller let me know that the Double Dragons were headed to outer space! But we won’t get to try those levels out until this Summer. Which is too bad, because I want to play more Double Dragon: Neon now.
For more on Double Dragon: Neon, check out our interview with Pete Rosky, Majesco’s Assistant Product Manager.