It has been no less than eight years since the Lee brothers' Saturday morning cartoon outing, Double Dragon Neon, was released. As 2020 comes to an end, does this over-the-top scrolling beat’em up still glow in face of stiff competition on the Switch from the likes of Streets of Rage 4?
Genre similarities aside, it is perhaps fairer to compare WayForward’s reimagining of the Double Dragon canon to the more recent and surprisingly solid Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues. Both titles share the same 2.5D cartoon-like aesthetics, rely heavily on nostalgia and offer tasteful fan service. Yet despite its age, it is refreshing to discover that Double Dragon Neon quickly climbs to the top of the genre pile without breaking as much as a sweat.
The game starts with the player in familiar turf, with Marian getting punched in the gut and kidnapped by baddies, followed by Billy and Jimmy embarking on their rescue attempt through the mean streets we have walked timeless times before. However, conquer the first few levels – that look like straight up reboots of the original game – and you will yourself shot into outer space to meet the true mastermind behind this evil plot: Discount Skeletor! Alright, that is not his real name, but once you look at him and listen to his villainous quips, it is hard to keep Mattel's lawyers away.
What we're trying to say is that the dystopian setting of the source material has been traded in for over-the-top, colourful shenanigans, caricatured characters and absurd plots which would be more befitting of a '90s cartoon – this game really does live up to the “Neon” moniker. By not taking itself too seriously, this one pulls off some genuine “feel-good vibes” that, in turn, make it a very welcome and fashionably late addition to the genre list on Switch.
Also missing are the casual, immediate controls common to most games of the genre. Every button on your controller is used to make the Lee brothers do something useful: two attack buttons, jump, throw, run, dodge and special move correspond to a button on your controller of choice, and it will certainly take you a bit longer to master all these moves, along with a few other combo moves that rely on motion inputs to pull off. Sometimes the action does get a bit stiff when you find yourself juggling both enemies and the controls at the same time, but eventually it all falls into place as you begin to discover what strategy is best to deal with each type of enemy.
On the topic of strategy, there is actually quite a bit of it at play in this game. Dropped by defeated enemies and bought for a price at the shops you'll come across on some levels are twenty mixtapes (ask your parents) to collect. These come in two flavours: Stances and Sosetsitsu. The first type allows you to modify the base stats of your Lee family member while the later equips the Dragons with their trademark special moves (that fortunately use up their own bar instead of sapping your energy).
You can only have one of each type equipped, so you will find yourself often pressing ‘-’ to change up your combination of mix tapes mid-level in order to better suit your current needs. It's a neat and refreshing system with hidden depths as you learn how to use defeated bosses drops to power these up at the local tape-smith.
It would be a disservice to our readers not to include an entire paragraph in this review discussing the game’s soundtrack. Veteran composer and video game remixer Jake ‘virt’ Kaufman provided the audio accompaniment that perfectly pulls this whole package together, featuring both old Double Dragon anthems repurposed with a glow rock flair along with a few themes with memorable lyrics you will quickly find yourself humming as you play. Each mix tape also has a distinct track to go with it, and we found ourselves spending far too much time on the tape selection menu just so we could hear them properly. This stellar soundtrack is still wonderful in 2021, offering a great contrast to Streets of Rage 4's equally good electronic anthems.
While the single player game is solid and of an acceptable length, finding a partner to play along with truly makes this one shine the brightest. Co-op not only allows you to better manage crowds of enemies, but also adds the ‘high five’ mechanic into to play. By wiggling the right analogue stick, you can ask a high-five from your sibling, allowing both players to share life meter or boost their attack strength. This is a refreshing couch co-op mechanic that, when coupled with the brother-reviving mechanic and life-sharing, means that even with the odd difficulty spike or frustrating level restart never really overshadows the fun. A few secrets (that we won’t spoil here) also ensure that you will still be coming back to this one long after you finish your initial run.
As you might expect from a game originally released in 2012, Double Dragon Neon poses no problems for the Switch from a performance perspective and runs smoothly in both docked and handheld mode. Yet, despite its age, it still looks impressive, mainly thanks to the liberal use of bright colours and the excellent character design.
Double Dragon Neon is an old game for sure, but fortunately, it's far from being an outdated one. Under the watchful consultation of series creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto, WayForward managed to successfully reboot the franchise back in 2012 for a whole new audience by adding a healthy dose of craziness to the more classic tropes of the genre, and that inventiveness still holds merit in 2021. What other game allows you to stop, pop’n’lock, break dance and beatbox mid-level? The Lee brothers have just become the perfect way to spend your time until Mr. Scott Pilgrim drops onto the eShop early next year.
Is Jake Kaufman still working in the industry? I thought he vanished after taking all that money for a Kickstarter that went nowhere.
I drilled this pn the PS3 when it first came out it's a very good game and if your a double dragon fan worth picking up.
Though with streets of rage 4 out now streets of rage 4 has the edge.
I've been getting into beat-em-ups this (edit) past year, starting with River City Girls. I'm also importing a physical copy of Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle, and buying Scott Pilgrim vs. The World when that becomes available this month, with hopes of eventually being able to buy a physical copy.
Unlike Scott Pilgrim, though, this is a game by WayForward, who never passes up an opportunity to work with Limited Run Games for their major releases, so I'm going to hold out on buying this one for a bit, just in case.
Questions about the co-op? Is it couch co-op only (which I DO love) or can you also play online co-op or wireless co-op?
I enjoyed this on Steam and PS3. I'd pick it up a 3rd time on sale, it's a fun title
This "old" game is infinitely fresher than the lazy, derivative garbage that was/is Double Dragon "IV".
I've wanted Neon for years (dating back to the Wii/Wii U), but am I being just a touch too optimistic in holding out for a limited physical release?
@shiryu - 'fell good vibes' = 'feel good vibes' 😀
Is it even on the uk eshop yet? It wasn’t last night when I checked!
@Lordplops ... how did that pass!? Thanks.
@HamatoYoshi It was supposed to come on the same day but on release we got note that it was being pushed a couple of week in Europe, so expect it to drop soonish.
This game was brilliant back in the day, looking forward to diving back in!
Having a decent but hard time with it. Would love to play online with a buddy though.
I have this on PS3 and it was "alright" . Overrated back then, and looks like it is overrated now. Actually gone back to some Wii games, and even some of the 7 out of 10ers hold up very well against todays games.
@FargusPelagius this was actually rather easy to score unlike some of my previous reviews. We gave Cobra Kai a 7, we gave The Takeover an 8 and we gave Streets of Rage 4 a 9. These were all 2020 new releases and considering how good this one holds up eight years later there was really no other possible score.
Big fan of Way Forward (except the awful Trollhunters Tales of Arcadia one) but the side scrolling beat-em-up it’s really not addictive to me since Contra. Maybe I’ll wait for a sale to try the co-op mode.
The Takeover an 8??
@Darlinfan My brain said “Golden Axe” but my fingers typed “Contra”. I guess I’m still in 2020 mode.
I remember trying the demo on 360 and being annoyed that it felt like Billy and Jimmy were walking around and fighting while underwater. Just lacked that responsiveness which is integral to a belt-scrolling brawler.
@Shiryu yeah i understand. The other games you mentioned all have too high scores as well in my opinion, but as a comparative gauge, yeah DD Neon is about between those. It would rest just above 5 out of 10 on my scale. Seemed mediocre to me unfortnately. I may boot a PS3 up and give it another go sometime.
When european version?
@Rez Should pop up next week.
@Savino but the gameplay flow in DDN is not as smooth as SR4. It's a bit unfair to compare both games since this one despite being produced by Wayforward uses 3D polygon models against SoR4 incredibly 2D animates sprites. It's very hard to make a 2.5D belt action brawler that can match the smoothness of 2D sprite art.
Looking forward to this, shame no uk release date yet.
Haha this game always just reminds me of how salty ign got about it.
One of my favorite beatemups. Happy to double dip.
Loved it when I played it on PS3. Much better than Double Dragon 4.
Can we get a guardian heroes port? C'mon Nintendo, do it!
This game is awesome! PSA to all newcomers! Pay no attention to the IGN review from 2012. They said even then that the game was clunky, dated, ugly and "a dead genre"
Clearly they didn't play the same game I did. What a bunch of hacks!
This needs a physical release on switch
It got lukewarm reviews back in 2012. I'm glad it's been acknowledged over the years.
It's available on Xbox Game Pass currently, and I'd like to buy it on Xbox for the achievements, but a Switch physical version (which I don't count on) would trump that.
Big Double Dragon and Wayforward fan, and had been hearing about this game for years, so I'm glad it finally came to Switch. I can't wait to get into it with my brawler pal in co-op.
Loved this game back when In played it on the 360 and still love it to this day. Much better then Double Dragon 4 IMO.
Loved this game back in the day and still replay it from time to time. Might pick it up for the novelty of having it on the go, but with no apparent new features to entice me, I may have to pass for now.
tempting but I’ll wait.
speaking of beat em ups...I’ve rekindled with my 3DS and recently started playing “3D Streets of Rage” 1 and 2 for the system. with the 3D on, these two classics really shine on the 3DS and are arguably the best looking versions of both games!
sorry for the tangent.
Needs online multiplayer. There's a global pandemic going on, we're supposed to be social distancing, and it's 2021. Any coop game released these days should also offer online coop.
@Whitestrider that's what the user metacritic score is, too. Is that too high, or too low in your opinion?
It's too high, I was so bored that I wasn't able to finish it.
Bad flash graphics: NOPE.
I thought this was ok back then and simply went back to Streets of Rage 2 as my beat em up of choice, which it has been for 28 years now. I doubt I'd play it today now that we have Streets of Rage 4 as well
@JSDude1 Hey look, it's that guy from IGN
@Savino I don't think you need help, SoR4 was my GOTY 2021.
@Savino Pyable 2020 versions of Shiva and Max. They are working on it, but we have no time table for release... wait and see I guess. Scott Pilgrim is right around the corner.
@Shiryu "was" is past tense, & 2021 just started. I take it you mean 2020?
@twztid13 It was indeed written in 2020, a year best left forgotten.
@Shiryu my bad, i should have specified. I mean when you said this:
"@Savino I don't think you need help, SoR4 was my GOTY 2021."
@doctorhino Many thanks for that link - it was indeed quite amusing.
The following absurdly negative and lazy review actually pushed me to buy DKC Tropical Freeze:
In the first level, you leap over a few easy platforms, and maybe bash a few baddies on the head. In the next, you might bounce on some sprung platforms to reach some taller ones, or climb some vines to do the same. Later, you might even get a few zip lines loosely slung over some bottomless pits of death. Then the game starts to repeat itself.
It's all a bit stop and start. Platforms and enemies are laid out in odd ways, making it difficult to establish the sort of smooth, free-flowing rhythm that makes the best 2D platformers such a blast ... In a good platformer like Tropical Freeze's predecessor, those walls would be timed to fall in rhythm with previous jumps and obstacles, letting you zip past them quickly, and make you feel like a platforming pro.
(Clearly, this reviewer has never attempted the speedrun challenges!)
even the visuals fail to make an impact. They're nice enough, but like the level design, the environments are mostly bland.
I consciously avoid IGN, but I think I might have to take their negative opinions into account in the future.
@twztid13 Well, if they release the new DLC pack in 2021 as expected... it might just be. xD
@COVIDberry the link goes to a 9/10 Gamespot review... How's that an absurdly negative review?
Embarrassingly I'm checking the UK eshop multiple times a day to see if this game has appeared.
@twztid13 The text of the review - its tone, specific critiques and the sequence of positives and negatives - does not agree with the numerical score. I included quotes from the review to demonstrate. The critique made about platformers is generic and yes, absurd; it could apply to practically any game of that genre. If one reads the article through without seeing that score...
You have made me realize that I tend to disregard the number when reading a review.
@COVIDberry Ahh, i understand now. Gamespot, especially, does that a LOT. I thought u may have been referring to a different review from IGN when i read the last part of your comment, since the GS score was high.
I typically read a review if it's a game i know I'm interested in. But, because i look at several different sites for random reviews of games I've never heard if, i will often look only at the numbered scores for those games, then if it gets a high or low score, I'll read it. I'll also read them from each of the sites i frequent if it piqued my interest enough to actually consider buying a game. Because i look at so many sites & reviews for so many games that I've never heard of, the numerical scores are extremely useful for me to decide which reviews to read. For that reason, I'm glad they exist, else I'd be overwhelmed & probably not read any reviews, because i have ADD & it's not particularly easy for me to focus well enough to read things like that, as it is. To each his own, ofc.
@twztid13 True, my post was a bit confusing. I have two good friends with ADD, but neither of them are "gamers" (one absolutely despises our hobby, another is more "casual"), so I can appreciate what you're saying.
I do like to read the comments with any review, and they always seem to discuss the score a lot, but that makes more sense to me now.
I don't know about you, but I like to wait months or even longer before buying games, especially hyped ones, to see what sort of reaction floats to the top. I've avoided all the hullabaloo around TLOU 2, which is intensely political, to see whether it matches the impact of the original. I have absolutely no idea what numerical scores it received, but I guess I'll pay attention now!
when It will be realase in eu????
Still not available in UK. Surely your review should’ve touched on a UK release date.
Still not even in the coming soon section and no update, anywhere. Guess the UK doesn’t matter.
There seems to be a pretty nasty bug in the Switch version nobody seems to be talking about, unless I just got really unlucky. Avoiding spoilers, but in the second to last boss fight, there’s an enemy that does a giant screen exploding attack that you’re supposed to interrupt, but it flies way too high to hit. This wasn’t an issue in the original version and makes an already tough fight basically broken. Happened in both co-op and single player. It’s still possible to beat (and you can always be cheap and farm lives) but messing up one of the best boss fights in the game is a pretty major problem.
Played this back on the 360. Good beat em up, but I do recall getting frustrated with the difficulty spikes.
It's a fairly decent time pass but yeah, the difficulty spikes are odd.
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