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Double Dragon: Neon Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Double Dragon: Neon is either another must-own game from WayForward or the worst game of the year; it all depends on who you ask. Despite the lack of online play and a few repetitive moments, I was won over by Neon's charm. The 1980s are alive and well in WayForward's newest game! Rating: 71%
Double Dragon: Neon
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  • Review Score:

  • B
Last year around this time I was raving about WayForward's brilliant BloodRayne: Betrayal, a fresh take on an otherwise middling action franchise. I loved it, but was shocked to discover that many of my fellow critics hated every second of it. The same thing happened with Contra 4; I felt like it was the perfect revival of a classic game series, while others seemed to think it was a complete waste of time.

Now it's 2012 and apparently nothing has changed. WayForward's newest game is a fresh reboot of Double Dragon, and like clockwork, it's being hit with decidedly mixed reviews. Friends and critics I normally trust have a venomous hatred for the game. And yet here I am scratching my head in disbelief. Am I that out of touch with what the average gamer is looking for or am I one of the only people who truly understands where this company is coming from?

Double Dragon: Neon (XBLA)

At first, Double Dragon: Neon looks like a colorful retelling of the all-too-familiar story from the 1987 arcade game. You see a motley crew of thugs kidnap Marian, prompting Billy and Jimmy Lee to leap into action and save the day. They do this by walking from left to right punching and kicking any street thug that gets in their way. This includes Abobo, a giant steroid-fueled monster that will rip you limb from limb if you give him the chance. All this will be instantly familiar to anybody who has spent even a few seconds with a Double Dragon game.

But don't get too cozy, because Double Dragon: Neon takes a few unexpected turns on the way to saving Marian. It all starts in the second stage, when the brothers unwittingly enter a building-shaped rocket and blast off into space. Suddenly Billy and Jimmy go from battling street thugs to smacking down space robots. Later they fight zombies in a haunted forest, killer helicopters in the assault zone and genetically engineered soldiers in the research lab. It's an adventure full of surprises and a great sense of humor.

These different stages also come with a few creative boss fights, something the Double Dragon franchise has always had trouble with. One level sees you fighting a multi-sectional tank. Another has you battling an Ultraman rip-off with a fancy (and easily destroyed) space motorcycle. The most perplexing is a genetically enhanced plant creature with arms in the shapes of dinosaurs and sharks. As strange as these bosses sound, they make perfect sense in the context of the adventure.

Double Dragon: Neon (XBLA)

Like the title implies, Double Dragon: Neon is overflowing with 1980s nostalgia. The character designs seem to be based on the over-the-top cover art slapped on Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges. The music is also in on the joke, playing songs inspired by the Street Fighter soundtrack and Stan Bush's "The Touch". Even the power-ups come in the way of audio cassettes. This is a game that embraces the 1980s kitsch at every turn, to the point of becoming a self-parody at certain points.

Thankfully the gameplay doesn't feel like it was ripped out of the 1980s. You get the usual punches, kicks and throws, as well as different moves for when you're jumping and ducking. There are a few combos to memorize, which alone makes this a deeper experience than those 1980s arcade games. Couple these moves with a run button that adds even more variations to your standard punches and kicks, and you have a fight mechanic with surprising depth.
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