Double Dragon Neon: Can The Updated Arcade Classic Still Cut It?

Before Streets Of Rage and Golden Axe there was Double Dragon; the side scrolling fighting game of choice in the 80s. Now it's back on console with shiny new HD graphics. But does it's gameplay still cut it?
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Before Streets Of Rage and Golden Axe there was Double Dragon; the side scrolling fighting game of choice in the 80s. Now it's back on console with shiny new HD graphics. But does it's gameplay still cut it?

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Coming from the 1987 classic arcade and NES hit, Double Dragon: Neon serves as a reboot of sorts for the side scrolling beat 'em franchise for the PSN and XBLA stores.

The plot of Double Dragon is videogame story 101 - thugs steal your girlfriend and you have to fight through hordes of bad guys to get her back. Where the original Double Dragon differed was that you could take on the game with a friend, taking twins Jimmy and Billy Lee through the game to rescue Marion which lead to one of the original gaming twist endings.

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Taking this new game for a spin and the most striking thing about it is how self-aware it is about the ridiculousness of the arcade beat-em-up genre. Double Dragon Neon is not  just a straight port of the original concept, while many of the locations and enemies return, characters are modelled in a gorgeous 3D cell-shaded style and a lot of new content has been added. It has a good sense of humor, with the start of the game being a beat for beat remake of the original only for one character to lament "Oh man, not this again!"  and there's the option to share health in co-op mode by initiating a high-five.

Double Dragon High Five

However my good feeling towards the game expires by the end of the first level. While it's all fun and good making a joke going "Hey, remember this ridiculous gameplay quirk of 80s videogames?", there is nothing fun about repeating said quirk. Double Dragon Neon stays true to the gameplay of the '87 original in so much that it plays like  relic of a bygone age. Gameplay is dull and repetitive and enemies take forever to go down, (don't even think about playing this game solo)  with some evening possessing moves that are not only unblockable, but their attack animations cut off your attacks. Double Dragon Neon just lacks the precision to justify it's "old skool" difficulty. When you eventually die fighting a boss you get sent back not to a checkpoint like nearly all game now do, but instead to the start of the level, just because that's what happened in the original. No Double Dragon Neon, that was infuriating 20 years ago, it's infuriating now.

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While Double Dragon Neon does make attempts to update the dated gameplay they are just that, attempts. While other side scrollers allow you to use upgrades that can drastically change the way your character handles, Double Dragon Neon upgrades offer a knee drop, or a fireball that do barely any damage on the small sample of enemy types on offer that take forever to die. In the end Double Dragon Neon is so painfully stuck in it's old ways that even for the £10 asking price on the console stores I can't recommend it, seek out Castle Crashers for superior gameplay, or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World game for 80s nostalgia.