Don't brofist me, bro.
Double Dragon is a classic franchise in the video game world. I don't think anybody can argue that. In fact, if you haven't played a version of Double Dragon before, did you only today start playing games? It's a staple! The opening scene of Marion being punched in the gut with a quick panty flash is what helped nerds get by before the Internet for cryin' out loud!
Maybe that's why we remember the Dragons so fondly, but in any case, Majesco and WayForward have brought up a reimagining of the original, legendary beat-'em-up with Double Dragon Neon. And it brings together different elements from throughout the series: the original story from the first game, special attacks and presses from the subsequent titles, and a thick grouping of new tunes and classic remixes.
So what's really unique about this incarnation? Well, it's the same formula that DD has always had: walk left or right, up or down, across city streets and through detailed environments beating up specially-scheduled groups of tough street thugs, BDSM dominatrixes, geisha, Abobos (there's a bunch of them, even green and blue ones), mystical ninja… guys, and the most 1980s-ish, smelly-cheesy skeleton bad guy named Skullmageddon who has the most irritating voice acting ever. He only says a few things, but as soon as I saw him at the end of the first stage, my immediate reaction was, "Seriously? This is who I'm supposed to be in an all-out personal war with? Really? The angry skeleton with the stereotype voice of an angry 13-year-old geek who's stained his favorite issue of X-Men?"
Ignoring the classic 1980s villain with the magically annoying dialogue, the play is exactly as anyone might remember. Jump, punch, kick. This time, though, when you beat down a baddie, they just might drop a glowing cassette (for you young ones, it's like a small iPod, but no headphone jack or screen, and only holds about twelve songs) that pertains to one of sixteen different power-ups. Two can be used at a time, one being an overall attribute booster and the other a special attack. These can be adjusted on the fly against different enemy sets or bosses, and with most enemies dropping cassettes, it's easy to pick up as many as you can hold… while you might constantly be knocked off the edge of a cliff.
But still, as far as powering up is concerned, the only way to strengthen the heroes up is to collect and spend ore. Bosses will drop a few pieces here and there, not usually enough to spend on an enhancement. The real problem with the system, however, is that there are only a small gathering of levels—ten to be specific—and they require multiple playthroughs of certain stages in order to upgrade your stats. With each stage already being essentially a button-mash session without much strategy, and only a few of those even offering any ore to mine from fighting the flood of jean jackets and bondage gear, the whole experience gets old quickly. It's not simple RPG-ish grinding—it's an actual grind through only a few areas that matter. Oy.
It might look pretty, and the multiplayer might still be the place where it's got that classic appeal at all, complete with sharing or stealing HP from your "bro" if you high- or low-five. Choosing from the four main directions of the secondary analog stick, players can take or lose some of their life if a partner decides to screw them over instead of following those "sharing is caring" hippie opinions. You know that friend that always "borrows" a bunch of your extra lives? Now that friend can take bits and pieces by force if you're not careful!
It's the grinding that honestly made this game more of a chore for me than an enjoyment. If you need that old-school fix, there are better ways to do it on both PSN and XBLA, and you can just download and listen to the songs through your iPod or something if you really need the flashback. I just can't recommend it beyond the die-hard Double Dragon folks… if any of you are still out there.