"Too many of the several thousand reboots and homages sent out into the market seem to go out of their way to impress upon everyone how much serious god damn business it is to celebrate the achievements of yesteryear. Neon does it better than most, because it's not happy to trudge down the same old track and then claim it was held back out of misguided respect; it has its own way of doing things."
I donít care what everyone tells you; the 80ís sucked. As decades go, very little of worth came from that period and what did -- yuppie pony tails, huge shoulder pads on cardigans, the new romantic music revolution -- can just go to hell and die. Still, there seems to be a lingering sense of nostalgia wafting around causing everything from that period to get rebooted and shoved anew down our throats. Watch as your tiny touch-screen smart phone gets replaced with static handsets the size of your face, fibre optics get retro fitted back to dial up and arcade machines all have track balls shoehorned into them.
Actually, that last one was pretty cool, and the arcade revolution was one thing the 80ís nailed. In a technological boom period, funny little machines that ate your quarters started popping up all over the show. Space Invaders begot Missile Command and International Track & Field, and slowly more complex machines adorned the corners of pubs and greasy pizza hang outs. Between the annoyingly potent combo of Gauntlet and Wrestlefest came Double Dragon. And, damn it, if it didnít go and change everything.
I could prattle on about the arcade scene in those days for hours, and it would be very interesting for you indeed. But Iím not going to. Double Dragon excelled for its age, causing co-op side-scrolling brawling brilliance and empty change pockets across the globe. The slew of first generation consoles and soon-to-be obsolete platforms such as the Sinclair and the Amiga all got their ports of varying success. That was 25 years ago now. Iíll give a few of you a few moments to get over how old you now suddenly feel.
To the suddenly gloomier of readers, Double Dragon Neon is made almost entirely for you.
Thatís not to say thereís nothing here for entry levels players. Double Dragonís antiquated control scheme, based around having an arcade cabinet featuring as little buttons as possible, has been left by the wayside, and numerous new options open up to the brotherís quest to rescue the kidnapped (bizarrely shared) girlfriend. Simple kicks and punches can be turned into free-flowing combos; the new inclusion of a crouch button not only leads to new attacks like an awesome rising knee, but can help you dodge incoming blows. This is the perfect way to dodge series staple and resident steroid-freak Aboboís new spinning lariat attack (thanks, Haggar), and, as an added bonus, you can time it right to receive a temporary attack boost.
The tightening of the game is appreciated, and brings the title out of its state of obsolete . Thatís a thumbís up! It then uses this foundation to successfully lampoon the hell out of itself and its founding era.
As such, Billy and Jimmy are transformed from silent arse-kickers to Bill and Ted learn kung-fu, sharing in gloriously over-the-top flying high fives (that can redistribute sagging health bars if one player has taken a few too many blows) and cowabunga, dude exchanges. The main villain becomes a parody of awesome 80ís cartoon villains (settling mainly on Skeletor), and assorted power-ups are distributed through mix tapes. You can collect a varying collection of these cassette tapes, which can either grant a power move like a one-inch punch, or a spinning hurricane kick, or a number of stat boosts that can do anything from speed your combos up to letting you absorb HP back on every blow you land.
Little touches, such as using the tape to act like an RPG-esque level up system go a long way towards revitalising the series. Other touches, like letting you revive a downed fighter in co-op (by re-reeling a chewed up cassette tape with a pencil Ė those were the days) then take it over the finishing line. But what really catches is just how plain goofy it is. You might mistake Double Dragon Neon as a faithful remake, until you reach the end of stage two and see the tower block you just entered fly off randomly into the midst of space and then do battle with a giant plant with an angry shark and T-Rex for hands. Or how you can disable the seven-foot skeleton that serves as your nemesis by nailing his hat to his head with a well-aimed afro-pick. Neon's kooky like that, and not knowing what's going to happen next is a large part of its charm.
Which would mean very little had it not been constructed upon a solid foundation. Way Forward gets their groundwork right, then just go nuts with it. Too many of the several thousand reboots and homages sent out into the market seem to go out of their way to impress upon everyone how much serious business it is to celebrate the achievements of yesteryear. Neon does it better than most, because it's not happy to trudge down the same old track and then claim it was held back out of misguided respect; it has its own way of doing things.
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