Double Dragon Neon
It’s a familiar scene: a beautiful girl in a mini-skirt standing alone in a barren street. A nameless thug emerges from stage right followed by a few of his cronies. His actions, even when measured against modern standards of violence, are brutal. A quick punch to her gut buckles her over and he hefts her over his shoulder, carrying her back to where he came. Then Billy and Jimmy Lee emerge. The game has begun.
It’s been over a decade since there’s been an original Double Dragon game, and to be fair, it doesn’t help that for the longest time the beat ’em up genre has been in a slump. It makes sense that during the PlayStation 2 era few of them were released, and it makes sense that due to the rise of downloadable games the genre would come back. Games like Castle Crashers and especially Scott Pilgrim vs. the World thrived on nostalgia for that style of gameplay.
WayForward is giving a lot of attention towards making this reboot feel like its classic game. Familiar enemies appear in the world, alongside new, with familiar environments to traverse. Overlaid onto this nostalgic work is a world that seems to have been pulled directly out of the ’80s, and this doesn’t just deal with the environment and character design. Special powers are relegated to mix tapes. Find new mix tapes to acquire new powers to use, designated, of course, to side A and B. The music in the game is meant to reflect the music of the time, not just of the original game. It makes for a stylish addition in the reboot, fitting in with its simple method of storytelling.
And then there’s the interaction between the brothers. Normally interaction between two players in a beat’ em up is both seldom and detrimental. Anyone who’s played the original Battletoads with a second player can share the joys and pains of that experience of accidentally killing your fellow toad with an accidental super punch. The Simpsons had a vague concept of team interaction, one that only occurred when two players lined up just right. And then in Streets of Rage, in theory, a person could grab a bad guy, and then another person could punch’ em a couple times.
Double Dragon Neon offers a high-five mechanic to bolster your chances at defeating your opponents. One player starts the high five, the other responds in turn, activating it’s bonus. The benefits of a high-five include balancing out health bars between the brothers and raising up attack power briefly. Now, for the more competitive player, there’s the option of the low-five. It appears much like a high-five, but when the other brother attempts to return the high-five he finds some of his health has been stolen. Thieves who team up with thieves will find both of their health depleting if they attempt low-fiving each other.
This return to Double Dragon’s roots draws from a strange number of inspirations. It’s a nostalgic bro-splosion, flooding the screen with bright and lively colors to build a gritty, ’80s world, and it’s possible that only in such a world can chest bumping be believable as a method of defeating bad guys. It’s like a classic buddy action flick with its masculine bravado saving the day, one beaten down gangster at a time.