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First hand preview of 'Double Dragon: Neon'

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What's the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of the 1980's? Spandex? The Sony Walkman? John Hughes movies? I remember visiting a friend's house who had a Nintendo. We took turns shooting ducks, finding extra hearts, and jumping on Koopas. Then along came “Double Dragon,” and for the first time I experienced playing together side by side at the same time, and on the same side as my friend. So when I heard that Majesco Entertainment would be publishing “Double Dragon: Neon” by WayForward, I had to get my hands on it.

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“Double Dragon” was one of the first beat'em ups, and influenced other notable gems from the era such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Final Fight,” “Battle Toads,” “The Simpsons,” and “X-Men” arcade games. The genre has seen a bit of a revitalization on Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network, with recent re-releases of the aforementioned classics.

Watch video: "Double Dragon: Neon" game play

So how did "Double Dragon" become "Neon" anyway? “After their work on other titles such as “BloodRayne: Betrayal” and “A Boy and his Blob,” when WayForward pitched “Double Dragon: Neon” to us and we jumped at the opportunity,” explained Pete Rosky from Majesco Entertainment. “This isn't just another HD remake either. The bulk of the game is completely new.” Rosky's comment is an understatement, and this over the top retro re-imagination of the “Double Dragon” franchise surpassed my high expectations.

The game's first level, “Big Trouble in Little China,” is a direct nod to the original. The game kicks off with the same cinematic that “Double Dragon” veterans will remember: A lovely girl getting punched in the stomach and hauled away. Although 2D brawlers are prone to repetitiveness, the plethora of combos to perform in “Neon” and the large variety of special moves helps keep killing every enemy entertaining. Along the way you'll find weapons aplenty to pick up, including hair picks. I found myself with a trusty bat, helping to keep several enemies at a distance until I decided to whip it across the screen at some bad guy's face.

There's a significant amount of new characters and game play elements that differentiate “Double Dragon: Neon” from being “just another HD remake.” An example of this are the new “high-fives.” When both players high-five each other, their life equalizes between them and they gain a temporary increase in power. Players may also “low-five” to steal health, however if both players low-five each other then they'll quickly find themselves with low life bars. It'll take teamwork to win, after all.

The original “Double Dragon” was always best when played with a friend, and in “Double Dragon: Neon” you're going to need the additional help with the title's brutal bosses. In order to do this, the title features complete drop in and drop out “Bro-Op,” both locally and online. “We don't want you playing alone,” Rosky explained to me.

Your character can also gain special powers from collectible "songs" found in game and unlocked through play. Each song yields a different special power. With the songs, you're able to create custom “mix tapes” of abilities. You're only able to use two powers at a time with a mix tap though: Side A and B of the mix tape, naturally.

The demo ended with a twist. Everything about game's first stage was true to the original, however after defeating the boss the building Billy and Jimmy were standing in turned into a rocket ship and blasted into outer space. With solid controls and a vibrant color palette “Double Dragon: Neon's” future looks bright, and I can't wait to spend a more in-depth amount of time with it.

“Double Dragon: Neon” will be available on the PlayStation Network September 11, 2012 for $9.99 and on Xbox LIVE Arcade September 12, 2012 for 800 Microsoft Points.

For more information about “Double Dragon: Neon” visit www.DoubleDragonNeon.com, follow the game on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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