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Review: 'Double Dragon Neon' more than just a blast from the past

"Double Dragon Neon" by Wayforward ("BloodRayne: Betrayal" and “A Boy and his Blob) and Majesco Entertainment isn't just another HD remake. Everything about the game screams retro, including the game's soundtrack which you can download for free. Yet despite all the throw-backs and Easter eggs the game is more than just a blast from the past.

Double Dragon Neon screenshots
Double Dragon Neon screenshots
Majesco Entertainment
Double Dragon Neon screenshot
Majesco Entertainment

As we covered in our preview, the game's first level, “Big Trouble in Little China” is a direct nod to the original kicking off with a 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 for Billy and Jimmy 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, from hair picks and whips to bats and swords.

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.

Watch Video: "Double Dragon Neon" gameplay

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.

Unfortunately at this time the online feature isn't currently available, however the rep from Majesco Entertainment tells me it'll be launching "in an update soon."

Your character can also gain special powers from collectible "songs" found in game and unlocked through play. Each song yields a different special power. Stances and Sosetsitsu. Stances are passive abilities, such as a defensive bonus or offensive bonus. Sosetitsu are special powers like "Fireball" and "Spinning Kick." You're able to create custom “mix tapes” of the abilities, two powers at a time with a mix tape: Side A and B of the mix tape, naturally.

As you defeat enemies you'll pick up the "Songs," and there's a couple of shops that allow you to purchase additional tapes with the money you'll earn from beating up bad guys. You're capped at an inventory level of ten for each song, and you'll have to collect mithril from beating bosses to upgrade the songs at the "Tapesmith." Songs upgrade at two, four, six, and ten pieces.

One problem is that you can't just upgrade the songs at any time from the menu - you're forced to replay a level with a "Tapesmith" in it. You'll also find yourself grinding previous missions to collect more mithril to upgrade your songs as the game's difficulty rises. Despite the wide variety of choices, I only leveled up "Training Wheels" and "Spinning Kick" because one you've invested into a skill your character can be significantly weaker when you change it.

The game's final boss, Skullmageddon, can pull off some devastating moves against you. I found myself bouncing back and forth off the sides of the screen several times in a row like a tennis ball against a wall, only to be impaled by a sword in strobbing multicolored beams of light. Needless to say, my character's health bar was utterly destroyed - thankfully the game is generous with extra lives and you can even purchase them at the shop with cash.

"Double Dragon Neon" is a faithful remake with simplistic controls great for both young and casual gamers to master. I really enjoyed it, and found myself bursting into laughter at several points in the game. The single player isn't very replayable after you've beaten it twice and get to the very hard "Double Dragon" difficulty - I was bored after four and a half hours. One of the best things about playing the original "Double Dragon" was the social aspect. If you have a friend to play with locally, then you don't pass up this title. If you don't, I recommend you wait for the multiplayer update because it'll definitely be worth it then.

7/10

Double Dragon Neon is now available on PlayStation Network for $9.99 and on Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360 for 800 Microsoft Points. Playstation Plus members can get Double Dragon Neon for FREE now thru January.

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

Please note that this review is based off a free review copy provided by Majesco Entertainment.

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