Double Dragon Neon preview — I love the ’80s

Double Dragon: Neon Screenshot

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There are times when I feel like game developers prey on our nostalgia, using our rose-tinted memories of the past to get us to buy into revamped or reimagined versions of classics. And then there are times when the end result is so great, it doesn’t matter.

Imagine the original Double Dragon with updated graphics, then blasted with a hose that sprays pure nostalgia, and you’d have a good idea of what Double Dragon: Neon is like.

Not since Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a game basked so much in the culture of the ’80s. The Neon of the title refers to the bright art style, plucked straight from a Dire Straits album cover. Your enemies include medallion-wearing, cartwheeling punks that attack with afro picks, dominatrixes that wear leg warmers, and classic characters, like Abobo, who sadly, cannot be defeated by pushing him onto a conveyor belt this time.

The game celebrates ’80s culture as much as it mocks it. On one hand you have shredding guitar versions of the original Double Dragon music, rocking so hard you want to slam back a Hi-C Ecto-Cooler. On the other hand, protagonists Billy and Jimmy are mullet-ed clones of each other, and the ever-present arrow telling you when it’s time to move forward has been replaced with a Nintendo Power Gloved hand pointing the way. As Lucas from The Wizard would have said, “It’s so bad!”

The game even opens with the now infamous scene where the damsel in distress is punched in the stomach and then kidnapped, showing the game is delightfully aware of its history. I can only pray WayForward drops a few references to the execrable Double Dragon movie in there somewhere.

Double Dragon: Neon Screenshot

The beat-em-up genre is one that has evolved very little since its inception. Even recent creations like Castle Crashers do little to stray from the formula: walk to the right, pick up food and weapons, and jump kick a lot of palette-swapped thugs. But one of the reasons that beat-em-ups have stayed the same is that the formula still resonates with players today. Teaming up with a friend and taking on waves of street punks always makes for a good time.

The build that was available for play at PAX was buggy, and I experienced a couple crashes while playing. But those problems will likely be ironed out by the time the game is released for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network later this year. Wayforward is no stranger to taking the helm of established franchises, as evidenced by Contra 4 and Silent Hill: Book of Memories. I’m looking forward to seeing the end result and rating it on a scale of “bogus” to “radical.”

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