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It’s not a remake; it’s a reimagining, Majesco Entertainment Assistant Product Manager Pete Rosky told XBLA Fans at PAX Prime a moment before handing over the controller. Having taken a trip down memory lane with the original Double Dragon at Philadelphia’s Barcade only a month prior, I was in prime position to discover the truth behind that statement. As it turned out, Double Dragon: Neon plays remarkably like the game that launched the franchise a quarter of a century ago, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Wayforward Technology’s take on the series might have trouble impressing younger gamers, but the PAX demo was an enjoyable romp down memory lane.
Players take control of Billy and Jimmy, with their simultaneously awful and amazing hair and begin whomping on every street tough in site. There’s a fantastic new coat of paint on this aging ’80s muscle car, thus the subtitle, but every curve has that old familiar look and feel. The combat system has a couple of new tricks up its sleeve in the form of throws and special moves, but the kicks, punches and melee weapons are essentially ripped right out of the original. What is presumably either Billy or Jimmy’s girlfriend gets mercilessly slugged and kidnapped in the beginning and the duo brawl through those same old streets on a collision course with the original’s first boss, Abobo, who looks as if he’s sampled more than his fair share of steroids since his last showdown with the boys. And then you walk into a pagoda that turns out to be a spaceship that rockets Billy and Jimmy into space. That, as Rosky explained, is where Neon departs from the original. No kidding.
Bigger hair, bigger bosses, brighter colors and longer distance travel may or may not be enough to justify the reimagining label — you’ll have to wait for our forthcoming review of the full game for that ruling — but they certainly establish a new theme. It’s a completely silly and ridiculous theme, and that feels completely appropriate for an homage to an ’80s brawler that was a lot of things in its day, but never serious. That doesn’t mean the approach was an obvious one for the team to take, though.
WayForward have been hard at work on a lot of projects, with this year’s XBLA offering in the form of the 80’s throwback Double Dragon Neon. We’ve previewed the …
When I told Pete Rosky, Assistant Product Manager at Majesco and curator of my Double Dragon Neon demo, that I had never played a Double Dragon game he said “Great! I’ll tell you as little about the game as possible then.” Confused and incredulous, I asked why. “I’ve never gotten to do this presentation with someone who hasn’t played a Double Dragon game before, it’s a whole new perspective.” Knowing then what I know now, I would have understood that Double Dragon Neon is an “old soul” of a brawler, living a life in the present with a staunch respect for the past.
Apparently, Double Dragon is kind of a big deal amongst brawler fans, so excuse me for those of you that I’ve offended by having not played the game. If it makes you feel better, I played this one and liked it. Double Dragon Neon is slow paced (which isn’t a bad thing, mind you) and all the character models are huge and for all the brawlers I’ve played this felt different. It’s a brawler that feels old, but looks new. I marveled at the eye-popping visuals and smooth animations, but the gameplay was nothing like the brawlers of today (because apparently it’s like the brawlers of yesteryear).
Just like Majesco did for my demo, prepare for a preview from a different perspective.