Seeing footage of XCOM: Enemy Unknown at this year’s PAX: East quickly reminded me how much I longed for the glory days of well executed turn based strategy. Not only did the XCOM look incredible, it also seemed to mysteriously capture the tone and pedigree of the original title. If you’re anything like myself and have been waiting for a proper release day for this long anticipated title, we’ve got great news, the wait is almost over! XCOM is set to invade North America on October 9th 2012 for both 360 and PC. (click for more info)
Come for the nostalgia, stay for an awesome game. That’s right, the 80’s other video game bros are back in Double Dragon: Neon. Developed by WayForward and published by Majesco Entertainment, Neon puts player’s back in the ripped denim vests of Billy and Jimmy to kick faces in all over the world (and space?!).
Gag me with a spoon
Double Dragon was a great game, but looking back I have a few gripes. The game was mechanically different if you played on Sega, NES, or in the arcade. And, for the most part the game was designed to eat up your grubby quarters that you mowed lawns to earn. That being said, there was about 4 different main moves in the game, but really only one that made any sense… jump kick. So, like many of those 80’s beat em up arcade games, the basic approach was this: avoid enemies by moving vertically, then jump kick and retreat when they get close. It was ok then, but certaintly would not hold up now.
Double Dragon: Neon is more than just an HD remake, more than a remix… it’s a mixtape of classic gameplay with modern features. Notably, there are more basic moves to master, including a dodge / roll mechanic, easier running attacks, and a punch that doesn’t look like a fat, doughy fist like it did back then. With some practice I found it easier to chain moves together, and never really felt the need to get back into the jump kick fest. A good reference point for me was Final Fight. Of course, all of the classic bats, knives, and whips are there, along with some other crazy things.
Getting past the basics is where the game shines… um, glows.. NEON! Dodge an enemy attack successfully and the bros get bonus attack power for a limited time. There are even some ridiculous taunts, and a high-five mechanic when your playing in BRO-Op which allows you to give or steal health from your partner. At times I felt like I had an arsenal of moves from a Street Fighter style game in a beat-em-up. At one point I grappled two enemies at once and smashed their heads together. Take that!
Whats your damage?[cheesy tv voiceover] But Wait! There’s more! Since the goal of this game is not to take your quarters, the devs added some great features that encourage replay value and lessen your chance of rage quitting (this game is still as challenging, after all). Neon makes use of “songs”, which you acquire through enemy “cassette tape” drops, or buy at shops throughout the game. There are two types of songs, ones that upgrade basic stats (Yes, this game has RPG style stats!) and others that enable special attacks (like the ever popular roundhouse kick).
There are currently 10 types of each song, which you can level by finding more of the same tape. Song levels go up to 10, but the legendary Tapesmith can boost those levels higher. With the ability to boost attributes, and activate special abilities, two players can take totally different tactics, or use different tactics for the game’s different difficulties. I also thought it was a nice touch to allow tape switching on the fly. Hello… Mixtapes, who doesn’t love those!?
Where’s the Beef?
The game starts out with the familiar levels and music of the classic, then quickly turn the volume up to 11. There are new enemies, new hazards, and new environments to explore. Neon features radical graphics, classic tunes and new tunes alike, and the ability to replay levels via a new world map feature. There’s even some dialogue and humor thrown in for good measure. It’s more of an experience than just a 15 minute romp until you run out of lives or continues.
I went into this game expecting a boring HD Double Dragon remake. Instead I find a much improved game with better combat mechanics, ability and stat customization, and high replay value wrapped in all of the style and flash of 80’s pop culture. Seriously… go check out the demo, like, totally… yeah.