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Game Info:

Double Dragon Neon 
Developed By: WayForward Technologies/Abstraction Games (PC)
Published By: Midnight City
Release Date: February 6, 2014/September 11, 2012
Available On: PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Version Reviewed: PC
Genre: Beat 'em up
Number of Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Partial Nudity 
MSRP: $9.99

Thank you Midnight City for sending us this game to review!

Growing up as a gamer in the 80s, many thought that video games were an anti-social activity.  Sometimes that can be the case, but for my brother and I, the Double Dragon games on the NES (as well as a few other coop classics like Contra and Super-C) were anything but.  Even to this very day (literally, I was at his house today) we will occasionally fire up an old copy of Double Dragon 2 or 3 and take out thugs like the old days.  

Double Dragon Neon is a modern day homage to those classic Double Dragons and the 1980s that spawned them.  Everything from the backgrounds and scenery, the level design, the enemies, and especially the music, pays tribute to one or more of those things.  

For those not indoctrinated into the Double Dragon universe, this was a classic side scrolling 2D beat 'em up from the late 1980s/early 1990s.  The stars of the series are Billy and Jimmy Lee.  Billy's girlfriend, Marian, has a knack for getting captured, and it is the brothers' job to rescue her.  In Neon, the game immediately starts with a thug punching Marian in the gut and taking her away, which is an obvious homage to the very similar beginning to the original Double Dragon.  There are also several other levels with obvious nods to others (especially Double Dragon 2) as well.

Double Dragon Neon
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fun, colorful graphics; fantastic soundtrack; fun beat 'em up action; corny but fun sayings throughout the action
Weak Points: Really challenging solo (if that's a con); classic hair grab move missing; a fair amount of bugs
Moral Warnings: Lots of violence; suggestive themes include the 'sadistic seductress' who uses phrases like 'naughty naughty' and 'time for some discipline' (while wielding a whip); these (and other) women wear extremely exposing clothing; some lines sound like curses when they are not (what the butt!)

While the classic games were simple two button affairs, Neon modernizes the formula somewhat.  There are strong and weak attack buttons, a jump button, a grab button, as well as run and dodge/roll buttons.  There is also a special attack button. There is also a light RPG system as well added on to make things a bit more modern, and encourage replays.

Special moves are called Sosetsitsu.  These use magic points, but can really do a lot of damage, or get you out of a tight spot.  There are also Stances, which improve your attack, defense, hit points, and magic points.  Enemies often drop random tapes, and there are a few shops hidden in levels that sell them as well. The more tapes you have of a particular type, the more powerful that stance or special move.  At the start, you max out at ten tapes.  To increase beyond ten, you need to spend mythril at a tapesmith, which increases this limit by ten each time. You can obtain mythril by defeating any boss.

By allowing character progression in this way, the game strongly encourages replay, and even grinding if you are stuck.  This is a good thing, as it takes only a few short hours to beat the game; it's possible for someone to rush through it in one hour or so.  But the replay value is very good.  Upon beating the game at a difficulty, additional ones are unlocked.  Later difficulties are nearly impossible without upgrades, and they reward more drops as well, which rewards more challenging and skillful play.

The combat, along with the RPG system, is done well enough that I find myself coming back for more often.  It really is fun to play.  It can be really satisfying to finally pound some of the more challenging bosses, or to put Abobo in his place one more time.  My biggest complaint is that most of the women wear pretty ridiculous outfits, with little more than a thong on their rears, and rather large bosoms.  Some also walk in highly suggestive ways, carrying whips, while saying things like 'naughty naughty!' and 'time for some discipline!'

Double Dragon Neon
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 62%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Other than the clearly sexualized women, and the expected violence against everyone, there is less wrong than you might expect in many modern games.  D*mn and h*ll are used, but most other things you think you hear as curse words, are not. For example, First time I heard 'what the butt!' I thought it was far worse, until I heard it again and listened more closely.  You also get to pound in the skulls of some undead as well.

There are a ton of silly puns in this game.  While using a baseball bat, you will often hear 'touchdown!' and 'hole in one!'.  Only occasionally will you hear an appropriate 'grand slam!'.  Other silliness includes knife wielders yelling 'stabular!' and whip users yelling 'kraken!' and 'whip it!'.  I really got a kick out of some of the bad guys.  One yells 'bang! bang! bang!' while shooting a gun, and another narrates some pretty silly stuff like 'don't worry, I have a replacement plan!' while you proceed to smash his big screen TVs to bits.  I admit that cheesy humor appeals to me, and this game comes through plenty.

The music is also great, with plenty of hair band flair.  None of the lyrics are inappropriate, which is a huge plus.  They are also fun to listen to.  Some of them are pretty ridiculous, like the mini song Training Wheels.  The soundtrack is free, even in high quality FLAC (audiophiles like me everywhere, rejoice!) here

The graphics are also neat, using a very colorful cell-shaded look.  I always prefer my games to have lots of color vs. the brown fests that infected games a few years ago, and I am glad that this one comes through.  Attack moves are convincing, and it rarely feels like the game cheats – if you die, it's because you messed up, and you can clearly see that.

Double Dragon Neon

This game also looks great at really high resolutions.  I run my monitor at 2560x1440, and when it's working, it really works great.  Unfortunately, the largest area of bugs that I found in this game related to setting the video mode. It offers three different modes: windowed, borderless window, and fullscreen. Fullscreen offers the 2560x1440 resolution option, but the game is running at 1920x1080, and it is clearly the case based on my monitor's OSD (On-screen display).  I was able to get it to run at the proper resolution when changing it to borderless window, and it looks great, but once I exit the game and restart it, it loses that setting and looks very blocky and low resolution.  Running it in a window at an odd setting did work, but the game was very clearly stretched in 4:3 modes.

Another problem I ran into was that the game would crash sometimes (but not all) when changing video modes.  Sometimes it was just resolution, but other times it was between fullscreen and windowed modes, for example.  I really hope they fix these things, as I had no crashing issues whatsoever during my normal playthroughs otherwise.

A brand new feature for the Steam release, which is not available on other platforms, is online multiplayer, called bro-op.  There is also local multiplayer with the second player using either the keyboard or another Xbox 360 gamepad (highly recommended).  Hot-plugging the controller in during gameplay proved to work perfectly as well.  To it's core, Double Dragon has always been about the bros working together, and this game pulls that off just fine.  The only thing that surprised me a bit is that the second player gets their own save and equipment.  This totally makes sense for online play, but for local, it is very possible for one player to have an end game tape selection, with the other starting off fresh.  This can make the game drastically easier or harder for the other player depending of the level chosen.  The one time I played online it actually went really well, but I have read about people in the forums having a ton of lag problems.  YMMV online, as always.

Double Dragon Neon is a really fun, 1980's honoring look back at the Double Dragon franchise, with some modern twists thrown in which I really enjoyed.  As a long time fan, I thought that, despite the lack of the iconic hair grab, it really does a very good job bringing back what made Double Dragon fun all those years ago. It's too bad that they had to bring back (in modern high resolution) some of the artistic choices for the women's outfits, but beyond that, it is an enjoyable romp that I would recommend to any fans of the genre.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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