I must say, it’s awfully bloody considerate of Double Dragon Neon to pop up at the end of what has been a truly nightmarish year and offer its considerable charms on-the-go in a flawless Switch port. Originally released back in the misty era of 2012, this eight-year-old (argh!) brawler hasn’t aged a day, thanks to its deliberately OTT retro-kitsch presentation, great core mechanics and the best character in the history of gaming, Skullmageddon.
If you missed Neon first time around, shame on you. Yes, IGN gave it a 3/10 or something similarly derisory. They also said Sonic was never good, so they can quite simply SWIVEL ON IT. It’s a fantastic belt-scroller and always has been, regardless of the petulant moans from Double Dragon fans who claim it doesn’t treat the incredibly stupid Double Dragon series with enough respect. It flipping well does, mate, by making the first and only good Double Dragon game ever.
Movement and combat here have weight and require plentiful skill and timing in order to prevail. A high skill ceiling with the terrific “gleam” system – dodge attacks at the last second, do double damage for roughly a combo’s worth of motions – means that you can always get better. It’s not easy, either, even on the default difficulty. There’s plenty of variety and while stages are lengthy they’re just under what I’d consider the threshold for “going on a bit”.
Also, it has the best soundtrack ever, in any game. Ever. I’m not exaggerating for comic effect or even just lying, like usual. It actually does have the single best music in our entire artform/cultural landfill, with the song Neon Jungle. It’s so stonkingly sodding excellent that I refuse to believe it was commissioned for this game. It reminds me of the absolutely magnificent, heart-wrenching Italo masterpiece Faces, but it just… exists in this fairly obscure Double Dragon game from eight years ago (argh!).
Marvellous in multiplayer, deeply compelling in single player, Double Dragon Neon absolutely – to use the parlance of today’s youth – slaps. There’s even a light RPG element to proceedings in the way you can tailor your Dragon’s moveset and powers by collecting cassette tapes – each of which has a quick snatch of another bleedin’ brilliant song. I’d expect nothing less from composer Jake Kaufman.
Honestly, to my mind, it’s WayForward’s best game by a pretty significant margin – it even contextualises their usual horniness by affixing it to something that’s intentionally a garish, ribald throwback. It’s tip-top stuff and its presence on the Switch is extraordinarily welcome. It even holds its own alongside the likes of Streets of Rage 4 and the surprisingly good Cobra Kai. I also prefer it to the more recent River City Girls, though it’s more straightforward than that effort. Girls gets points for including a cameo from Skullmageddon, I suppose, but not that many because he should be a) fully playable or b) in every single scene.