There is always a risk in creating a “re-imagining” of a beloved franchise.  The new game must be faithful to the story universe without tarnishing it, improve upon the original game’s mechanics without insulting them and most importantly – be fun.  Wayforward and Majesco Entertainment have accomplished all three in Double Dragon Neon.

The original beat ‘em up Double Dragon arrived in arcades 25 years ago with main characters Billy and Jimmy Lee fighting their way to save the lovely Marian.  Today, in Double Dragon Neon, you pick up the mantle of the Lee brothers once again to save Marian.  As fans of the series would expect, Marian is subdued and kidnapped by thugs after she is punched in the gut and carried off.  This is the first in a long list of homages that will satiate any fan of the franchise.

One of the great aspects of beat ‘em ups is that before you sit down to play, you generally know how to play; you simply need to know what buttons are mapped to punch, kick, jump and throw.  Double Dragon Neon takes these concepts and keeps them pure, while also building on them. As you defeat enemies, they will occasionally drop tapes (cassettes – we used to use them to play music…bah, google it).  You collect these tapes and they translate to either active (Sosetsitsu) or passive (Stances) skills.  You  can have one of each skill type active at any given time – each tape will increase a skill.  For passive skills, I used Absorb, which returns health every hit I land.  It fits in exactly with my play style (read: like a tank).  As far as active skills are concerned, my “big three” were the flying spin kick for groups, the fireball for range fighters and the one-inch punch for those up-close encounters with Abobos.  Having these extra skills really improved the joy of combat, and with the way the AI fights and the variety of enemies – you’ll need them.

What I like best about this game is that everything is about you, the player.  The corny humor, the sight gags, the environments, the soundtrack and especially the ending are all to give you the greatest possible amount of enjoyment.  I can honestly say there have only been a handful of games that have made me laugh out-loud and Double Dragon Neon is now on that list.  Even the constant churning of enemies, which can kill the enjoyment of this kind of game, is fast, fun and fluid enough to keep you entertained.

Overall, Double Dragon Neon has everything going for it – great game play, good writing and split-screen co-op. If I have any complaints at all, it would be trying to figure out how people on the leaderboard beat Normal mode in an hour’s time (took me over 4 hours).  If you haven’t purchased this already, you should probably go do that – right after you finish reading this review.  You can find this game on the PlayStation Network for $9.99 and on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points.  At the time of this publishing, PlayStation Plus members can download this title for free, which really leaves no excuse for not playing it.  Keep the legend alive.