Double Dragon Neon (released in 2012 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and currently available on Steam and the Nintendo Switch) is an exaggerated re-imagining of the classic beat ’em up series that started in the arcades in 1987. The game is a hilarious tribute to the 80s with neon colors, synth music, and cheesy dialogue. In this article, I’ll take you on a journey through this game’s callbacks to previous Double Dragon games and point out my favorite references to 80s culture and humor.
Double Dragon Neon’s story revolves around two brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee, who set out to rescue their girlfriend Marian from “their worst nightmare,” Skullmageddon. You’ll travel across ten stages battling enemies, collecting power-ups, and drinking in the 80s neon art style.
Speaking of the 80s, you gather cassette tapes that give you special abilities or improve your stats. You create your character’s “mixtape” by combining a stance and a special move. These mixtapes are swappable, and each cassette is a musical track reminiscent of popular 80s music. For example, the “Desperation” stance is a callback to Depeche Mode, while “One Inch Punch” sounds like an early Beastie Boys B-side.
While playing cooperatively, you’re treated to a few additional gameplay mechanics. If you fall in battle, your teammate can revive you…by rewinding your cassette with a pencil! If you run out of lives, you can always steal one from your friend. Lastly, you can high-five your teammate to get various buffs such as boosted damage or health restoration. If your teammate “sikes” you out, you miss the bonuses.
Neon also brings back some old enemies from the Double Dragon franchise and piles on the easter eggs into the boss battles. Fearsome opponents like Williams, Linda, and Abobo make a comeback, and there are new threats to keep you on your toes. The Mecha Biker boss fight is a callback to the Megaman franchise in several ways. Firstly, you’ll enter two gates to start the boss fight, “Robot Master” style. Secondly, the Mecha Biker’s character model is reminiscent of Mega Man X. Finally, once you remove the bike from the Biker, he’ll slide around and charge up his “Mega Buster” blaster.
In later missions, you’ll face off against the “Mistranslated Mutants,” Bimmy and Jammy. These bosses are based on the infamous mistranslation of Billy’s name from Double Dragon III. And let’s not forget about Skullmageddon himself. His voice is eerily similar to that of Skeletor from the He-Man: Masters of the Universe. It’s 80s voice acting at its finest.
There are many more callbacks, references, and easter eggs, but I’ll let you find the rest. Double Dragon Neon is a blast from the past that will make you smile, bob your head to the music, and laugh along with the game’s plot. It encapsulates peak 80s nostalgia, and I wholeheartedly recommend kicking back with a can of Dragon Kick Soda (okay, I had one more in me 😅) and playing this game.