Review – Double Dragon Neon (Switch)

One of the first games I reviewed since the inception of this website was Double Dragon IV. This was a “faithful” recreation of the 8-bit era Double Dragon titles, complete with all of its shortcomings, such as a small length, slowdowns, and collision detection issues. After playing that game, as well as ARC System Works’ collection of Double Dragon and Kunio-kun games, I started wondering if Double Dragon has ever been that good to begin with. I needed to play a few more games to come up with a conclusion. I was impressed to find out about the release of the Switch version of Double Dragon Neon, a 2012 remake of the original game, and wanted to give it a try. Maybe it would be the game that would convince that Double Dragon had its moments? Or maybe it would end up doing the opposite?

Double Dragon Neon

The classic introductory cutscene, this time with cutting-edge 2012 graphics.

One thing made me hopeful upon booting the game up for the first time: seeing the WayForward logo. Sure, I may have played one or two mediocre titles from these guys in the past, such as Trollhunters: Defenders of Arcadia, but I know the team can come up with some excellent bangers if given enough time and resources. Hell, they have proven their worth when it comes to retro-styled beat ’em ups with last year’s River City Girls. I’ve always wanted to give this old remake a shot, as I had heard good things about it in the past. Sure, namely from beat ’em up fanboys who looked at this game through rose-tinted glasses… but I was still curious nevertheless.

Double Dragon Neon is, just like Double Dragon Advance, a remake of the original 1987 arcade game. Everything you know from that classic is here: Marian gets kidnapped, you fight hordes of members from the Shadow Warriors gang, you have to deal with Abobo, and so on. The sole difference is that there is a brand new main villain in the house: the skull-faced Skullmageddon (great name for a death metal band, by the way). You can fight by yourself, which results in the game becoming nearly impossible, or with a friend. With the exception of a handful of new areas which moderately increase its overall length, it’s still the same old song and dance.

Double Dragon Neon

Whip it good.

The visuals have been revamped, of course, but that doesn’t mean that Double Dragon Neon is a visually impressive title… at all. It’s an eight year old XBLA game that wasn’t even that impressive back in the day. It clearly did not age as gracefully. Character animations are quite weird, and their models are simplistic. Backgrounds aren’t that amazing, either. The only saving grace is that the framerate is excellent, with the game running at 60fps at all times, no matter if you’re playing on portable or docked mode, with one or two players.

Sadly, despite the decent framerate, the overall gameplay is as slow as the original Double Dragon. Even though Billy and Jimmy feature more attacks than before, as well as some nice combos, the combat is slow-paced and riddled with technical issues. The collision detection has a mind of its own, as you never know when you’re actually going to register a hit or not. Sometimes, you might even touch a foe with one of your punches, only for them not to count as an actual attack as the opponent was in the middle of an attack animation, giving them a stupidly long invincibility frame. Of course, the same does not apply to one of your attacks. All in all, the combat is as annoying as any other retro Double Dragon I’ve played over the years.

It wouldn’t be a Double Dragon game without Abobo.

There is a saving grace, though. Being an older game developed by WayForward, that means that the soundtrack was handled by none other than Jake Kaufman, the man behind most Shantae soundtracks, as well as Shovel Knight. Double Dragon Neon’s soundtrack stays true to its origins, as well as the “Neon” in the title, being a collection of high-octane synthwave tunes that wouldn’t feel out of place had they been featured in Kung Fury.

The combat just isn’t that fun… or polished.

Just like other Double Dragon games released over the years, Double Dragon Neon isn’t exactly bad, but it’s so downright mediocre it’s hard to find anything worth praising in it besides the excellent synthwave soundtrack. Its graphics are bland and its gameplay is lethargic and faulty. There are tons of much better arcade brawlers available for the Switch, so don’t bother with this one. Maybe this was exactly what I needed to confirm the harsh truth: maybe Double Dragon has never been that good to begin with…


Graphics: 5.5

Double Dragon Neon wasn’t even that visually impressive back in 2012, so you can guess it didn’t exactly age as gracefully as expected in the graphical department. It does run smoothly, though.

Gameplay: 5.5

Despite the good framerate and responsiveness, the overall combat is slow-paced and suffers from a nonsensical collision detection with a mind of its own.

Sound: 8.0

As expected, Jake Kaufman’s high-octane synthwave soundtrack is the best thing Double Dragon Neon has to offer.

Fun Factor: 6.0

It might be enjoyed by die-hard fans of the franchise, but all in all, Double Dragon Neon is a painfully average beat ’em up with tons of gameplay issues.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Double Dragon Neon is available now on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Double Dragon Neon was provided by the publisher.