Tag Archives: PS3

Double Dragon Neon Review

It’s really late to the party, but Double Dragon Neon finally makes its PC gaming debut.

PROS: A pretty faithful port from the Xbox 360 with Online Cooperative play added in.

CONS: Frustratingly high difficulty may scare off some. Co-Op isn’t perfect either.

NO SHADOW BOSS: The top villain has been replaced by a Skeletor/Shredder hybrid.

If you were a gamer in the 1980’s you likely played Double Dragon. It set the standard for the Beat ‘Em Up genre of action games, paving the way for Capcom, and Konami to flood arcades with their own entries. Technos Japan created an awesome game in Double Dragon. It was the video game version of everybody’s favorite action films. Two brothers are tasked with saving one of the brother’s girlfriend from a dangerously malicious street gang called the Black Shadow Warriors.  Throughout the game players beat up thousands of thugs with a myriad of martial arts moves, even disarming gang members, and using their own weapons against them.

Double Dragon was a smash hit, and saw ports to nearly every console, and home computer format around at the time. Even the Atari 2600 had a version. From there Technos gave us Double Dragon 2, Double Dragon 3 (which wasn’t all that great), and Super Double Dragon (which was all that great) before sadly going out of business. Some years later a company called Million picked up the rights, and made a Gameboy Advance game before finally bringing us an entirely new game on the Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Double Dragon Neon was generally well received on the 360, and PS3. So what does the PC version do that those versions don’t? The biggest difference is the inclusion of online multiplayer. Playing the game on the PC gives you the ability to play with a friend over the internet, trying to beat it together. In addition to this feature it allows players to change screen resolution, along with a few other effects, and converts its achievements to Steam.

If you missed Neon when it originally came out, it goes a long way in attempting to revive the Double Dragon gameplay, and the pop culture that was around in the original game’s heyday. The actual gameplay is similar though not the same. If you loved playing the original games in the arcade or on your NES don’t expect the mechanics to translate flawlessly. The game does give you a lot of different moves to use, and many of your favorite characters return.

However, rather than have the hard-hitting impact they had back in the originals, this game instead implements a new cassette tape system. Throughout the game as you defeat enemies, some of them will drop cassette tapes that can be used to unlock or even upgrade the various moves. These moves can be classics like the Cyclone Kick from Double Dragon 2, to newer moves like the ability to throw fireballs. There are also gems you can collect. These allow you to visit shops in certain levels where you can use the gems to buy moves you may not have unlocked yet. It tries to add a little bit of RPG like depth to the game, similar to another Technos game, River City Ransom which was almost as popular as Double Dragon was.

Visually, the game tries to recreate the Post Punk/New Wave subculture of the early 1980’s, hence the Neon subtitle. Everything has a fluorescent look to it with neon shades throughout all of its color palette. Backgrounds include remixed areas from previous Double Dragon games to entirely new ones. In between levels is a map screen that uses the NES sprites of the Lee brothers from Double Dragon 2. WayForward (The guys that made the DuckTales: Remastered game) really went out of their way to pay homage to Technos.

Even the sounds of the game attempt to do the same. From the voices, and sounds of punches, kicks, and weapons, to the music. Tracks include remixes of your favorite Double Dragon tunes to the themes of the cassette tape moves you find. Going into the move selection menu will net you a different song for each move. Some of these will be New Wave, Punk Rock, Hair Metal, Power Pop, Synth Pop, Post Punk, and other big genres of the decade.

However there is one major change that will both please, and upset some players. That is the new villain. The original games featured bosses that fit the serious, dark tone of the series. In Double Dragon, Williams was a high-ranking lieutenant in the gang armed with a machine gun. In Double Dragon 2 the Shadow Boss revealed himself in a hard-fought test of martial arts prowess. In this game we find the Lee brothers fighting a new villain called Skullmageddon, a strange hybrid of pantomime enemies from Masters Of The Universe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Skullmageddon is heavily influenced by Skeletor, and The Shredder. So much so that his voice is clearly paying tribute to the former, and the dialogue to the latter.

Skullmageddon is an entertaining character, so it is hard not to like him. But at the same time it puts Double Dragon Neon into zany territory, which inhibits it from truly feeling like a Double Dragon game, and instead makes it feel like a fun lampoon of thirty year old pop culture.

As fun as Neon might be, players should know it’s a very difficult game. Like a lot of other games in the genre be prepared to be sandwiched in between enemies, and put into situations where you will take a lot of punishment. You will not get through this game without replaying certain levels several times over. When you finally do see the end it will unlock even harder modes you can play through.

Fortunately the game does feature cooperative gameplay for two players. The game also gives you the option to turn off friendly fire so you won’t have to worry about accidentally killing each other. Playing with a friend does make the game a little bit easier, but not by much. You will still have a difficult time trying to clear stages as enemies double team you, or use other cheap tactics.

Despite the difficulty of cheap A.I., there is a lot of fun to be had here. The inclusion of online multiplayer in the belated PC port is also a welcome feature, as in this day, and age it’s how most people play with friends. However there are presently some netcode issues with the game that will limit some players. One look at Steam’s forums will show you how many players are vocally pointing out time outs, lag, and disconnects. Hopefully Midnight City, the developer behind the port can iron out these issues soon.

Overall, Double Dragon Neon is still a good game. If you love beating up waves of thugs as you have in the days of the original, Final Fight, and Streets Of Rage, you’ll be pretty happy with your ten dollar purchase. Just be cautioned one shouldn’t come into it expecting a carbon copy of the old Technos Japan formula. While WayForward has done a commendable job in making a beat ’em up game in Double Dragon trappings, it still doesn’t have the same feel of the originals. Nevertheless, good entries in the genre are a rarity these days, and it’s still a good beat ’em up in the grand scheme of things.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure Review

A noteworthy indie PC game finally hits Steam long after being ported to consoles. What is all of the hoopla about?

PROS: A decent shoot ’em up wrapped in an homage to Mecc’s Oregon Trail.

CONS: Difficulty swings wildly between easy, and hard.

WHY?: Did it take so long for Valve to green light the game?

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, or SAWA is just one of many games that have come out in recent years with the purpose of remembering The Oregon Trail. For anyone who grew up in the 1980’s or early 1990’s it was a memorable part of school. Students had to huddle into groups, and decide what steps were necessary to get from one coast of the US to the other using a wagon. What supplies would the group bring? How much food, water, or ammunition? What usually happened was one person would be overzealous with the purchase of hunting weapons so that they could play a hunting minigame.

Of course, this usually resulted in the wagon being too heavy with beef carcasses, and the group getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, running out of meat, and dying.

This game essentially makes the entire game the hunting game, by turning the coach into a ship like one would use in R-Type. But it doesn’t drop the Oregon Trail influence there either. The game starts out by asking you to name your party, pick mug shots for each, and begin. It also takes the random nature of it’s influence by throwing you into situations. You may be in the middle of chasing down buffalo, and then the game decides to put in more animals. Often times however the game just goes all out zany.

For instance there are times when you choose to attempt jumping a river. So you end up in space shooting down asteroid fields. Or the game throws you into a Civil War section. Or it decides your rider ate hallucinogenic vegetables, and tosses you into a Robotron 2084 inspired stage. This is where the game becomes really fun because of just how over the top it becomes. You can replay the game hundreds of times, and it’s different almost every time even if a couple of sections repeat.

On top of that there are all kinds of secret unlockable wagons, and modes based upon whatever random challenges the game throws in. Like a lot of other retro inspired indie games, this one also has 8-bit effect modes like scan line emulation.

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is certainly worth looking into. Especially if you have a low rent laptop, and want to put something on it as a time killer when waiting on a meeting. Or if you have some downtime while you’re out. It’s one of those games you can play for five minutes, or five hours. It will make you laugh whether you win or lose, and the randomness of it all can be quite fun. Arguably, it can get shallow in spots, but there are far more worse indie games for more money than this one. If you can skip a trip to Starbucks for a day, it’s certainly worth the asking price.

Final Score 7 out of 10

Skull Girls Review

Released on consoles, and recently on Steam. Skull Girls is one of the latest titles to show off the power of crowdfunding. Designed by hardcore fighting game enthusiasts, can it hang with the AAA budgeted series’ that inspired it?

PROS: Fantastic animation. Great character design. Deep fighting system.

CONS: High skill gap may turn off newcomers. Small roster.

GARBAGE DAY: Skull Girls references a lot of internet humor, and memes.

In a word, yes. Skull Girls is definitely a game that fighting game fans should look into. Especially those who love combo centric, flashy fighters like Capcom’s Vs. Series, or Arc System Works’ many Guilty Gear, or Blazblue titles. It employs Street Fighter II’s classic six button layout so long time fighting game fans will probably be able to whip out a few combos, or special moves out the gate. It does ensure that anyone who picks it up will be able to play it with friends who come over. But outside of Light, Medium, Fierce punches, and kicks it veers far outside the scope of Street Fighter.

The speed of this game is very fast. You’ve no doubt stumbled upon a Youtube or Twitch clip of high level players doing unimaginable things in Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. These kinds of players will feel right at home in Skull Girls. It features a lot of the same things you’ve seen in fighters of it’s ilk. Combos, and links (At this point a very basic fighting game staple) are a given. But you will also see: Launchers (Moves that knock your opponent helplessly in the air to start an air combo), Wall bounces (Rebounding your opponent off of the sides of the 2D level to continue a combo), Cancelling (Stopping a move to do a different one, or when you realize you’re making a mistake), and much, much, more. It even borrows one other thing from more recent Street Fighter titles, and that’s a super meter. Filling up your meters to different levels will allow you to unleash some really impressive super moves.

Skull Girls does also have something a little different up it’s sleeve to keep high level matches from being one sided, and that’s it’s anti infinite system. Every combo in the game has at least one part that can be interrupted by a skilled enough player. This greatly reduces the odds of two evenly matched players from being able to exploit frame data (The painstaking research to find out which animation frames hurt you, don’t hurt you, or do nothing) to keep players in an endless combination of moves resulting in guaranteed wins. It’s actually a pretty good system here for both novices as well as those who consider themselves professional video game players. It reduces a great deal of squash matches at high levels of play. Another great thing is the lack of Dial-A-Combos. Simply inputting moves fast will not break out the desired results. The moves all have a timing element. Players have to really grasp the inputs, and at what time to follow one with the next.

This is where Skull Girls faces it’s greatest two problems though. The first is that there is a vast skill gap. While this is true of many fighting games out there today, Skull Girls has a community of the most die hard fighting game fans around. Folks who have mastered classics like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat or Tekken, as well as more modern popular fighters. As such, people who stumble upon it, think it looks neat, and buy it will have a bigger uphill battle than in those other games. If you’re a newcomer who goes online with this expect a winless record for awhile.

Fortunately, the game does have a robust training mode in it. It will teach you basic, elementary things like the six button layout, blocking efficiently, and special moves, right on up to the really difficult stuff like combination moves, chaining, linking, and cancelling as well as tag team attacks. Of course players will have to realize completing the training alone isn’t going to win matches, but it will increase their chances.

The second problem with the game is the small number of characters. If one buys the game early enough, it will include future character bundles for free (Although you still have to pay for the color schemes.). After that, they will be accessible behind a DLC paywall. Naturally players will want the extra characters because the base game has a scant 8 characters. While that might have passed in 1992 with The World Warrior, it doesn’t pass now.  In it’s defense most of the characters are really cool, from Peacock (A mechanized girl in the style of 1940’s Warner Bros. Cartoons) to Valentine (The classic 1940’s Naughty Nurse) to Double (A shape-shifting blob that disguises itself as a Nun.). The game has a low cost of $15 but if the DLC proves too costly it could potentially turn new players away as well.

Which would be a shame because everything else about the game is quite honestly top notch. Animation runs briskly, with hundreds of cells of animation. The main story, while lacking (Like most fighter stories) does tell itself through some impressively drawn cinema screens. Stages look amazing. Taking a cue from Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, it goes for an impressive 2.5D look using 3D cel shaded backgrounds as a backdrop for characters, although Skull Girls uses sprites for it’s fighters. Beautifully drawn sprites.

The music is probably one of the best parts of the game. Everything goes with the 1940’s aesthetic, and upon beating the single player story mode you’re treated to a really well orchestrated Jazzy Big Band tune.

Skull Girls is truly awesome. Anyone who likes fighting games should definitely check into it. Just remember like other high level fighters, novices may want to stick to couch or computer desk matches for awhile before taking their chances online. That said, it’s one of the best new fighting games to come out over the last 8 years. Certainly no easy feat.

Final Score: 8 out of 10