What’s Wrong with a Little Simplicity?

A couple of weeks ago, Double Dragon Neon was released on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade (where I go under the name SupplePlum842, possibly the most inexplicable and gayest username I’ve ever come up with).  I downloaded it because it was free to me as a Playstation Plus subscriber, and because I’ve had this bizarre affinity for the Double Dragon series.  In an older incarnation of my website I even went so far as to ponder how to do a reboot of the series (it was … weird.)  I never even owned any of the games growing up (although I do have fond memories of playing the first one on NES with a friend; especially its bizarre prototype of a one-on-one fighting game.)  I’ve always had a fondness for beat ’em up games (a.k.a. brawlers) including Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and games I later discovered through emulation, such as the amazing Violent Storm (which I consider the height of the genre.)  So I have to pay a certain respect to Double Dragon, which was really kicked off the genre in the form it’s most recognized as.  I even felt compelled to buy Double Dragon game on the iPhone, which was kind of tough to play so I never got very far in it (what a waste of $4!)

The first time I played Neon I got my ass kicked, hard.  I was trying to play it like old school brawlers where you basically have to act like a punching bag that occasionally punched back; it was ultimately a way of attrition.  There was no blocking in old brawlers. There’s technically no blocking in this game, but there is the ability to duck, which does effectively the same thing (preventing damage) but in addition puts the player in Glam Mode (ha!) which doubles damage for a short period of time.  This is key to playing the game!  Once I figured that out the Normal mode seemed almost too easy.  Overall I’ve been really enjoying the game.

But I’m kind of alone in that respect.  I was surprised to see reviewers’ general sentiments that this is a mediocre game.  Complaints ranged from the game being too difficult, too simplistic, and too short.  Apparently, having a brawler where all you do is brawl is insufficient.  I suppose that’s true; games like God of War, DMC, and their ilk are the modern equivalent of brawlers and those can be summarized as fits of fighting interspersed with duller down time taken up by exploration and puzzle solving.  Fighting games are also often slammed for similar brevity; many reviews for Soul Calibur V praised it for having the most refined combat engine yet, however they kvetched that there was too little else to do besides fighting.

Maybe it’s just because I grew up in an era where a game was nothing more than what it was.  Platformers just consisted of your character running from left to right and jumping a lot while role playing games were almost entirely menu-driven affairs (up until Final Fantasy VII introduced snowboarding, racing, and a real-time strategy to the mix.)  Nowadays, it’s simply not enough to do one thing (even if it’s done well.)  Every game needs to be a hodgepodge of other genres in order to hold the player’s attention.

Or maybe I enjoy Double Dragon Neon for all the wrong reasons.

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