Written by Twisted Ideas
There seems to be a bit of retro reviving happening in gaming. Sega has been re-releasing old Dreamcast games on PSN and XBLA while WayForward has been re-imagining old classics for the new generation.
Jet Set Radio
You play as Beat the founding member of the gang the GGs. On your inline skates you travel to across Tokyo spreading tagging the streets. Your efforts can get new riders to you and rival gangs to retaliate. On top of all of that the police has a crack down on the gangs.
Jet Set Radio is has you spraying your tags on specific points in each level. Unlike alternative sports games like Tony Hawk for example, is less concerned about high scores or long combos. Those are present but is not the main feature. The game focuses on the graffiti. You have to collect spray cans to spray tags across each level. You can only carry a limited amount of cans and some riders hold different amounts. Small tags can be sprayed on the go but larger tags prompts a mini-game using multiple cans.
The police usually appear after you spray a set number of tags. They will use lethal force and do anything to get in your way. If you lose all your health you will lose and have to replay the stage.
My main issue with the game is just bad design. Some tags require several tags to complete and some areas have multiple. The limit on the spray cans you can carry means that you have to constantly search for more cans. Vertical space is used in great degree but often times there’s only a single way to reach high up areas. Stages are timed and falling may set up back over a minute.
The police are extremely frustrating and will chase you constantly until you’re in an area they can’t reach. The problem is that they are often near spray cans, tag spots, or rails required to get to tag spots and they SHOOT at you. Okay fair, the game could get dull without them then they sent in helicopters that shoots MISSILES at you. Perspective people.
The police makes it hard to move on top of the bad control. The controls are actually very simple: You jump, dash and tag. Jumping on rails lets your grind. They are complicated when they are used in combination and when wall rides are involved. Some tags or goals require a high level of precision. Dashing lasts a short time so you have to press it again once it ends. Many rails go straight up requiring speed and to approach the rail at a good angle or you go too slow.
Dash to grind UP the rail to spray a tag on the army helicopter to take it down while avoiding its missiles.
I’ve been playing Jet Set Radio a lot but the game is stopping me from enjoying it. Maybe I’m spoiled by the Tony Hawk games which did level design better even with the high learning curve and complicated controls. People rave about this game and the style and music are good but I can’t get into it.
Double Dragon Neon
Double Dragon Neon isn’t a release but a re-imagining by the good people from WayFoward that have given us Contra 4, BloodRayne Betrayal
The game follows the same basic plot. Billy’s girlfriend Marian gets punched in the gut and kidnapped. It’s up to the brothers duo, Billy and Jimmy, to fight their way through Skullmageddon’s goons to save the girl. It’s an 80’s adventure that takes you all across the world and even space.
Double Dragon Neon is still a 2D Beat Em Up but has been updated from the original. You have many of the same skills from the original games right from the start. You no longer level up to learn skills but rather you find Mix Tapes from enemies and bought. There are two different sides each player can use. Side A is the Magic type enabling special moves for the cost of energy. Side B is the Stance type for passive skills. You can collect multiple of the same tape to enhance its ability.
The game is divided into stages with two stages dedicated to an area. You can revisit stages to collect more money or mythril level up tapes at shops and the Tapesmith. You have to punch, kick and choose from an arsenal of assorted weapons to make your way through the area’s bosses.
Graphics and Sound
This is what make the game unique. Neon is intended to have an 80’s feel and it shows in the graphics and the music.
The graphics are like the title suggests full of neon and probably is what an acid trip looks like. They are bright and flashy and characters really pop from the backgrounds. The character design just screams 80’s with the clothes and hair styles. Concept art is something that I typically just glance through once but I just love the look of some of the concept art.
Flashy, I know.
The sound and music also evokes and 80’s vibe complete with cringe worthy dialog. All I can say about it is that it stands out… A lot.
First, the game is weird. Second, there’s a reason that you don’t see too many Beat Em Ups any more. They’re fun but not for that long. Double Dragon Neon does a great job standing apart from similar games like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World The Game (both stand outs in their own right). Again, two Beat Em Up games that are fun for a short time. Neon has multiple difficulties upon beating the game but what’s the point. You can get trophies/achievements but you don’t get more stages and it just make an already difficult game even more so.
Jet Set Radio is a game that probably hasn’t aged especially well. The difficulty is sporadic and levels feel like they were thrown together with little thought. The camera system is apparently redone and online leaderboards have been added. This will probably sell more on nostalgia than anything else.
Double Dragon Neon can be enjoyable if you’re a fan of the Beat Em Up genre. It loses the original arcade appeal of game over means you have to start from the beginning. It makes up for it with style and presentation but gameplay can be hampered by cheap AI.