Double Dragon: Neon (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) A new downloadable edition of the classic beat’em up franchise, available on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. It continues in the style of previous games in the series, with either one or two players advancing through a series of side-scrolling levels beating the crap out of the hordes of bad guys in their path.
The original Double Dragon, released in 1987, was one of the most important and influential games in the history of the beat’em up genre. The basic conventions of the genre as we know it today- fighting multiple opponents in hand-to-hand combat, the ability to move both horizontally and vertically- had been established the previous year by a game called Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (better known to Americans as Renegade, since the more direct translation Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio is a bit clunky for an arcade machine when you actually have to write it out in English). However, it was Double Dragon that did more than any other game else to set off the avalanche of beat’em ups that filled arcades in the late 80s and early 90s.
So Double Dragon: Neon has quite a legacy to live up to. The history of the franchise after the original Double Dragon is not terribly encouraging, frankly: several of the sequels were terrible, and the less said about the feature film and the short-lived animated TV series the better. (Though it did give us the crossover Battletoads and Double Dragon, which was far better than it had any right to be.) Double Dragon: Neon was developed by Wayforward Technologies, whose track record is a mixed bag. However, their continuation of the classic Contra series on the Nintendo DS, Contra 4, was met with widespread acclaim, so creating modern continuations of classic arcade series seems to be one of their strong points, which is a positive sign.
NHL 13 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) The latest yearly update in the long-running series of professional ice hockey games from Electronic Arts. New features added for this iteration of the series include improved AI for computer-controlled players, greatly expanded player strategy options, and a new physics engine to make skating more realistic. In addition to the teams and players of the eponymous National Hockey League, the game includes six other professional leagues: the American Hockey League (the NHL’s developmental league), SM-Liga (Finland), Deutsche Eishockey Liga (Germany), Czech Extraliga (Czech Republic), Elitserien (Sweden), and National League A (Switzerland). I know very little about sports games in general, and my knowledge of hockey games is pretty much limited to Blades of Steel and the imaginatively named Ice Hockey on the NES, so I’m in no position to offer any sort of opinion, though the reception of past NHL games has been pretty positive.
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