Double Dragon Neon Official Soundtrack :: Review by Don
WayForward Technologies, don't you love them? Between offering original games such as the Shantae and Mighty franchises, they have also offered inspired reboots of franchises with Contra 4, Bloodrayne: Redemption, and now Double Dragon: Neon. For Double Dragon: Neon, the company's sound director and game music fanatic Jake Kaufman wrote all the music, releasing it through his Bandcamp page on a 'name your price' deal. The release is intended as a tribute to both the series- musical style as a whole as well as the music of the era when this game was released. How does the overall listening experience turn out?
The album opens up with a fantastic synth rock rendition of the iconic Double Dragon theme, aptly named "Title Theme" on this release. I imagine this is what the original composers were aiming for when they wrote the classic all those years ago. Of course, there are some awesome electric guitar solos thanks to the extended development of the track. Likewise, as short as it is, "Mission Bumper" is a nice upgrade from the original "The Journey Continues (Intermission)." There are also some miscellaneous themes that I'll group together at the beginning of the review. Among other homages, I like how "Shopkeeper's Theme" has a very ethereal Asian vibe to it, while also incorporating the title theme's melody. "Marian's Theme" is also quite pleasant, offering a very ballad-like approach with stunning strings and a nice acoustic sound.
Of course, the majority of the music is dedicated to the various stage and boss themes. "City Streets 1" is an awesome rock rendition of "The Black Warriors Arrive" from the original Double Dragon. Just as it did in the first game, this tune definitely sets the gamer in the mood to beat up some thugs! Of course, it also comes with some awesome guitar and synthesizer solos that really add to the piece. "City Streets 2," on the other hand, is an original vocal tune that transports the listener to the 80s. It's this ridiculously catchy synth pop tune with bubbly lyrics and it really manages to capture the essence of the neon lights seen on a night on the town. The boss theme for the first area, "Boss - Skullmageddon," is an intense synth rock piece that really manages to create a great rush of adrenaline. As with many boss themes for games of this type, it focuses on shorter melodic phrases rather than a drawn out melody, and works in the heat of the moment.
"Space Dojo 1" is a funky synth rendition of the second stage theme in the original Double Dragon, "Riot". This track also stands out and does the original a lot of justice as well. The jazzy brass tones brighten up the entire piece while the bass guitar helps bring in that funk. Of course, the synthesizer melody and solo is also a highlight. "Space Dojo 2" is another original vocal tune and is done in the style of 80s metal. Musically, it's a fantastic tune full of wailing guitars and some lovely synth accents. The vocals, on the other hand, are something that I'm still warming to, as I'm not the biggest fan of 80s metal vocals. Fans of this era will surely appreciate it though. The boss theme for this area, "Boss - Mecha Biker," is much stronger than the previous area's equivalent in my opinion. I love the synth rock vibe and the focus on a longer melodic passage will certainly win over fans of a developed melody.
"Countryside 1" is an original tune that really manages to fit into the Double Dragon universe. I love the retro vibe, particularly in the accompaniment, while the combination of swelling strings, powerful guitar riffs, and a bit of an Asian influence work wonders to create a very compelling soundscape. "Countryside 2," as you might expect, is another original vocal tune and has a very heroic 80s rock vibe. As before, the vocals aren't my cup of tea, but the funky guitar riffs combined with a catchy melody and a very motivating accompaniment works to create a solid composition. "Boss - Giant Tank," the boss theme for this area, is similar in approach to the first area's boss theme, but it definitely focuses a bit more on melody and is quite a fantastic experience.
Of course, Double Dragon 2 shouldn't be left out of the equation. "Lab 1" is an updated version of the first mission theme from that game. This rendition is definitely more synth focused, but I really like the combination of the FM style rock accompaniment and the heroic synthesizer tones. When it comes to the classics, I think that virt does a fantastic job and updating them for modern times while still paying homage to their origins, in some way. "Lab 2" is a pretty funky tune that has a great retro vibe thanks to the FM style percussion. In addition, the synthesizer led melody accentuates the groovy mood and compliments the first portion of this area quite nicely. The boss theme for this area, "Boss - Marian II," is a great swing jazz tune. Unlike the other boss themes on the album, this one is definitely the most fun thanks in part to the honky tonky piano runs that pepper the composition.
"Tube Ride" is an arrangement of the final stage theme in the first Double Dragon and this version is certainly no slouch. I love how it has a surfer rock vibe that combines nicely with the brass tones that are at times jazzy and at others Spanish influenced in sound. "Ghost Forest," unlike the other themes, is definitely a more moody affair, opting for sinister orchestral swells and ominous piano lines. While it may not fit the theme of the rest of the more upbeat and 80s inspired stage tunes, it certainly is one of the stronger stage themes and fits the scene. "Final Palace" for the final stage is a return to the rock oriented themes of the soundtrack. This one sounds like it comes straight out of an espionage film, albeit with a bit of a rock touch. The final boss theme, "Boss - Giga Skullmageddon," is a much more intense version of the previous Skullmageddon that develops quite a bit more. The powerful rock riffs are retained; however, the inclusion of a fantastic piano and electric guitar melody, as well as the Double Dragon title theme motif, really give this one the staying power the first Skullmageddon theme lacks.
There are a variety of mixtape tunes as well that play when pick up new abilities. They cover a range of 80s style music. They are short, however, so their mileage may vary depending on the listener. The "End Credits" theme is an awesome 80s rock theme that reminds me, in some ways, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and features equally hilarious lyrics that I can't spoil, for obvious reasons. This is probably my favorite of the vocal themes, aside from "City Streets 2," and closes the game wonderfully.
In the end, I think that the Double Dragon Neon Original Soundtrack is a fitting tribute to the series' musical history as well as to the 80s era in general. For those who don't enjoy 80s music or aren't familiar with the series, this soundtrack may not be for you. Otherwise, this soundtrack definitely comes recommended, especially for fans of virt. It's available at whatever the price you choose, so why not give it a try?
Overall Score: 8/10