From The Streets To The Courts

HIGH An astounding collection of games for the price.

LOW Wonky controls and odd video options can stall the action.

WTF Why can’t the NBA develop triple levels of nets?

Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle is a collector’s dream come true. This package features all of the NES-era Double Dragon titles as well as the cult classic River City Ransom and lesser-known Crash N’ the Boys, along with all 11 (!) Kunio-kun games from the “Family Computer Disk System” in Japan, here localized for the first time.  The 18 titles are not all equally strong and some are mere novelties from a system long dead, but there’s a great deal of enjoyable gameplay and inspired goofiness to be had.

It’s not possible to cover all 18 games comprehensively in this review, so I’ll have to make due with some generalizations, but my job is made a bit easier by the fact that several of the titles are mirror image US/Japanese versions included in the same bundle. 

 For instance, Renegade and Nekketsu Renegade Kunio-kun are the same game with different text, difficulty settings, and some sprite swaps.  However, these differences honestly aren’t large enough to make playing through each one worth it — it makes more sense to choose one and skip the other. 

The titles range from straight-up beat-em-ups like the Double Dragon games to parody sports offerings like Super Dodge Ball and Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes.  I’m going to outline them all below, but first some general observations. 

While there are options to tweak graphics settings to make things look prettier on modern televisions, I found that anything other than the default visual settings caused too much lag with both the joycons or the Pro controller, making some of the offerings unplayable. Also, for some reason the between-stage music is cut off in Double Dragon when in an alternate graphics mode. 

Controls vary from game to game, but anything requiring multiple button presses (such as the spinning cyclone kicks in Double Dragon II or special throws/attacks in Super Dodge Ball) were more difficult to pull off with standard buttons.  To save my sanity, I took advantage of the option to use a shoulder button as the combination of button presses. 

Finally, some of the more esoteric goals and abilities in the sports titles aren’t well laid out, so I had to track down an FAQ online to figure out how to play some of the games to their fullest.  Now, with all that said, let’s go through the list.

Double Dragon: The NES classic.  No simultaneous play, and one must unlock all special moves by leveling up the character.  Still enjoyable, but I have Nintendo Online so this was in my catalog anyway.

Double Dragon II:  Better graphics and some killer new moves along with two-player arcade-style action.  The aforementioned cyclone kick and flying knee are a bit fiddly to pull off, but it’s still a solid title. (Also in the Nintendo Online catalog.)

Double Dragon III:  My least favorite of the trilogy.  Good looking, but infuriatingly difficult with a one-death game over system.  Having access to alternate characters as the game progresses is pretty cool, though.

Renegade:  Yuck.  Wonky controls and unappealing visuals.  Crazy difficult and not very engaging.

Nekketsu Renegade Kunio-kun:  The Japanese version of Renegade that slightly plays up the silliness while lowering the difficulty.  Better than the US version, but still not worth spending a ton of time with.

Super Dodge Ball: A classic!  Fairly easy to win in one playthrough, and blasting opponents in the face with an ultra spinning dodgeball never gets old. 

Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club: This is Super Dodge Ball, but with high-schoolers and a bit of a plot.  It’s different enough to be enjoyed on its own terms.

River City Ransom:  Still one of my all-time favorites, and yet not the standout in this collection.  Purchasing power-ups by reading books and eating sandwiches is always amusing, as is the running commentary from defeated foes in this 2D brawler.

Downtown Nekketsu Story:  The Japanese version of River City Ransom with some slightly different visuals (the guys all wear school uniforms), and different translations.  Pretty cool alternative to the US version.

Crash ‘n the Boys Street Challenge:  An interesting oddity.  This is a series of sports-like activities such as hammer throw, swimming, and a weapons-filled footrace with the signature Kunio-kun flair like lots of fighting and over-the-top silliness.  The controls are terrible for foot races (wiggling back and forth on the control stick as fast as possible), but it’s interesting.

Surprise! Nekketsu New Records! The Distant Gold Medal:  The Japanese version of Crash ‘n the Boys with alternate text.  Worth a look, but as limited gameplay-wise as the US version.

Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club – Soccer Story:  This is a great soccer title that encourages rough tackles and charging up super powerful kicks.  It plays fast and loose with soccer rules, and it’s a blast.

Kunio-kun’s Nekketsu Soccer League:  An expanded sequel of the soccer title above, with league tables and alternate field conditions which make play more challenging.  It also offers player meetings to encourage teammates, a story mode, and halftime chatter.  It’s a significant improvement over the already-excellent predecessor.

Downtown Nekketsu March Super-Awesome Field Day!:  This is another sports-adjacent title featuring obstacle courses, climbing minigames, and relay races over rooftops and through storm drains with the same weapon usage Kunio is known for.  It’s intriguing, but unclear objectives and controls make it a bit of a chore.

Downtown Special Kunio-kun’s Historical Period Drama!  The “prequel” to River City Ransom set in Japan’s feudal past.  Featuring more diverse terrain (rivers to ford, hills to climb, and so on), more interesting boss battles, and enhanced graphics, this is one of the best in the bundle.  I spent a lot of time with this one.

Go-Go! Nekketsu Hockey Club Slip-and-Slide Madness:  Kunio-style hockey.  Much like the soccer title, this one isn’t realistic, but the ice physics are silly, and the violence is over-the-top.  I was surprised with how well-designed it was.

Nekketsu Fighting Legend:  An enjoyable team-based arena brawler that allows players to make interesting use of the terrain and special moves to knock opponents out.  Not much to it, but the battles are neat in short sessions.

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes:  A completely insane basketball-inspired romp with triple-decker hoops, ‘aggressive’ defense (as in punching and kicking) and humorous special shots and wild dunks.  I’d heard of this one in the past, and despite some unforgiving difficulty and a steep learning curve, it’s an excellent title.

Overall, what’s most amazing about the Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle is that even the titles I won’t go back to as often are interesting, good for short bursts of play between the more engaging offerings. Fans of the classic NES titles would be remiss in not grabbing this immediately, and I hope they bring on an SNES bundle!

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Arc System Works.  It is currently available on the PS4, and Nintendo Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch.  Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed.  Several of the games included were finished, but all were tried. I attempted to connect to multiplayer modes on numerous occasions, but was unable to find any lobbies to play online.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Alcohol Reference, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence, and Simulated Gambling.  Various street fighting techniques are employed, including the use of improvised weapons such as baseball bats and knives (though no blood is shown).  Female characters are sometimes depicted in revealing outfits and there is rear (male, for comedic effect) nudity when Kunio (or Alex) enter a shower in the River City Ransom and related titles.  Violent tackling and fighting are depicted in the various sports titles. 

Colorblind Modes:  There are no colorblind modes available in the options. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers:   All audio cues have a visual component, and all dialogue is in text form for all games in the bundle.  There are no font color or style choices, and the text cannot be resized in the options.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.  Each game offers a full manual in its individual pause menu to take players through the various commands.   

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