Kunio-kun is back this year with two more Nintendo DS games this year! Aksys confirmed they’re going to publish River City Super Sports Challenge and River City Soccer Hooligans in North America. We wanted to find out more about them and we have responses from two developers. In this special interview representatives from Arc System Works and Million, the license Kunio-Kun license holder, talk about the series and the two River City sports games.
Arc System Works: It all started when we decided to create a remake of Downtown Nekketsu Koushinkyoku Soreyuke Daiundoukai, a very popular game in Japan, as our next game after the well-received Super Dodgeball Brawlers. Since most of the staff was familiar with the gameplay of the Kunio series, many ideas came up for the game, but we finally settled on bringing 2D Kunio into the world of 3D, to appeal to today’s kids. We believe that the game turned out to be a fun game that can be enjoyed by both kids and grown-ups.
What events are in Super Sports Challenge and which one is your favorite?
Arc System Works: In Super Sports Challenge, Kunio and his teammates will need to survive preliminary, main and final tournaments by participating in four races twice. Events include Cross Country, where participants roar through town; Obstacle Room, where every inch of the room is filled with dangerous traps; Treasure Scramble, where players fight over treasures; and Tournament Fight, where players are required to be the last one standing. Our favorite is the train that shows up in Cross Country. It’s pretty dangerous, but the thrill of fighting around a train in motion is pretty great!
Million: Players will have to scamper though town in Cross Country, but if the race was made so that players could access the back streets that can only be made possible in 3D, we think it would’ve added more depth to the gameplay. Also, there were many places in the Cross Country/Main Tournament stages that we thought could have used more traps, but we had to give them up because of the ROM space limitations and additional development costs.
Arc System Works: We had a hard time creating facial expressions in 3D. We had some facial expression data for each character ready early in the project, but it was too hard to reflect them in the actual game, so we had to give up using them. We believe that comical facial expressions are crucial to the Kunio-kun world, so we finally managed to implement them in River City Soccer Hooligans. We hope you enjoy them.
Million: The original development team of Technos Japan twenty years ago is from a generation that was heavily influenced by comics, TV anime, and comedy shows while they were growing up—things like Astro Boy, Ultraman, Star of the Giants, Tomorrow’s Joe, Moretsu Ataro (Extraordinary Attaro), Dokonjo Gaeru (Gutsy Frog), Kamen Rider, 8ji dayo! zenin shugo (It’s 8 o’clock! Gather up everyone), etc. Ideas for special attack moves like Pizza Shot, I believe, first came from highlights of some popular comics and anime where a protagonist transforms himself/herself into more powerful form. It’s the same case for Human Bomb: the idea first came from comics, anime, and special effects hero dramas where the enemy’s body itself can be used as a weapon.
What took development so long? I believe I saw the game previewed in Famitsu at the start of 2009 and it just came out a few months ago. Did it hit a development snag?
Arc System Works: We made some adjustments to the graphics and response time from the preview version. The long interval between the development period and the release date was caused by changes in the release schedule for domestic sales.
How did River City Soccer Hooligans evolve from Kunio Soccer League (a Famicom title)?
Arc System Works: We re-wrote all the in-game graphics in 3D for the DS version. Special shots, one of the prominent characteristics of the Kunio sports series, were all re-made in 3D as well, to give them more impact. We also customized the Achievement System, Wireless Battle System and other such things to give them a sort of nostalgic, good-old-days feel.
Million: I’ve heard that in England, the birthplace of soccer, once a match has been scheduled, the players will show up to play, no matter what. I’m not sure if it has a direct correlation, but soccer matches won’t be cancelled, except in extreme circumstances. We thought it’d be fun if players could have soccer matches in different weather conditions, considering there are many different weather conditions in different parts of the world. Also, I once saw this scene on TV where kids were playing soccer in a wet rice field in the countryside, and getting all covered in mud. It looked very strange, but at the same time they looked like they were having a blast, which I believe also gave me a hint for this “wacky” weather system.
Can you tell us how the team management system works? Did the success of Inazuma Eleven influence it at all?
Million: Since it’s a game system where a player controls the team captain and gives orders to each team member while playing soccer, he or she would also be required to lead the entire team. Therefore, good communication with each team member to boost their morale during the team meeting before each match in the locker room is the key to have a great match. This particular system is from a game made for the Nintendo Entertainment System, so although I’m not sure how, exactly, the system of Inazuma Eleven works, if anything is influenced, it’s probably Inazuma Eleven which was influenced by our game system.
Arc System Works: During the game, a player can select members for a starting lineup before each match. In the locker room, on the other hand, a player can have a chat with each team member, and give them their favorite items to put them in a great mood so they will be very cooperative during the match.
Arc System Works: Since Kunio is good at all sports, I’m sure he would be able to handle any sports challenge easily, and with characteristic chaos. However, we’d like to pick out a sport that goes along with the current trends, and can still function as a game even in a world where there are no rules. Depending on the response from the U.S. market, sports like “Ice Hockey”, “Street Basketball”, “Beach Volleyball”, and “Baseball”, which have already released for Nintendo Entertainment System, might make great candidates.
We’ve seen a lot of entries in the Kunio-kun sports series now. Will Kunio-kun ever return to its brawling roots?
Million: It was Technos Japan’s basic rule not to use violence like punching and kicking in games where a ball game is the main subject matter. However, hockey evolves into brawls in Ikeike Nekketsu Hockey Club, so characters were able to punch and kick in this game, although those who resorted to violence would be put into the box as a penalty. Also, “a brawl during the basketball matches” is the basic concept in Nekketsu Street Basketball (not released in the U.S.), so the game has an emphasis on punching and kicking rather than on basketball itself.
As the name “Nekketsu” (which translates roughly to “hot-blooded”) suggests, we’ve been trying to present unique games that not only reproduce realistic sports, but also expresses each character’s hot-bloodedness and enthusiasm to the fans.
Arc System Works: Yes, we’d like to say it will. However, these games have the potential for something like Nekketsu stories, samurai dramas, etc., as well, so there’s no need to stick to brawl-themed games only. We believe that the series has a wide variety of possibilities.
Have you thought about bringing the Kunio-kun series back to consoles? If a retail release isn’t possible there’s always an option for a digital release…
Arc System Works: Yes, we have. Since the Kunio series has been continually released on the GBA and original Gameboy, as well as the Nintendo Entertainment System, I believe that games in the Kunio series are not to be confined to a small format, like cell phone applications. I often find myself wanting to play Kunio games on TV, like I used to as a child, but there’s been a rumor going around the office that a secret project has been launched, so although we wouldn’t like you to get your hopes too high, please keep a close watch on our next move.