It’s rare for a game for an older system to get a localized release well after its generation, but it’s happened. Including recently! Trials of Mana. Earthbound Beginnings. Puzzle & Action: Ichidant-R. Even still, the sheer audacity of Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle’s 11 simultaneous newly-translated Famicom releases is something to behold.
The collection also includes some solid games already released in the West: the first three Double Dragon releases, Renegade, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom and Crash ‘n the Boys: Street Challenge. But it’s these 11 new-to-English-speakers Kunio-kun games that deserve a closer look. So let’s do just that!
Nekketsu Renegade Kunio-kun, Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club, Downtown Nekketsu Story, Surprise! Nekketsu New Records! The Distant Gold Medal
Let’s get these out of the way: these are the four English games already in the collection. There’s definitely some curiosity value to seeing the original Kunio versions, as NES-era localization tended to change a lot of characters and settings and was particularly brutal and inconsistent to Kunio games. But these aren’t new games, really.
Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club – Soccer Story
This is a bit of an edge case, as it essentially belongs with those five: it’s the game released in English as Nintendo World Cup. It has some special value here, though, as likely due to licensing concerns, only this version is in the collection. Still, if you’re looking to enjoy Kunio soccer, you should probably play…
Kunio-kun’s Nekketsu Soccer League
This sequel amps up the weirdness of its violent soccer, and the weirdness is why you’re here. Weather! More moves! A game that’s completely new if you’ve played Nintendo World Cup! It picks up a lot of tricks from the other games and brings them back to the fiery football formula that worked so well the first time.
Go-Go! Nekketsu Hockey Club Slip-and-Slide Madness
If you like the soccer releases but, well, want to slide around on ice and do even more punching, this is the game for you! In what you’ll notice is a theme while going through these translated stories, Kunio and his friends get asked by yet another school club to show up and help them out. The rules of hockey do end up resulting in somewhat higher-scoring games than soccer, so it could be a preferred experience for those who like the pace.
Downtown Special Kunio-kun’s Historical Period Drama!
This one’s a sequel to River City Ransom, framed as a school play to allow for the feudal Japan setting. It’s larger and more complex to navigate than Ransom, so the menu translation really helps with the maps and shops. You’ll notice a lot of the weapons you can pick up function suspiciously like the other ones but now look vaguely historical, but that’s expected with how Technos’ games regularly reused code and ideas.
Downtown Nekketsu March Super-Awesome Field Day!
While the Famicom version of this game’s new to the West, its gameplay isn’t. Regularly known as River City Super Sports Challenge here, its Nintendo DS successor and PS3/Steam remake have already released worldwide, and there’s of course the matter of its sequel, Crash ‘n’ the Boys, going global in 1992.
Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes
Once again proving that Japanese game developers for sure know how basketball works, this game has a reputation for being an import gem for a reason. Six hoops! Double jumps off buildings! Underground passageways! It’s a bit difficult to get a handle on the controls, as its shooting isn’t as approachable as Super Dodge Ball’s throwing. It’s best played head-to-head with a friend or with two teams of two, as the AI can be brutal and humans provide more of an even playing field.
Nekketsu Fighting Legend
While it uses many of the same combat systems as the beat-’em-ups, Nekketsu Fighting Legend is a head-to-head four player fighting game in the vein of the River City Melee games. The frustrating friendly fire that regularly happens when you’re trying to throw projectiles at thugs becomes very much intentional here, and though it’s hard to say it’s a wonderful fit, it’s a curious enough release for its era with its four-player support. Who knows if we’d have Super Smash Bros. and Power Stone without it?
What else should you know?
It’s difficult to track down who exactly is responsible for Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle‘s translation work, but there’s a definite difference between what you find here and the work you’d expect from the NES era. For one, these didn’t go through Nintendo’s quality check process, and… some characters say some things, okay? If you’re old enough to be nostalgic about the Famicom, you’re probably fine, but check things out before putting them in front of small children.
The games also don’t care so much if you understand any context or cultural references. It’s great to have fully navigable menus so you can experience the game without learning Japanese or applying unofficial patches, but keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get what’s going on in the story. It helps to read the synopses provided in the menu, though.
One cool touch that’s big for these games in particular: the collection includes “Quality Up” versions of the games that decrease the flickering caused by Technos’ common use of drawing sprites on alternating frames to increase how many things could be on screen at once. They also occasionally fix some bugs! Purists will be happy to learn they’re optional, but they’re both default and recommended.