Arc System Works bring us a collection of classic 8-bit “Brawlers” in this substantial collection. The Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle includes eighteen NES and Famicom titles, eleven of which are being localized for the first time. This sounds great, but there are a few things worth knowing before you jump in and buy this collection.
What Is It?
In its purest form, this collection brings eighteen games to the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Here is the full list of games included in the bundle.
|Double Dragon Series||Kunio-kun Series||Kunio-kun Series (Japan)|
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones
Super Dodge Ball
River City Ransom
Crash’n the Boys Street Challenge
|Nekketsu Renegade Kunio-kun*|
Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club*
Downtown Nekketsu Story*
Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club – Soccer Story
Downtown Nekketsu March Super-Awesome Field Day!
Downtown Special Kunio-kun’s Historical Period Drama!
Go-Go! Nekketsu Hockey Club Slip-and-Slide Madness
Surprise! Nekketsu New Records! The Distant Gold Medal*
Nekketsu Fighting Legend
Kunio-kun’s Nekketsu Soccer League
Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes
It looks like a great list, and for the most part it is, it’s effectively a near- complete 8-bit lineup of the Kunio-kun franchise, minus the Arcade, Game Boy, and PC Engine titles of the era. There are a few asterisks to be aware of, though. If you look in the list above, you’ll see them. These are the Japanese versions of Renegade, Super Dodge Ball, River City Ransom, and Crash’n the Boys Street Challenge. The Japanese versions do have regional differences, so it’s nice to have both versions in the package, but it makes the absence of the other platforms more glaring. It does at least mean there could be a Volume 2 of this collection that could include the rest of the series.
Why Should I Care?
This bundle is a great slice of gaming history. All of the games are emulated pretty well. There may be a handful of audio issues here and there, but beyond that, the games all play at full speed and the controls are responsive.
It’s fair to point out one very crucial thing about this collection, though. There is zero on-boarding done here. You’ll jump into a game, and the most you’ll get is a controls card. Knowing the controls will only get you so far, especially when it comes to the non-linear titles. Game manuals really would have helped here, and it’s a shame that those weren’t scanned and translated as needed.
Many of these games are also incredibly difficult. “Nintendo Hard” was a thing back then, and it’s something that modern gamers will not be prepared for. There’s also the fact that many of these games are just plain weird. Dunk Heroes, for instance, is a street basketball game that makes NBA Jam‘s over-the-top antics look tame. A street basketball game in a “Brawler” collection, yes. That’s another thing to note, several of the games here are sports related, but play with brawler-style controls.
There is a distinct lack of extras in this collection, though. There are challenges you can complete which will unlock avatars and titles for the online mode, but there really is nothing that goes into the series’ history and why it was so significant. For the $40 asking price, this collection should have been more than just a bare-bones package.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Despite its shortcomings in the extras department, what is here is very good. If you’re an audio/visual nerd, there are many video modes to choose from. You can choose backgrounds to have to either side of the game screen, or choose to just have it as plain black. There are also scanline and sharpness settings to tweak to tune the image to something that will look pleasing to you. There are also several audio EQ, volume, and reverb settings to choose from.
There is an online mode that will let you play Vs. or Co-op with friends or random people over PSN or Nintendo Online. In my testing, I found the online play to be mostly okay. When the connection was bad between two players, though, gameplay was a complete mess. Invite some friends over to play. It’ll be a much better experience. (I know, I know, you’ll have to put pants on, but the latency will be excellent!)
The Double Dragon And Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle is a decent collection that provides a look into a slice of gaming that a lot of people haven’t seen. What it doesn’t do is explain in any way why anyone under forty should care about it. It’s a missed opportunity, one that hopefully Arc might consider taking another shot at with a Volume 2.