You might come to Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle for Double Dragon and River City Ransom, but you’ll likely stay for the sheer variety of mayhem and play experiences that it has to offer.
While it touts that it’s a “Brawler Bundle,” you’re in for a staggering array of fighting games, ridiculous sports titles, and multiplayer experiences, along with a handful of neat, ridiculous games that unfortunately never made it to the West before now.
The collection brings the three NES Double Dragon games together, as well as the excellent River City Ransom, for folks who just want to slap thugs around. You also get Renegade, but the thugs will likely be laying the beat downs on you without tons of practice with that one. For sports fans, you get Super Dodge Ball and Crash’n the Boys Street Challenge, both offering some wild takes on multiplayer activities.
It’s solid stuff for its four beat ‘em ups alone, but the collection also contains eleven Kunio-kun games that had previously only been published in Japan. These were the original source of games like River City Ransom and the previously-mentioned sports titles (which is why the character models between them all might have seemed oddly familiar for River City Ransom fans years ago), and bring an impressive variety of things to do, as well as some great new NES games – something you definitely don’t see too often these days outside of fan translations.
Did you wonder what River City Ransom would play like in Feudal Japan? Run around beating enemies until they barf in Downtown Special Kunio-kun’s Historical Period Drama!, where you’ll throw down against thugs a few hundred years before Alex & Ryan were clobbering villainous teenagers. Wish there was a two-on-two fighting game on the NES? Try out Nekketsu Fighting Legend, which has you customizing a character and grabbing a partner for a frantic battle against wacky opponents. Or, how about some of the wackiest takes on Basketball, Soccer, and extreme track & field? While many collections bring together relatively similar play experiences, Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle continually offers new things.
The bundle is very interested in preserving your memory of these games as well. A handful of titles are seemingly repeated within the bundle, offering newly-translated versions of these games alongside their North American release (such as Downtown Nekketsu Story and River City Ransom). This way, players can grab the version that they fondly remember, or they can try out the fresh localization of the game as it was released in Japan. Offering both lets players study what was changed and take in whole new aspects of the game that never made it to North America, making them wonderful additions and fun new ways to experience some classics.
The games, while capturing a slew of different play styles, are all quite entertaining in an over-the-top way. The action is always outlandish, with spin kicks and flurries of dragon feet letting you slam foes into the dirt. Even if you’re not terribly interested in the sport-like titles, their penchant for chaos and physical violence (and super moves that would be well at home in most sport Anime) can make them pretty appealing for casual sport game fans. Only Renegade and its Japanese counterpart Nekkutsu Renegade Kunio-kin feel like weak entries in the collection, but for completion’s sake, it’s good to see them in there. Just don’t expect to find much enjoyment getting paddled on the Subway over and over again.
Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle’s presentation is quite sharp as well, preserving the visuals and sound with clarity. The pixel art looks great on the Switch’s portable screen, and you’re able to stretch and fiddle with its aspect ratio if you think another view looks better. It’s also great to hear these catchy songs all over again, especially with the new games showcasing some further variety in audio style.
The game features a quicksave system that will let you keep your game in progress, something that goes a long way toward making the games easier if you need them to be. It’s also a nice touch to be able to walk away from these games rather than just leave them chilling on pause, praying your NES doesn’t decide to freak out and crash like my old one did. It does take a few slow seconds to save, which can discourage you from spamming the save too quickly, but this can be a benefit or downside depending on your mindset on this.
While the game’s variety of experiences can be seen as a good thing, the game’s name might feel a bit misleading to people looking to pick it up. Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle had me thinking I was going to be getting far more beat ‘em ups than what I ended up with, which, honestly, was initially a disappointment. It’s my own fault for not looking into which titles would be released in the collection, but it seems odd to call it a Brawler Bundle when it’s filled with oddball sports titles. I enjoyed these goofy entries after a time, but they weren’t what I expected at first, and I could see other players feeling let down by the shift in genre.
For someone looking to play some impressive new localizations of NES games in 2020, Double Dragon & Kunio-kun: Retro Brawler Bundle brings a great deal of varied games to try out, as well as some nuances of story and play that we’d never previously seen released in the West. It’s a solid collection that isn’t afraid to offer players many different things, and is an impressive look at the history of a developer, making it available in a way few other studios do these days.