Wow, well here is a blast from the past! Thanks to devs Arc System Works, you are now able to play nearly every Double Dragon and Kunio-Kun vintage game as well as a few others taking you right back to the ’80s and ’90s! So basically the era when I was a carefree child regularly playing on my Atari St with my dad and my neighbourhood friends. It’s time to don those garish Bermuda short and T-shirt combos, strike up a bit of jive bunny and the master mixers and go back in time with the Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle.
Do you love 8-bit side scrollers, kicking and punching your way through levels, defeating big bosses and also having the option to play with a mate both offline and on some titles up to 4 players online? Well, let’s see what Arc System Works have included within the retro brawler bundle:
- Double Dragon
- Double Dragon 2: The Revenge
- Double Dragon 3: The Sacred Stones
- River City Ransom
- Super Dodge Ball
- Go-Go! Nekketsu Hockey Club Slip-and-Slide Madness
- Kunio-Kun’s Nekketsu Soccer League
- Downtown Special Kunio-Kun’s Historical Period Drama!
- Downtown Special Kunio-Kun’s Historical March Super-Awesome Field Day!
- Downtown Nekketsu Story
- Nekketsu Fighting Legend
- Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club
- Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club – Soccer Story
- Nekketsu Renegade Kunio Kun
- Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes
- Surprise! Nekketsu New Records! The Distant Gold Medal
- Crash ‘n the Boys Street Challenge
All in all the retro brawler bundle gives you the chance to play across 18 classic games, and if you have that puzzled expression of not recognising some of the titles it is because 11 of them were never originally released in the UK and stayed in Japan on the Famicom, later sold as the NES over here.
Each of the games utilises a combination of three buttons as well as the analogue or d-pad in order to pull off various punches, kicks, jumps and depending on the game there is sometimes some additional features to contend with such as throwing a ball when you are not beating the crap out of a pixelated opponent.
One of my biggest concerns was whether the games I did recognise, namely the Double Dragon trilogy, had stood the test of time. I remember playing down the arcades and it looked pretty good. Obviously back then games were a lot different and we didn’t have the magnitude of photo-realistic 4K battles that we see now to compare against. I must say that I felt a little sad about what I saw. Although my nostalgia was through the roof, it took me around 3 minutes of repeatedly getting knocked back down as my character stood back up before the cracks started to appear. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t anything Arc System Works have themselves done badly for this was how the games were back then. What is wrong for me is that they are just not that entertaining to play. Controls are clunky, animations are jerky which in turn leads to moments of hammering buttons for your character to maybe receive one of the commands and then get knocked flat on the floor.
When playing co-op and online some of the games can be amusing. I particularly enjoyed Nekketsu Soccer League which had you taking control of a player on the team and then running around the field performing crunching sliding tackles on your opponents to steal the ball and try and score a goal. Equally the Nekketsu track and field game added some almost Daley Thompsonesque button hammering with a side dish of wrapping broken hurdle gates at your opponent.
Nearly all of the games feature the option to play as the original version once did, complete with bugs and glitches however there is also a “Quality Up” version that can also be played which upgrades the graphical display slightly and addresses the bugs while keeping the retro feel of it. There are 4 save game blocks available for each title as well as a detailed game description should you want to know more about the original release date, story and screenshots.
The smell of 8-bit retro is strong with the Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle and they look and feel exactly how they once did all those years ago. As well as the minor enhancements in the “Quality Up” mode that helps reduce screen flicker you can also adjust the screen ratio of the games so that you can either make the game look a little like you are playing on the screen of an arcade cabinet complete with awesome graphical illustrations adorning either side of the gameplay or even go full screen for that immersive experience. It is worth noting that the Japanese cartoon violence is quite funny in some of the Kunio-Kun titles.
The Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle features the original chipset melodies and sound effects, some of which are very short loops that can become irritating very quickly. Within each game title you can adjust the sound however there is no option to just turn off the music. Oddly you will find that you can add reverb to the soundtrack with full adjustment of the depth and length alongside other equaliser options. At a guess, it is so you can create that arcade cabinet atmosphere complete with an exciting haunting echo as it bounces from the walls of that gaming room.
With 18 games there is a lot to explore however much of it is a lot of repetition, all be it set in a slightly different environment. If you were to set yourself the task of completing all of the levels and battle all of the bosses then yes it would take you some time to get through, especially as games back then were a lot harder and unforgiving than a most of today’s offerings. That said you really need to be a lover of retro to want to play any longer than 10 minutes due to the anticlimax of it all.
While resurrecting the dead is sometimes something that would be seen as a good thing, I can’t help but feel that these particular games could have been left in the ground in 2020. They have had their time and unfortunately, the world has since moved on. Although back in the day I remember having immense fun playing brawler games this just does not seem to work for me on the PS4 and to be honest I would only really expect to see games such as these committed to a memory card within a Raspberry Pi.
I award Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle the Thumb Culture Bronze Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.