Since the 2003 remake of the NES game, River City Ransom, this series has been quite quiet in North America until news surfaced of River City Ransom: Underground. Shortly after, it was revelead that Arc System Works had bought several franchises off of Technos like Double Dragon and River City Ransom (and the whole Kunio-kun series). Development was not halted on the Canadian project and Arc System Works continued developing Kunio-kun games on the 3DS. A short 3 years after the release of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-Kun SP: Rantō Kyōsōkyoku, Natsume translated and published the game to the West, shining a beacon of hope on the series, since there’s more titles in the series that have been released since in Japan, one of them coming out on the 27th of this month!
You follow the story of Kunio as he goes through dealing with issues his own way, brawling through whomever caused his problems. Expanding greatly since the NES days (and I’m basing this on the fact that I’ve never played any of the Japan exclusive titles in the series) and adding a story worthy of a kung fu movie filled with friendships, betrayal and drama mixed with a more open map to travel through, River City Tokyo Rumble strikes home with this release.
Keep true to the original, the art style remains greatly unchanged but polished for the newer generations. Adding to the dynamics, the camera can be controlled to zoom in and out or pan up and down, making boss fights much more intense as you can get right up close on the action.
The controls of this game are on point and responsive. Adding a dedicated jump button perfected the control scheme of this title. A is for punching, B is for kicking and Y is for jumping (of A+B if you want to keep it old school). The bouncing off the side of obstacles mid air has been removed from the game making it much easier to do aerial maneuvers as well. The classic skills are still present like Dragon Feet and Stone Hand along a multitude of newer ones, which most can be activated almost naturally as the skill is self explanatory enough that you can figure out the activation method without having to go look in the skill menu.
On top of the solid control scheme and skills, a level up system is in the game, providing you progress power gain as you play. You can also equip your character to enhance their abilities with undershirts, belts and secret gear. All those tiny details culminate into you feeling like the true hero of justice Kunio aspires to be. I must also say that the lag of too much going on on screen is also present but I’ve only noticed it when there was 6 characters and at least 4 weapons in the scene which doesn’t happen very often.
The major downside of the game is that the story is a bit short but the game does offer plenty to do on the side. The addition of side jobs create reasons to just go around Tokyo. Those side jobs do vary from “Beat 20 members of this gang” to “Find my dog” and they even have you look for the hidden shops in a few of those quests! Also in the game is a few sports mini game like a basketball one and a dodgeball one. The dodgeball one can be accessed outside of the story and played multiplayer using download play (1 cartridge).
As far as the game’s score goes, the music instantly brought me back to me 20 years ago, in my parents’ basement, playing River City Ransom. The theme was modernized but all of the classic feeling to it remains there and the rest of the soundtrack follows suit of keeping that feeling intact. The same is true for all of the sound effects.
After finishing the story, the game prompts you to restart from the start but carrying over all of the stats from the previous play through. I have yet to go far in this New Game + mode but the enemies do feel stronger right now, so there’s at least that. Maybe it will add more side quests as I’ve noticed I had yet to unlock all characters for the mini games.
All in all, this is a very solid beat em up that strikes right in the nostalgia feeling of this series and fills a much needed hole in the game market that seems to be hollow in this day and age.