Badasses are the ones who get the girls!
Ah, the Kunio-Kun series, how I adore your chubby characters, fantastic story lines, hilarious hijinks, and absolutely violent history! A series that is part of a very select few that has stood the test of time and cemented a spot in retro video game history, as well as the hearts of old-school gamers around the world. I could go very deep in the lineage of Kunio-Kun, but I’ve already done that briefly with my review of Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge. For this review I’m going to assume most players that are interested in this romp have played River City Ransom, Super Dodgeball, along with the other classic Kunio-Kun series games we were graced with by Technos Japan here in the East.
Unfortunately, in the year 1996, Technos Japan declared bankruptcy, but luckily for their fans, a company called Million purchased many of the Kunio-Kun properties which eventually led to Arc System Works (Guilty Gear, BlazBlue) acquiring all intellectual properties in 2015. Many gamers were concerned on how Arc System Works would handle their cherished Kunio and Japan would find out quickly with Downtown Hot-Blooded March for PS3 & 3DS. Gamers in the East were quick to realize that Arc System Works knew what they were doing, and Downtown Hot-Blooded March earned critical praise from reviewers and fans alike. It was time to bring the game over to the North America Region. First things first the game needed a name that would stand out to gamers in the West…
River City Super Sports Challenge ~All-Stars Special~ is a no-holds-barred event that will have you laughing and crying in pain all the way to the finish line. You will be punched, kicked, have a dumbbell smashed into your skull, and be blown up by grenades in four extremely violent events. Your only goal is to win, and by doing that you must learn how to use all the weapons and tools that are scattered all over the obstacle course. The team who has the most points after all 4 events will be declared the champions.
The 4 events are as follows:
Cross Country: Race across Yumemicho! Run through random strangers houses, dash across rooftops, swim in the sewers, & climb up mansions to be the first to make it past the finish line.
Obstacle Course: Similar to cross-country but there are a lot more hazards throughout the course. Land mines, pits, & large spring platforms are the game here, as you will have to maneuver all of these obstacles more precisely.
Camphor Ball: A large pole is staged in the center of the court and the goal is to climb said pole to punch a large camphor ball until it bursts open. Sounds easy enough but not when 3 other opponents are trying to do the same thing. Fists will fly and bodies will hit the floor!
Battle Royal: A last man standing fight to the finish. Use any means necessary to destroy your opponent. Fighters will be able to use numerous weapons scattered in the area to bash the heads of their enemy and reign supreme.
Most games of this nature awards the player to finish first the win, but River City Super Sports Challenge ~All-Stars Special~ mixes things up a bit. The cross-country and obstacle course events are broken down into several mini events during the race. For instance, you will start off on a single stationary screen making your way from left to right while beating each other into a pulp. The first player that makes his or her way across the screen first is awarded 20 points. The next area of the race is then presents itself and it may also be stationary or a short scrolling section and then the process repeats and the player who manages to make it across first is awarded the points. Now, the kick here is that you’re also awarded points for taking out your opponents. Just using your fists will grant you a small amount of points, but hitting the other players with weapons will increase your score significantly. This adds a nice amount of strategy, as you will have to think about either rushing to the end of the screen or lagging behind to accumulated some much needed points. During a few of my races I had some AI hiccups, as my opponents seemed to be stuck and unable to finish the race. This lead to me having to wait for the countdown timer to get to zero before the game would continue, which made a quick pace game drag at points. I came across dumb AI in almost every race, which had me watching my opponents run around in circles instead of getting to the finish line. Once the race is completely over several individual awards will be handed out amongst the athletes. These awards can range from “MVP” to “Player that needed to be carried by his team the most” (which deducts points), and can greatly determine which team comes out on top.
It’s unusual for sports games to have a story especially sports games of the NES era, but most of the Kunio-Kun games did and that’s why many gamers still have fond memories of the series to this day. River City Sports continues the tradition of great story telling but since it’s 2016 and not 1986 it’s done with a bit more flash. Surprisingly each character in the game gets a brief intro via a full screen splash during the story. The game will briefly pause to let the gamer know a bit about the smallest character in the story to the main players. So much charm and humor is thrown into these introductions and they had me laughing, sometimes hysterically, with each one. Sometimes it’s a bit too much as it will introduce you to numerous characters that you’re sure to forget minutes after being introduced, but it’s still a welcome feature that many gamers will come to appreciate once they learn the back story of characters they’ve been seeing for almost 30 years.
The main plot of the story revolves around you and is surprisingly deep. At the start of the game you are able to create your very own character, which will compete along side of Kunio and other Nekketsu High School teammates for the championship but not all is well in River City. There are plenty of dirty players on the other teams and each one wants Nekketsu High School out of the race. Dirty deals and sabotage rein down on your school and it’s up to you to remain calm and figure out what is going on all while keeping the spirits of your teammates high. It’s a pretty deep story that somehow manages to weave its way into just the 4 events you will be competing in. Since there are only 4 events repetition does eventually rear its ugly head, but because the story is interesting, I didn’t mind it too much. Unlockable teams, characters, and special moves also will keep you motivated to play, as the customization portion of the game is quite robust.
Graphics and sound definitely don’t take a back seat in River City Super Sports Challenge. Arc System Works made sure that not just the series’ characters were kept alive but the music lives on also! When purchased on Steam a special digital download that contains 32 most-loved music tracks from the Kunio-Kun series along with remade tunes will find it’s way to your Steam folder!! This was an amazing special bonus that I was super excited to have. The series music is up there with the best and will have you humming for hours after you’ve stopped playing the game.
Glorious 2D sprites will battle each other on picturesque 3D backgrounds that seem to add to the games charm. The city feels even more alive as you will find yourself in a beautiful Japanese school playground during leisure time and roughing it up in the city’s sewers during a relay. I absolutely love when designers use this type of feature since the harshness of 8 bit sprites just seem to blend so well with 3D environmental graphics. The colors just seem to pop off the screen and it’s a welcome feature that almost feels like the perfect marriage of retro and modern graphics.
Local and online multiplayer modes are also present but I was unable to find anyone online to play against. Luckily, I did manage to get my kid interested in the game and we both cooperatively managed to win a game of camphor ball and a few relay races. One-on-one play is also an option and I can imagine it leading to heated battles and broken friendships.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with what Arc System Works has done with the beloved Kunio-kun franchise. River City Super Sports Challenge ~All-Stars Special~ has some questionable AI and repetition but I don’t think many retro gamers will hold that against it. Modern gamers may not get as much enjoyment out of the title but I still believe the charm of the series will still hold up today. Hopefully a new generation of gamers will fall in love with the franchise and we can look forward to many future titles to come.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PlayStation 3, PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: H2 Interactive ; Developer: Arc System Works ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: December 17, 2015; Genre: Action ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher.