By Kurt Kalata and Saikak

Kunio is a hot blooded high school delinquent, the kind who gets mixed up with bousouzoku gangs and beat up any number of people at a moment's notice. He first starred in Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun, one of the first belt-scrolling beat-em-ups in existence, which became known as Renegade in the West. Although not a terribly good game, Kunio and his pals starred in numerous sequels and spinoffs, essentially becoming mascots for Technos Japan, their creators. Some continue the beat-em-up lineage, including River City Ransom, a cult favorite for the NES, while others head into a more extreme version of sports tournament games similar to Track and Field, where you not only score points, but beat the ever-loving hell out of your opponents. (Many times, you have to do both.) The most popular of these is the ridiculous Super Dodge Ball, although others like Nintendo World Cup Soccer soon followed. They were also some of the first party games on the NES, taking advantage of Nintendo's otherwise-poorly supported four-player adapter. The series also shares some close links with Double Dragon, Technos' other beat-em-up series, which is more well known in the West.

The series is largely known for their distinctive pudgy-looking, super deformed characters, although this didn't become standard until the first Dodgeball title. It's amusing how cute the little bastards are, especially when you watch them wail on each other and observe their exaggerated facial expressions as they take ridiculous amounts of punishment, whether it be a punch to the face, a wallop with a dodge ball or a prolonged encounter with an electric fence.

As the premise goes, Kunio is a student in Nekketsu High School ("Nekketsu" meaning "hot blooded", a word associated with overtly violent kids in these type of manga. The "kun" is an honorific attached to people's names that is usually used in denote kids in school, although it has other uses.) His partner in crime is Riki, another troublesome, athletic badass, who was actually the first boss in Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun/Renegade. Together with the other students at Nekketsu High, they travel around and fight rivals in other schools and around the world. There are over twenty games in the Kunio series, with most of them being on the Famicom, and a handful for the Super Famicom and PC Engine.

Table of Contents

Page 1 (here) - Renegade / River City Ransom
Page 2 - Other Fighting Games
Page 3 - Dodgeball
Page 4 - Other Sports Part 1
Page 5 - Other Sports Part 2

Renegade (Arcade)

Nekketsu Kakutou Densetsu

Shodai - Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun

Renegade / Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun - Arcade / NES / Sega Master System / Amstrad CPC / ZX Spectrum / Commodore 64 / Amiga / Atari ST / Playstation 2 (1986)


Japanese Arcade Flyer

American NES Cover

Renegade

In many ways, Rengade is somewhat of a historical landmark - created by Technos Japan, known as "Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun" ("Hot Blooded Punk Kunio") in Japan and "Renegade" everywhere else - it was one of the first, if not THE fight, side scrolling beat-em-up, predecessor to classics such as Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage.

The levels are simply small arenas, usually no more than two or three screen lengths in size. You begin surrounded by enemies - once you defeat enough, their boss jumps out of the sidelines and begins to fight alongside them. Defeat the boss and you're on to the next stage.

Even though the game essentially invented a whole genre, it's really not very good. It runs at half the frame rate of a normal arcade game, the animation is choppy, and controls are sluggish. It uses the same control scheme that was later adopted in Double Dragon II - one button attacks left, the other attacks right. If you attack in the direction you're facing, you'll begin a volley of punches, but if you attack in the opposite direction, you'll execute a backwards kick. There's a third button to jump, and you can run by double tapping the joystick. Enemies are stunned when hit, but usually only for a split second, and more often than not they'll simply counterattack, leaving you to exchange blows until one of you dies. Since you have to deal with numerous does at once, trying to single out enemies rather than taking them on all at once is really the only way to win. Enemies can grab you from behind, although you can still kick anybody else that comes near, and can wiggle free with the joystick. The AI is almost too good at dodging punches, as they'll back off as soon as you begin attacking, but they're also relentless when attacking in numbers. Some enemies have weapons too, which can be picked up when they drop them. It's a remarkably difficult game, especially since you only have a single life, no ability to continue and no health restoratives.

In Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun, everyone wears Japanese school outfits, but these duds were changed completely when it came to America. Some the backgrounds were transformed too, to make it seem less foreign to Americans - the train station in the first level looks completely different. The altered look of the game is almost definitely inspired by the 70s cult classic movie, The Warriors (which was converted into a video game in 2005 by Rockstar) and has been said to inspired the graphic design of Double Dragon. The American version also ditches all of the cutscenes (the original showed a scene of Kunio's friend getting the snot kicked out of him, setting up the plot for revenge) and excised Kunio's name from the lifebar, so you just played a nameless hero. Similarly, all of the bosses are named in the Japanese version, wherein in Renegade, each one is simply known as "Boss". The first stage has you fighting punks in a subway, while later stages put you against a motorcycle gang and a squad of female ruffians, led by a terrifying hulk of a woman.

The game was also ported to the NES, with some extended levels - the first stage, instead of just taking place on a platform, takes you into the train and to another part of the stage before fighting a boss. The American version also dubs the main character "Mr. K". Still, the action is even worse than the arcade version - the controls are stiffer, and even though there are less enemies at once, they're still vicious. It was also ported to the Sega Master System by Natsume, which plays a bit better than the NES version. It also has a unique graphical style that seems a bit closer to Double Dragon. There are also numerous computer ports, to the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and IBM PC. Most of these are pretty bad also, although at least the Amiga version comes to the closest to looking like the arcade game.

Several sequels, such as Target: Renegade, and Renegade III showed up on different platforms, such as the NES and various computers like the Amstrad CPC and the Spectrum ZX, although none of these are actually related to the Kunio games. The game was also released for the Playstation 2 in 2005 under the "Oretachi Game Center" series from a budget company called Hamster. It's pretty much just a straight emulated port, although it includes extras like a music CD and superplay DVD.

Renegade (Arcade)

Renegade (Arcade)

Renegade (NES)

Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun

Screenshot Comparisons

American

Japanese

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade

NES

SMS

Amiga

DOS

Amstrad

Commodore 64

ZX Spectrum

River City Ransom / Street Gangs / Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari - NES / PC Engine CD / Gameboy Advance / X68000 (1991)


American NES Cover

European NES Cover

American GBA Cover

Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (known as River City Ransom in America), the third Kunio game to hit America (after Super Dodgeball), merges the usual stroll n' punch formula with a stat-building RPG system to create one of the most popular cult classic hits on the NES. The story is simple - a rival school has kidnapped Kunio (renamed Alex)'s girlfriend, and it's up to him and his pal Riki (or Ryan) to prowl the streets to find them. The controls are similar to Double Dragon, although you still have the ability from Renegade to run by double tapping. There's also quite a bit more versatility - you can pick up fallen bad guys and use them as weapons, or bounce off walls with a jump kick, or even carry your partner, flinging them foot-first into hordes of rival gangs. Unlike most beat-em-ups, they aren't shy about handing out weapons, which range from brass knuckles to bats to trash cans.

Every time you kill a bad guy, they leave a bit of cash, which can be used at the few shopping districts in the game. Food not only replenishes your health, but it also increase your strengths in different areas, including attack power, defense, speed, and max life. There are also techniques to buy, like rapid fire punch/kick attacks and acrobatic spin moves. While the game world is fairly small and mostly linear, there are some times where you need to backtrack or kill certain enemies in order for the story to progress. It can get a little confusing if you don't listen to what the bad guys say, or don't realize that hitting an enemy into a pit isn't a legitimate way to kill them (they disappear but the game doesn't acknowledge them as dead, so they simply reappear when you enter the area again) but once you know your way around, it's no big deal. It's also a fairly short game, but the amount of time to properly build a decent character makes it far longer than usual beat-em-up. Amusingly, in one of the last battles you face the Dragon Twins, during which the theme song from Double Dragon plays. These guys aren't the same Billy and Jimmy as Technos' other series, but it's a cool reference. There's a password system, but it only saves your characters statistics - you'll need to start from scratch every time you place.

There were plenty of changes in bringing Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari to America and Europe, the most prominent being the redesigns of the character sprites. They ditched the Japanese uniforms and replaced them with a standard white t-shirt and jeans ensemble, which I personally think looks a little bit better. Some of the backgrounds were changed to make more sense to Western gamers, changing Japanese mailboxes to American ones. All of the names have been altered and given suitable English equivalents. Despite the changes ,River City Ransom is actually a fairly decent localization, with bits of humor (some bad guys simply yell "BARF" when they are slain.) In Europe, however, the title "River City Ransom" was somehow deemed inappropriate, and the game was renamed "Street Gangs".

Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari also got a port to the PC Engine CD by Naxat, complete with a CD soundtrack and speech for the shopkeepers and certain story segments. The graphics have also been given a slight touch-ups. Technos also released a version of the X68000 home computer, although the graphics are pretty much the same as the Famicom version. The X68000 game also includes a bit of speech (including death screams), and character portraits in the story scenes, as well as a greatly expanded world with a less linear layout. Almost all of the areas that were dead ends in all of the other versions now lead to completely different areas. You can now go inside the other high schools (not just the final one) and you need to kill bosses in there before you can progress. There are additional stores and items as well. Unfortunately, the repetetive backgrounds makes navigation incredibly confusing.

In 2004, a Gameboy Version was made and given an oddly terrible fan art-ish cover for the American release by Atlus. While the names of most of the characters are the same as the NES version, all of the sprites and backgrounds remain unaltered from the Japanese version. However, the translators clearly had a sense of humor - bad guys with rapper ripoff names like "6Paq" and "Fiddy" exclaim things like "BIZArf!" when they're killed, and taunt you with cries of "Welcome to the RC!" (most definitely a sly allusion to the Fox soap-drama The OC.) There's a gang named the Gamers, who have names taken from various Atlus games (like Sudou from Persona 2, Meis from Thousand Arms, and even the original names of our heroes, Kunio and Riki.) The backgrounds have been made to look a little more realistic and less cartoony, although the characters look about the same. The gameplay has improved a bit, offering more moves and much smoother fighting, and there's none of the slowdown and flicker from the NES game. While you can choose to have your pal Ryan fight by your side as a computer controlled companion, you'll meet a few characters who will join you if you let them. Unfortunately, there's no two player mode, so this is the closest thing you can get to fighting with a partner. Annoyingly, there is still a large black bar on the bottom of the screen, making the screen even smaller on the portable screen. And saving the game still only saves your stats, instead of your location. The game still stands up very well, and there are enough enhancements to make the GBA port worth playing, even if you've already played the NES game to death.

MP3s

Main Theme - NES
Main Theme - PC Engine CD

Downtown Nekketsu (PCE)


Downtown Nekketsu (PCE)

River City Ransom (NES)


River City Ransom (GBA)


River City Ransom (GBA)


River City Ransom (GBA)

Screenshot Comparisons

Famicom

NES

GBA

PC Engine CD

X68000

X68000 Cutscene

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