Some videogame series that were very popular in Japan, but obscure everywhere else. Technos' Nekketsu series is one of them. The Nekketsu series were about a high-school student named Kunio and his various friends and enemies. Most of them were comical, but others were a bit serious (Kunio-tachi no Banka). There was two Arcade games, 11 Famicom games, 7 Game Boy games, 5 Super Famicom, a Neo-Geo game, 5 PC Engine ports, three X68k ports and a Mega Drive port of Kunio's Soccer. Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki da yo Zeñin Shûgô is a sort-of sequel to Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, which was the Japanese version of River City Ransom.
Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki takes place in feudal Japan. In this game you control a samurai warrior called Kunimasa (Kunio in the regular series). One day, Kunimasa and partner, Tsurumatsu (Sonokawa), are called by their master, Bunzô (Gôda), to find a cure for his disease. Eventually, Kunimasa's lover, Okoto (Hasebe), is kidnaped by the Dragon twins, Tatsuichi and Tatsuji (Ryûichi & Ryûji). At the end you must fight against Kunimasa's romantic rival, Asajirô (Tôdô).
The gameplay is similar to River City Ransom (Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari in Japan), only with a partner system. You control Kunimasa, while the CPU or a 2nd player control one of several partners (or vice-versa), each with his own unique abilities and stats. You can set the way the CPU behaves. While the only partner available at the beginning is Tsurumatsu, eventually you will get new partners like Gonzaku (Nishimura) or Rikigorô (Riki). Most of them are defeated bosses, but there others that require (like Riki and Bunzô) much more than that. You can even have one of the Dragon twins as a partner. You can change partners at the main HQ.
Some improvement has been made to the Downtown engine. Special moves like Maha Chop or Sukuryû now has their own special inventory instead of wasting space in the regular inventory. You can even turn the effects on and off if desired. Saving is done by battery instead of passwords (which is convenient).
The level layout has also changed as well. Instead of being stuck to a linear path, you can now travel the whole world without any restriction. There are twelve different areas in the game, each with their own unique theme and background music. The areas consist of a cavern, a volcano, a waterfall, several towns and others. Each area also has a secret shop or two. By pausing and pressing B, you will see your current position and that of the enemies.
Speaking of enemies, your goal is to track down several samurai clans and defeat a boss or two. As previously stated, some of the bosses will join your group. Not all the enemies that appear in the map are really enemies. Some of them are really people out to give you something or teach you a new move.
The only flaw is a very serious one. The gameplay is plagued with major slowdown and graphical flickering. This wasn't much of a big deal in RCR, but it's a major annoyance in here. This is due to the fact that there is someone always following you. The only way to fix this is to throw away all weapons off-screen or kill your partner.
The visuals were just as good as RCR (or better, because the characters actually move their mouths when they are talking in a cinema), even if all the characters are pallette-swaps of each other. The music (by Kazuo Sawa) is catchy and fits well with the feudal-theme of the game. Sound effects were decent for an 8-bit game. The ending is thousand-times better than the one in RCR.
Overall, if you're into Famicom collecting or you're just fan of RCR, make sure you get Kunio-Kun no Jidaigeki. It's one heck of a beat-em-up.
Note: Jidaigeki is a type of Japanese Drama play.