Doing a bit of research before I get into my review, I see quite a few people are already upset with this updated port of Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, I’ll get into this in a bit. The original 1994 SNES release by Technos, and now in 2022 it’s finally available in the west. It’s the fourth game in the Kunio-kun series and has been updated to be the prequel to River City Girls. WayForward have handled the port and Arc System Works have published the release.
This title sees original protagonists Kunio and Riki arriving in a juvenile facility due to being convicted of a hit and run, the story takes us far and wide to claim their innocence and we follow them through this adventure. Expect to find yourself fighting your way through schools, amusement parks (including fighting on a big wheel), docks, pubs and quite a few less common locales.
Gameplay is pretty simple to follow, you have access to 4 playable characters, and once they’re involved in the story you’ll have access to each of them at the push of a button. This replaces any need for lives, you can hot swap between each character and these all have their own life bar. Once you die though, you’ll be hit with that continue screen, of which you have unlimited, so timing a swap is going to be pivotal in staying alive. The port now has a nice cinematic intro and adds some boarders for when you’re playing and not having a boring black/generic background, there’s also some more manga styled cinematics.
Visually the game is fairly charming, the backgrounds are pretty nice, though sometimes they can feel a bit basic, later levels start having a bit more character though, the bar level for me stood out, with quite a bit going on. I think this should have been a visually better, however this aesthetic sticks to the blueprint of previous Technos games (River City Ransom, Double Dragon, Nintendo World Cup). But even in 1994 this should have been a bit more of a looker at this point, infact most of the other Beat em ups on the SNES do look miles better, let alone on the switch.
Combat is pretty easy, you have your usual punches and kicks, combos seem very basic and there doesn’t seem to be a specific grab action. Compared to other side scrollers of the era, this seems a bit primitive but there’s absolutely fans of the series who swear by this. Levels do bring a small bit of variety in gameplay with some levels being separated with motorbike stages, where you’ll drive to the next area and fight people in combat fairly similar to Road Rash. Levels are pretty difficult obviously the further you get, some boss fights were fairly frustrating and you’ll have to use a lot of blocking to find them tiny windows to get your hits in, there’s no weapons to cheese your way through levels, and if you’re going to get that one credit clear you’re going to have to get that practise in.
I did find there’s quite a chunky story here, which for a 2d side scroller was a bit too much, especially with it being a game in the middle of a franchise. I honestly found myself getting a bit bored with what was going on and skipping parts so I could get back to fighting, this could have been streamlined a bit with a small bit of tinkering with the story, also with this being ported from a 1994 snes title, you’re given an option for an original translation and a simple translation. The original translation does have some terms and phrases that are quite derogatory in todays light, so if you’re easily offended make sure you change that translation to simple.
There’s nothing hugely bad here, but unfortunately there’s a lot better titles vying for your money at the same time, I don’t hate this title but I know I’d rather be on other things. If you’re paramount on playing this, go for it by all means, if you’ve enjoyed the River City games previously you’ll be fine here.
A few people also feel that WayForward have hidden the fact this was made by Technos, though there’s so many references to them in the game I can’t see it.