The next game in my yearlong celebration of the SNES is not one that was on the list when I posted it at the start of the year. This youtube video reminded me that this game exists, which was all the push I needed to actually play it. This game is Shin Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-tachi No Banka, which means something in Japanese; the game is a sequel of sorts to one of my favorite games of all time, River City Ransom, that never came to the USA and is virtually unknown.
It isn’t a long game, taking no more than 3 or 4 hours the first time through, but that was enough for me to be really disappointed in some parts of the game. Not the music, which is pretty dang awesome. It is clearly along the same lines as the NES Kunio games (River City Ransom, Renegade, World Cup Soccer, Super Dodge-ball, Crash and the Boys Street Challenge) but done in that distinctive and or so enjoyable SNES style. The graphics are sharp as well. The problem is in the very structure of the game.
Shin Nekketsu Kouha loses me because it really isn’t the game I want it to be. That really isn’t the game’s fault; it isn’t trying to be that game. I wanted a follow up to River City Ransom, but this game is actually a follow up to Renegade. They are both parts of the same diverse, inconsistently localized series, but they are very different games. Renegade is an earlier, much simpler game than RCR was, and Shin Nekketsu Koha mostly sticks to that simpler format. There is no exploration or rpg elements, it is just a straight forward brawler. Really, it is simple even for a brawler. There are barely levels, only small room where you fight 3 or 4 enemies, then go through a door to the next area. Repeat that about three times before you fight a boss. The only things in the game to change things up are some Outrun-esque motorcycle stages. They are fine, if lacking in checkpoints, but aren’t really a draw. And while the combat itself is fine, it does lack variety. There are four playable characters: Kunio, Riki and their respective girlfriends, but their movesets are all similar. They have different special moves, and those are almost all you want to use. It gets repetitive.
Those areas can be interesting. Kunio and Riki’s quest takes them all over Tokyo. They start in jail, framed for a hit and run they didn’t commit, only to break out and search for answers at their schools, an amusement park, and a nightclub, among other places. The amusement park at least makes an attempt to break up the super simplistic level design, with one area having Kunio fighting on top of an in use Ferris Wheel and another having a Roller Coaster to ride that is nothing more than a novelty, a neat but unnecessary inclusion.
I did like how story based it was. Not that the story was anything great, just the two heroes on a quest to clear their names. It is the sort of thing that would have worked in an 80’s action movie. The twists are largely predictable, but it is enjoyable to watch things play out.
I don’t have Shin Nekketsu Kouha, it just isn’t the game I want it to be. It is a thoroughly competent brawler, though one that came pretty late to the brawler scene. I think there is a reason that this game has languished in obscurity. It just isn’t great. It hit years too late and followed up a rough draft of a game that was never that good in the first place. I am always eager to see more of Kunio, but that group of characters starred in a wide variety of games with just a wide range of quality. Still, I’ll always have River City Ransom.