Review – Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle

Time for a little story lesson. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, there was this neat little Japanese developer called Technos. They basically invented the beat ’em up genre with their two most important franchises: Double Dragon & Kunio-kun. The developer has released tons of games from both of these franchises back in the day, up until they went bankrupt. All of their assets were eventually purchased by our good ol’ pals at Arc System Works, and they have finally decided to cram a ton of Technos’ old gems from the NES era, including lots of titles which have never been released in the West, into a neat little package for us retro enthusiasts. This is how Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle was born.

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This menu presentation makes the PS1 Classic look like an embarrassment in comparison.

Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle is a big, fat, and meaty compilation of pretty much all of the games from both franchises released during the NES era. Considering how niche Kunio-kun was in the West, where it was known either as Renegade or River City Ransom, one would expect for Arc System Works to just add the three or four games that made their way to American audiences back in the day. Surprisingly, they actually localized and included every single title previously available on the Famicom as well. That means this collection features a very acceptable eighteen different games to play, each one with four save state slots, excellent soundtracks, and even online multiplayer support.

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Who needs FIFA anyway?

This collection might be called a “Retro Brawler Bundle”, but that doesn’t mean that it only includes beat ’em ups. In fact, one of the best things about it is the inclusion of lots of different Kunio-themed sports games, ranging from previously unreleased football titles to the cult hit Super Dodge Ball, this one having been previously released in the West. The varied library is pretty much this collection’s main selling point, as including eighteen 8-bit brawlers would have resulted in a very repetitive and one-dimensional bundle. Especially since sadly, those games have certainly aged.

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Have some manners, Barry.

I love this bundle. I truly do. But that doesn’t mean I can overlook the abundant technical issues in here just because I’m a fan of retro gaming. All of the games in here look and play just like they used to back in the NES/Famicom era, with the exception of being able to select a higher resolution and aspect ratio. That means that all of those games still feature some questionable difficulty settings, collision detection issues, a bit of input lag depending on the title you’re playing, and a lot of sprite flickering.

The NES couldn’t handle a lot of sprites onscreen at once, so developers had to resort to these ugly flickering techniques in order to “increase” the amount of characters and/or assets onscreen at any given point. While I do appreciate that Arc System Works perfectly ported those games in order for them to run just like they used to back in the day, I do think they could have fixed some of these hindrances caused by 80’s hardware limitations, in order to turn Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle the ultimate way to play these classic titles. We really shouldn’t be treated to 8-bit games with framerate issues in the year 2020, don’t you agree?

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My buddy Abobo.

Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle is the perfect package if you’re either a fan of the late Technos Japan, someone who has recently played some of Arc’s retro revival brawlers and wants to know where the hell did these characters come from, or just a retro enthusiast in general. I wish it was just a few dollars cheaper in order to really be worth its price, as the games included in here have aged poorly in some aspects, but it’s still a fantastic bundle in its own right. Having Double Dragon, River City Ransom, Super Dodge Ball, and many other games on-the-go, with save states and online multiplayer, is an excellent deal. This is basically Arc’s own NES Classic, but not attached to poor hardware.

 

Graphics: 6.0

I really appreciate that those games look just like how they used to back in the NES days, but I would have appreciated some extra tinkering to remove visual glitches like sprite flickering.

Gameplay: 6.5

They play just like they used to. That’s both a good and a bad thing. The gameplay is as nostalgic as ever, but most of the games included in here feature a bit of input lag and some collision detection issues.

Sound: 8.5

Some of the games included in this collection feature some of the best soundtracks from the NES era, especially when we’re talking about the Double Dragon games.

Fun Factor: 9.0

This collection is filled with a ton of classic NES titles that might feature dated controls, but are still extremely fun to play. The inclusion of some sports titles and lots of save states per game makes this collection even more essential for retro enthusiasts.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle is available now on PS4 and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle was provided by the publisher.

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