The Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun: Retro Brawler Bundle is out now for the Nintendo Switch and the Playstation 4. Although its title is a bit misleading, it does provide us with a trip down memory lane filled with both classics and curiosities. We tested the Switch version for this review.
Whenever a beat ’em up is released, people are always quick to reference the classics of the genre. You’ll hear Final Fight, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage or – if you’re more cartoon-inclined, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or even The Simpsons. One title that’s pretty much always included, however, is Double Dragon. It’s no surprise that this particular collection leads with Double Dragon in the title, though the bulk of the (eighteen!) games in the pack fall under the Kunio-Kun brand.
We’ve seen that particular series quite often in recent years though, with River City Girls being a recent spin-off. It never received the kind of recognition that Double Dragon did, which is especially well known with western audiences. From the Kunio-Kun lineup, Renegade is probably the best-known classic, along with River City Ransom – both are included in this collection.
It’s worth pointing out that, although many of these games started out as arcade games, the versions included in the bundle are actually the NES editions. This is a bit of a shame, because in my humble opinion the arcade versions are superior in terms of the graphics, the control options (some games had to be tweaked to work with the NES’ two button gamepad) and the multiplayer features.
Luckily, a lot of love went into this particular bundle, and some of the shortcomings of the original releases were remedied. For the enhanced games in the collection, you can do things like play them without flickering or lag, and you can re-map controls for the games that were originally awkward in that sense. Best of all, however, is that no fewer than eleven of the eighteen titles here are only being released in English for the first time – and they’ve all been fully localized. Four of them are just Japanese versions of games that also have an English version though, so in terms of unique games it feels fair to say you’re getting fourteen rather than eighteen.
The games themselves are a bit of a mixed bag, and not just because they’re limited by the original NES hardware. Even Double Dragon itself feels very limited, especially compared to games like Final Fight or TMNT, which appeared on the scene just a year or two later. There’s a certain charm to playing these very early beat ’em ups, but they definitely show their age and haven’t aged all that well. The moveset is limited, as is the hit detection, and the visuals certainly didn’t hold up well.
Another thing that’s worth pointing out about the collection of games in this “brawler bundle” is that many of the games aren’t actually brawlers. There are quite a few sports games here, ranging from basketball to dodgeball and even the Kunio-Kun take on Konami’s Hypersports athletics games. Speaking of which – where’s Hyper Sports R?
While none of the games here feel like classics that have truly stood the test of time very well, it’s still a collection that’s worth picking up for nostalgic reasons. The versions on offer might be limited to the NES editions, but they’re some of the best versions you can get. Besides the obvious benefits of the translations, many games also supports 2 to 4 player multiplayer sessions, either locally or online – adding a layer of modern technology to these old classics from over thirty years ago.
If you have fond memories of the original NES games then you’ll no doubt appreciate the work that went into this collection and the ability to play them once more, but the lack of arcade versions and the fact that many games didn’t age well makes this less interesting to anyone not in that category.