A king's (River City) ransom of Kunio-Kun classics
A terrific collection and unprecedented feat of localisation
Well, now this is truly something. The Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle launches today, and it assuredly delivers on everything it promised. You've got 18 NES/Famicom games here, comprising Double Dragon and both its sequels, as well as the entire expansive Kunio-Kun series as it appeared on Nintendo's 8-bit. Eleven of these games are new to Western shores, having been freshly translated for this compilation. We're being spoiled, folks. Spoiled.
Booting up the Brawler Bundle and mashing feverishly on the "offline play" button, I was immediately reminded of the NES Classic Mini; the menus are laid out very similarly, with the generous four save slots in a line below each title. Beneath Double Dragon's box art was the conspicuously text "QualityUp". Hello, thought I, have they replaced it with the superior Sega Master System version? Alas, no, but it's a neat little feature nonetheless - you can toggle between "Original" and "QualityUp", the latter removing things like slowdown and sprite flicker. I'm pretty much never not going to use this, but there are probably a few gamers out there who would prefer to recreate the experience as it was, warts and all.
As well as this small toggle for the majority of the titles here, you also get a little synopsis of each game, some lovely, concise "how to play" screens, the ability to remap the controls, and multiple display options including a bizarrely thorough set of scanline options. The presentation is extremely strong in general - it seems to aim for efficiency, without much in the way of cruft to get between you and the games. There's an unobstrusive achievement system, which is nice, but the rewards tied to it seem to just be character sprites to use as your "avatar" when playing online; a very limited appeal.
Some further unlockables would have been cool; not like extra games - I'll take those from the start, please - but maybe some more history, some looks at ports of the games included. Something more tangible than the avatars. And to be frank it would have been cool to see the recent Double Dragon 4 on here, though of course that isn't really a NES game. I'd also like to have seen it release alongside a port of the terrific Double Dragon Neon, but that's a little churlish.
As for the included games, well, you most likely know if you like them. Even the known quantities like River City Ransom are a mixed bag for me, and eleven of the games are freshly-baked localisations I haven't had time to dig into yet. But that's not the point. As far as I'm concerned, retro compilations are more about presentation anyway, and the Brawler Bundle absolutely doesn't disappoint in that respect. This is the sort of package that retro players should be supporting. Arc System Works have gone above and beyond with this one and I salute them for it. I can only hope that even more terrific bundles are on their way in this renaissance age of retro compilations. Double Dragon & Kunio-Kun Retro Brawler Bundle plays great, looks great, and is everything a fan of these games could realistically ask for.
Review code for this game was provided by the publisher.