There is not a lot of added flair here, but the Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle is a really solid compilation that brings together several of my favorite games of yesteryear while providing me the opportunity to play some others I had never previously gotten my hands on.
It feels like Arc System Works has been on a releasing spree of late (with Granblue Fantasy, Under Birth and now this all releasing in rapid succession), but fighting games are right in their wheelhouse and this decidedly retro collection of titles has some all-time greats in it. In particular I am a sucker for some Double Dragon games (Retro Reflections on parts one and part two as well as a well-deserved appearance in this Memorable Music in Gaming article featuring the arcade game’s fantastic theme song). While the arcade games are classics, this collection is focused on the NES / Famicom 8-bit games that released in the US and Japan, not their arcade counterparts. I will say that it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity not including the arcade and 16-bit SNES titles in the collection, but we still get eighteen titles with this release, which is a solid number. The skeptic in me wonders if this compilation does well enough, we might see those other two packages show up sometime down the road.
The games themselves come with a decent number of settings, from aspect ration / zoom sizes, static backgrounds (for when you do not stretch to fill the screen), ‘quality up’ versus ‘original’ graphics (basically the quality up option helps to reduce the visual flickers and bugginess that often occurred on the NES when too many characters were occupying the same space / horizontal lanes at once), control customizations and a nice in-game menu that provides the manual, save states and more. A plethora of trophies that will really challenge you are a nice bit of icing on the cake, as they range from beating Double Dragon II’s different difficulty settings to more random ones like reaching certain stages in Dodgeball within an allotted amount of time.
It would have been nice to see a bit more information about these games, however. Since we do not get games from other generations, I appreciate the options and the small blurb about the titles that are available, but options such as seeing the original instruction manuals digitized, or maybe some of the additional artwork around the games could have been a fun addition to help give a little additional flavor to these classic titles.
Despite the title of this game being Double Dragon & Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle – there is another genre of games represented in here as well: sports. While that might seem like a somewhat odd pairing, but as someone who loved Super Dodgeball growing up (the NES version of the game is far superior to the arcade one in my opinion), these were a welcome addition to the overall package.
In terms of the brawlers, you get all three Double Dragon games (even if the third is by far the worst of the trilogy, though it does deserve some credit for trying to bring something new to the table), the popular early NES title Renegade (which was fun back in the day but has not aged particularly well) and River City Ransom (which is probably one of my most played NES games of all-time with its mix of grindy RPG elements, exploration and combat). All of these are welcome additions to the collection, and certainly brought me back quite a few years in reliving them. There are other titles included as well such as Nekketsu Fighting Legend and Downtown Special Kunio-kun’s Historical Period Drama! (which is one helluva title) that I never got to play before. Of the two, I preferred the latter for its similarities to River City Ransom.
On the sports side of the fence, we have some soccer, basketball (which is one of my favorite sports and pretty fun to play here, even if it is a very zany, unofficial form of basketball) and some other compilation style games that make for fun, shorter spurts of gameplay but lack the legs of the fighting games. Super Dodgeball however, remains my favorite just due to the nostalgic value of it, but I had a lot of fun poking at these other titles I had never even heard of before, let alone had the opportunity to play.