Review: Urban Champion (Wii U eShop / NES)

Won't somebody think of the children?

Urban Champion is back, and is a menace to society. It's a danger to young gamers for two reasons. If you're the type of gamer that thinks brutality and violence has no place in a title played by children, this tale of brawling 8-bit thugs bringing mayhem to the streets is a primitive but potent example of those vices. If, more realistically, you're a gamer that thinks rubbish games shouldn't be released to be played by inadvertent newcomers, then this is a download to avoid at all costs.

The fact that this game has previously returned on the Wii Virtual Console and, to the bemusement of many, the 3D Classics range, boggles the mind. It's acceptable for early NES games from the mid '80s to be primitive and, on occasion, awful, as they were produced under challenging circumstances. Quite why we have to endure them in 2013, however, is another matter.

Summarising Urban Champion is easy, as its simplicity makes free flash games and the very worst shovelware look complex and well thought out. You face off with a coloured clone, running right before aiming a soft or powerful blows at the head or stomach. When holding up or down to aim punches you also block the equivalent area, while you can also dodge away from attacks. A side-on Punch-Out!! this 'ain't, however, as little strategy is necessary. Yes, you have limited stamina, but unless you get drawn into a tough bout many rounds in you're unlikely to see it hit zero. The goal is to push your enemy off the screen twice, before the third time punching them into a manhole; they do the same to you, and that's it.

There are a couple of small extra details. Distressed citizens occasionally hurl flowerpots from above, while occasionally a police car will drive past as the two brawlers whistle and look innocent. The latter is charming, but aside from these diversions this is a button tapping spam-fest. If you try and get strategic you'll get bored due to the simplicity of the enemy AI, so we found that a rhythm of heavy punches constantly to the head or body — it varies per enemy — often does the trick. The brain disengages after quite a few bouts — you just keep going on and on — so by the time tougher enemies come, you're likely to be in a zombified state that leads to eventual death. Death brings a sweet embrace. You could play two-player, but who wants to play this with a friend?

We'll give Urban Champion credit for one thing, it has some funky music. No, seriously, it's pretty decent 8-bit fare in that department.

Conclusion

When Urban Champion was released it would surely have been mediocre even for its time, but played in the modern era it's painfully bad. It's rubbish, and we'd rather take to the streets and pick random fights — which we'd in all likelihood lose — than play this again. Ding ding, let this be the final bell for this one.