Hamster is really spoiling us with this port, because unlike the PS4 version, this Switch offering manages to include both the original Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun Japanese release and the reskinned, The Warriors-inspired western localisation known as Renegade. While both games play essentially the same, it's nice to have the choice between either iteration of the classic brawler.
When it comes to actual plot, only Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun will be of help. As soon as the game starts, a cutscene shows main hero Kunio coming to the aid of a friend getting pummelled by Hanazono High School students at the Nekketsu High School front gates. True to his hot-blooded nature, Kunio gives chase and finds himself alone at the Shinjuku subway station facing the entire gang, including their leader - and Kunio’s eternal rival - Riki Samejima. If you manage to come out on top, said friend gets pummelled again, so you'll need to head out beat up gang-upon-gang of wannabe badasses.
However, the western version is a little bit different. In Renegade, you play as Mister K, and instead of a school uniform, you sport some leather attire. There are no cutscenes and the bosses have no names. What it loses in personality it somewhat makes up for the dystopic, gang-controlled urban setting. So it's the same game, but with two very different flavours. While most will probably have fond nostalgic memories of this version, we can’t help but feel like we're playing the lesser version of the game.
Controls use the familiar Double Dragon scheme and, as such, will probably take you a bit before they become second nature. ‘Y’ strikes to the left, ‘B’ jumps and ‘A’ strikes to the right. Considering this was one of the first games in the genre there are actually quite a lot of moves Kunio/Mister K can perform: striking in the direction you are facing will unleash a series of chained punches. Connect a few of these and they will induce a stunned state on enemies.
You can then either keep pummelling them to the ground or move up to them and grab them by the collar and chose two types of punishment: hitting in their direction will perform up to three knee strikes while hitting away will perform a pleasing and useful crowd-controlling overhead throw. Once on the floor, you can move to your foe, hit down on their chest to assume a mount position. Hitting toward will deliver a series of fatal head punches. Hitting jump and one of the attack buttons will deliver a standing jump kick to either direction. In short - there's a rewarding amount of depth to your moveset.
Mastering all these moves, crowd-controlling the rival gangs and baiting the bosses is the way to succeed in this game, and while newcomers will truly feel the odds stacked unfairly against them, once everything clicks you can do the main game loop in a very satisfying 15 minutes. Unlike future entries in the genre, there is no way to recover energy from food on the ground and you can't pick up weapons dropped by fallen foes. If you want to catch a break, tweak around the excellent Hamster emulation wrapper to change the number of lives to two, get an extra life at 30k points and even drop the difficulty to easy if you find yourself stuck on the first level. No shame there: this game is as hardcore as they come.
Graphics are certainly lovely by 1986 standards: chunky, well-animated sprites run around knocking heads in some lovely iconic scenery. Each level is two or three screens long, with level one and level two featuring lethal falls off the right and left side of the screen that you should use and abuse to dispatch enemies (while trying not to fall in yourself). Sound effects are also pleasing and the occasional speech samples add some personality to the game’s four bosses.
If you're fluent in Japanese, you will notice that the coarse language has been toned down in the English version, which is understandable. Hamster’s usual addition of online leaderboards - as well as Hi-score chase and Caravan modes - will help you get the most out of this single-player experience.
Renegade/Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun represents a lovely and important piece of forgotten video game history. For the hardcore fans that were raised on it, or simply as a curio for a new generation of gamers looking to find out on how the scrolling beat-'em-up began, this is still a recommended if not essential purchase. There are certainly better options of the genre on the Switch already, but none of them might have even existed if Kunio didn't have such a short temper in 1986…
Thanks for the review! Possible typo: "Considering this was the very game of the genre..."
Is this the first game of the scrolling beat 'em up genre? Would be great if there could be some history briefly explaining that in the intro to the review if it really is.
I love your reviews. Your passion always shines through in them. Even in the 6 out of 10s! Fair and honest with respect seeping out of every word.
Damn, I had some MyNintendo points to spend before July 1st and wanted to purchase Renegade, but read so many bad opinions about it I finally put it in the "too dated" bag and bought Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy".
If this review had been published earlier I most probably would have bought Renegade, especially when someone on the forums confirmed it has the Japanese version. And especially when it would have been free thanks to the aforementioned points. Now I don't know if I would pay actual money, though.
I vaguely recall playing Target: Renegade on a friend's Zx Spectrum alongside Double Dragon in the late 80's. I loved the immediacy of those early beat 'em ups. In the arcades I loved dropping coins into Golden Axe and the TMNT games.
32 years later and here I am reviewing my favourite ZX Spectrum game for Nintendo Life! Another circle is draw to a close.
I love old school brawlers but.. this one is kind of basic. Now what I would dearly love to see would be a Golden Axe collection from Sega. Bringing together the two Golden Axe arcade games (the original and the sequel - The Revenge of Death Adder), and the two Mega Drive Golden Axe sequels. Now that I would buy in a heartbeat.
Sadly Sega seems to have forgotten Golden Axe these days, content as they are to simply re-release Sonic and Gunstar Heroes on every platform ever made.
@Shiryu Those drop offs do look useful in the Spectrum version! Similar to what I recall of the sequel.
@ramu-chan maybe they could even include the Saturn game, just to fatten the package a bit
Golden Axe is great!!! First stage music is playing in my head now. Now the thieves bonus music too... HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA
I remember buying this from Toys'R'Us as a kid, taking it home for my Amstrad CPC 464, and the tape that was inside was completely blank. They wouldn't refund/replace it either. I had to wait until next month's pocket money to buy it again. I have fond memories of it, I might download it again just for the nostalgia!
Great review. I agree completely with GrailUK, I respect the respect.
@Moroboshi876 - Top Hunter is a real gem, one of the best offerings in the eShop in my opinion. Weird, whacky, and fun. Pure arcade experience.
@bimmy-lee I guess, and that's why I had it in my wishlist, despite not knowing it back in the day.
I know it's a matter of point of view, but I had doubts with Renegade and should have gotten it "for free" (with points, I mean), whereas buying Top Hunter would have been easier to me. Now it's the other way around, if I end up paying for Renegade. I don't know if somebody can relate to this way of thinking.
A little typo there: It says "Controls use the familiar Double Dragon scheme" when it should say "Controls use the familiar Double Dragon 2 scheme" because Renegade's control scheme was dropped on DD1 while it was brought back in DD2.
@Moroboshi876 - Ha, yes, I understand that line of thought. You’d rather pay hard earned money for a proven commodity, and take a chance on something with accrued reward points. At least Top Hunter is in your library though. Renegade is well worth owning, but it’s quite a ways down my ACA wishlist. The old DD control scheme kind of bothers me these days.
@bimmy-lee The thing is I bought Double Dragon when it came out on Switch. But I have the impression that Renegade has to be way more dated. And extremely difficult, and extremely short once you master it. Am I right?
I don't know. Renegade looks good, but since I am playing double dragon, raging justice and shaq fu, I am good with the beat them up genre right now.
@Shiryu By the way, are you aware of this? Are they allowed to copy-paste your reviews? https://iogames.me/review-arcade-archives-renegade-switch-eshop/
@Moroboshi876 - One intangible when discussing old games is nostalgia. Renegade was on everything, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is someone’s favorite/most played game, and/or the reason they got into gaming. I’m not speaking out against Renegade, but for me, it is similar to DD, with DD being a level above Renegade in every possible category.
I’ve never come close to completing it, but if Shiryu says it can be played through in 15 minutes at a master level, I believe it. It’s a trait of the genre and its roots in the arcade. If you want to master this game, it will take near frame by frame perfection, and you’ll take a beating getting that good.
I’m saving it for a rainy day, maybe years from now. Good to know it’s there for a dose of nostalgia some day.
@Moroboshi876 Wasn't aware of that particular one, I've tipped off the senior staff. There is way too much of that stuff out there, it is hard to keep track.
Dang, I thought we were getting this game when I first read the name:
Obviously I got the wrong name for the wrong game--but it would be so cool to get Vendetta on Switch.
One of the best games on the ZX Spectrum 🌈
Loving it. Great game.
I think I’ll hold out for the kunio kun world classics.
Renegade was one of my favorite games for the ZX Spectrum. It played quite well.
@Shiryu Speak of the devil, just saw your post.
Thank you for mention of The Warriors! I first played the NES version around the time I watched The Warriors for the first time, and it was like my non-official gaming extension of the movie! In the screenshot, we have Vermin single-handedly taking on the Lizzies (Kunio-Kun looks more like Ajax, tho, lol)!
@Shiryu The Spectrum version of this and Target Renegade were two of my favourite games on the system.
@EvilRegal Ah, the simpler days...
@Shiryu You did a Hell of a great job on that, man! Love the beat here, use of film dialogue, and (of course) the famous finger bottles!
And, simpler days indeed. I find myself yearning for them a little more often than I should... Probably less so than I might otherwise, due to modern day comforts like The Warriors on Blu-ray, and classic arcade beat-em-ups where/however I want them with Switch. :3
So, here's to simpler days, and to fighting your way back to Coney Island (or wherever home may be).
I see it says 2P, but no mention of simultaneous, so I'll assume alternating. Meh, I like my beat 'em ups with at least 2 people. Because I never played the arcade version of this, let alone the Japanese version, I will still backlog this as a curio for further consideration.
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