Only badasses live in River City; this is the concept that has driven the Kunio-kun series for decades. Here, our favourite rivalling schools duke it out in a collection of four sports but is attending the festivities worth a few punches to the face?
I should begin by mentioning that although this shares a title with a 2010 DS game, this "All Stars Special" version is a very different experience. Whereas the DS game features full 3D models, here we get to play as the classic sprites that a lot of us fell in love with on the NES. Not only are the visuals authentic to the days of old, the gameplay mostly remains the same, too. You run around, dash, and only use three face buttons that punch, kick, and jump. The buttons can also pick up weapons and opponents as well as perform equipped special moves given the appropriate commands. Surprisingly, this simple gameplay works well in all four sporting events. These events consist of foot races (Cross Country), foot races with obstacles (Obstacle Relay), a nifty sport called "Camphor Ball", and arena matches (Battle Royal). As the odd one out, Camphor Ball is played by climbing a pole to punch a suspended ball while trying not to let your opponents knock you off. Anyway, there's definitely some fun to be had in each of these sports.
One of the most impressive features is the ability to customize almost everything to your liking. First of all, a single player story mode complete with plenty of goofy scenes starring a mostly familiar cast of characters is available. As you progress, you'll unlock a ton of playable teams, characters, and special moves. A missing staple from previous games is the shop containing upgrades and such. It's too bad they didn't include it here. When you want to play against more badasses, you can start a fully customizable Free Battle match for up to four players. You have the option to take the fight online but I have yet to find anyone to play against. Finally, creating your own characters, teams, and courses is a welcome feature although the course design tool is mostly limited to sequencing screens together with limited options. In the end, being able to fine-tune everything means that you can make the most out of every play session.
River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special includes just as many characters as you've come to expect of the series. Watching their hilarious animations in the menus and during gameplay, story scenes, and victory ceremonies will surely make you smile if you have a soft spot for silly humour. Seeing as there are so many characters, you'd think that there would be a variety of environments as well. However, you'll come across the same screens over and over again which becomes repetitive after playing for only a short while. Rehashed screens may occasionally have slight variations but having to constantly play through familiar scenarios just feels tedious.
The most significant downside to this otherwise enjoyable game is the fact that the rules are too convoluted and contrived. I'll show why by dissecting a race. For starters, the screen doesn't advance until all players reach the end of it. Upon entering the next screen, each combatant starts in the position that they finished the previous screen in. Therefore, you really only need to try during the final screen in which any player can easily claim victory. You get points according to how well you placed but you also collect them throughout the race by such actions as beating up other players. This means that you can "win" a race flawlessly only to discover that you actually lost because the player in last place beat up more people than you. It's a confusing mess with no clear method that guarantees success. Additionally, the poorly translated text is a chore to understand. If you can't grasp how to play then good luck trying to decipher the instructions.
River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special is a game that'll feel right at home for fans of the Kunio-kun series. Although it's not the best of the bunch, it has enough redeeming qualities to not make fans "Barf!" with disappointment.
- + Classic Kunio-kun gameplay within four sports
- + Plenty of options make each gameplay session custom-tailored to maximize fun
- + Loads of characters with hilarious animations
- - Lack of stage variety gets very repetitive
- - Convoluted game rules can result in you losing even though you won
- - Awful translation is often confusing