Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (熱血硬派くにおくん, "Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio") is the inaugural title of the Kunio-kun series, a beat 'em-up game released for the arcades in 1986, developed and published by Technōs Japan Corp.. It was published by Taito for the western market as Renegade (which made changes to all of the sprites and backgrounds).
Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun is the technological predecessor to Double Dragon, which was created by Kunio-kun's designer and director: Yoshihisa Kishimoto (after the success of Kunio-kun, Technōs Japan wanted a sequel which used two simultaneous players and to avoid making regional and graphical changes, Kishimoto created Double Dragon, inspired by his love of Bruce Lee and his film Enter the Dragon). Kunio-kun introduced 4-directional-control and enemies that could take multiple hits. It is considered one of the most influential titles in the video game industry and many consider it the first beat 'em up ever made (The first beat 'em up was Irem's Kung-Fu Master).
The game was ported to the Famicom on April 17, 1987, the first game Technōs Japan made for consoles. The localization for the NES for the western market was also published by Taito and named Renegade. In what would become a trend by Technōs, the console version differs significantly from the arcade version in order to increase the length of the game.
The game was designed and directed by Yoshihisa Kishimoto with a small team in four months. Kishimoto was inspired on his high school years, where he was a rebel and got into constant fights and his love and admiration for Bruce Lee and his films. Konami's Shinnyuushain Tooru-Kun (Mikie in North America) inspired the game's name, while the eponymous character is named after the former president of Technōs Japan, Kunio Taki. Kazuo Sawa composed the game's music.
The player assumes control of the titular character, Kunio-kun (or just Kunio). After a rival school gang, bōsōzoku, a girl school gang and the yakuza attack his friend Hiroshi, Kunio gives chase in order to take revenge. In the Famicom version, the Hiroshi is instead kidnapped and Kunio has to rescue him.
Kunio-kun is played with a joystick and three buttons, two which are used to attack and the other to jump (the Famicom only has two buttons, so the player has to press both buttons at the same time to jump). Kunio's attack with each button will depend on the direction he is facing. If he is facing right and presses the right button (A button on the Famicom) he will punch, while pressing the left button (B on the Famicom) will have him throw a kick behind him. These are reversed when Kunio is facing left (this control scheme would later be featured in Double Dragon II: The Revenge). Kunio can throw multiple punches if the button is pressed repeatedly, but they have a shorter reach and while the kick has a longer reach, it comes out slower and can leave him open to attack if missed.
Kunio also has more moves at his disposal:
- Running Hook: Double tapping either left on right on the joystick will make Kunio run in that direction. On its own, running can knock enemies down to the ground but will make no damage. Pressing the right button (A button on the Famicom) if he is running to the right and the left button (B button on the Famicom) when he is running left will have Kunio throw out a hook while he is running. This will knock down anyone who is on his way and also make damage.
- Jump Kick: Kunio can do a kick in mid-air by pressing either attack button after he jumps (which is done by pressing the middle button). He will kick in the direction of the button being pressed. Kunio cannot do a jump kick while moving unless he is in the middle of a run. Doing a running jump kick on a wall allows Kunio to do an off-the-wall kick. In the Famicom version, Kunio will automatically perform a jump kick when the A and B buttons are pressed simultaneously.
- Collar Grab: Kunio can grab stunned enemies by the collar by moving the joystick towards them. Some enemies have to be punched three times before they are stunned (commonly the unarmed enemies), while other enemies need to be punched twice. Bosses can be grabbed as well but if they have enough health they will break free.
- Knee Bash: If Kunio is facing right towards an enemy he grabbed and the player presses the right button (A button on the Famicom) Kunio will knee the enemy in the gut. He can knee an enemy up to three times. If Kunio is facing left, the player must press the left button (B button on the Famicom).
- Shoulder Throw: Pressing the left button (B button on the Famicom) when Kunio is grabbing an enemy by the collar while facing right will have him throw the enemy behind him over his shoulder. This will knock down any enemies behind him as well. If Kunio is facing left, this move is done with the right button (A button on the Famicom).
- Beat Down: Kunio can sit on top of downed enemies by pressing down on the joystick while on top of an enemy. If he is facing right, he can punch a downed enemy by pressing the right button (A button on the Famicom) and pressing the left button (B button on the Famicom) if he is facing left. Kunio can also sit on top of bosses but if they have too much health they will throw Kunio off them (Kunio takes no damage from this).
- Defend: If an enemy approaches Kunio from behind, they will grab his arms and he will be unable to move. Kunio can defend himself by pressing the right button (A button on the Famicom) when facing right or the left button (B button on the Famicom) if facing left by throwing a kick in front of him, which will knock out approaching enemies. Pressing the left button (B button on the Famicom) while he is facing right or the right button (A button on the Famicom) when facing left will allow Kunio to get free. Kunio gradually takes damage while he is being held by enemies.
The player has to beat the boss of each round in order to advance to the next round. In each round, the player will be at the center of a small arena surrounded by enemies. After the player defeats three or four enemies, the boss will get involved in the fight. Defeating the boss will clear the round (undefeated enemies will disperse once the boss is defeated). There are a total of four rounds and when the player clears the final round, the game loops back to the first round after the ending.
The player has three minutes to clear each round and if it runs out the player will lose a life (it's possible to defeat a boss and yet run out of time, at which point the player will still lose a life and have to defeat the boss again). Kunio has a single life, players can get another one by amassing a total of 30,000 points. Kunio will also lose a life if he is knocked down and has no health or if he happens to fall into any of the stage hazards in the first two rounds. In the final round, the enemies and the boss can kill Kunio in a single hit.
Instead of being restricted to a small arena in each round, the game now has stages separated into areas. Kunio must defeat a number of enemies then proceed into a new area until he eventually reaches the boss. On stage 2, Kunio will take part in a motorcycle chase, where he is able to kick enemies off the road (using the A button). In the final stage, Kunio has to tackle a building labyrinth before he can face Sabu and rescue Hiroshi. The layout of the door maze depends on the difficulty level and some doors will take Kunio back to beginning of stage 3 (only on difficulty levels 2 and 3).
The game has three difficulty levels. On higher difficulties, enemies have more health, bikers are faster and the final stage will have more enemies. The game will end once the player defeats the final boss instead of looping back to the first stage.
Kunio has access to power-ups in this version of the game:
- Onigiri: This will restore Kunio's health completely (Kunio's health is also restored when he enters a new area). This item will only appear when doing an off-the-wall kick (running and performing a jumping kick on a wall) when the last two digits of the timer are in a fixed time, which depends on the difficulty level being played: 17 on Level 1, 43 on Level 2 and 59 on Level 3.
- 1UP: When the last digit is an even number, if Kunio sits on top of an enemy and punches them a heart will appear. This heart will grant Kunio one more life. It will float upwards so if the player cannot catch it they will have to jump before it gets away. The enemy that Kunio has to punch on the floor as to be the third one he knocks down.
- Power: A "P" that grants Kunio the ability to punch or kick enemies across the screen. To makes this item appear, Kunio has to hit an enemy with a jump kick when the last two digits of the timer are as follows, depending on difficulty level: 32 on Level 1, 25 on Level 2 and 11 on Level 3.
- Turbo: A "S" will appear during the motorcycle chase on stage 2 at the center of the screen. When grabbed, pressing the B button allows Kunio to speed up across the screen. He will be granted invincibility and will also be able to run through enemies and toss them off their bikes without having to kick them.
The player character, a sophomore (2nd year) student at Nekketsu High School. He befriends Hiroshi and after he sees him getting beaten up by thugs, he chases after them to take revenge. In the Famicom version, he happens to witness Hiroshi's kidnapping and gives chase.
A sophomore student at Nekketsu High School, Kunio's best friend and a honor student. For no particular reason, he is attacked by rival gangs (kidnapped in the Famicom version).
In each round/stage, Kunio faces off against a different rival gang. The gangs are composed of their boss and two different types of enemies, though Kunio will face about six of them at a time (the sole exception is the final stage in the Famicom version). The bosses are named in the arcade version, while the enemies are named in the instructional manual of the Famicom version:
The first round takes place in a train station in Shinjuku, where Kunio has to face a rival school: Hanazono High School. There is a stage hazard to the right of arena. In the Famicom version, Kunio has to continue fighting the rival students inside a train before he can face Riki one-on-one in another area of the station.
- Tooru: A sophomore student of Hanazono High School and one of the game's weakest enemies, he attacks Hiroshi at the beginning of round 1. Other than punching, Tooru can knock down Kunio with a knee attack. He can also grab Kunio from behind.
- Akira: Another sophomore student armed with a stick, he can knock down Kunio with a single attack. This attack makes more damage, but Akira has less health than Tooru.
- Riki Hibari: The banchō of Hanazono High School and the boss of the game's first round, nicknamed "Mach Punch Riki" due to his high speed punches. He is a 19 year-old senior (he flunked a year) and Kunio's eternal rival. Other than being able to punch much faster than Kunio and any other enemy in the game, Riki can grab a stunned Kunio and punch him multiple times.
On round 2, Kunio faces off against the bōsōzoku gang "Yokohama Funky" in a port in Yokohoma. There's a stage hazard to the left of the stage. In the arcade version, Kunio has face a group of bikers first before he is attacked by the on foot gang members. In the Famicom version, he fights the on foot gang members first, then is attacked by a group of bikers. After taking down the last one, he borrows his bike and fights more bikers during a chase, before facing Shinji, who parked alone in another area.
- Noboru: Tooru's equivalent in the second round. In the Famicom version he looks just like Takeshi, but he can be distinguished by the fact that he doesn't have a weapon.
- Takeshi: Akira's equivalent in Round 2, he uses a lead pipe as a weapon. He also attacks Kunio by trying to run him over with a motorcycle in the arcade version.
- Shinji: The leader of the "Yokohama Funky" bōsōzoku gang and the boss of round 2. He is a 21 year-old contractor nicknamed "The Blue Emperor". Instead of throwing multiple punches, Shinji attacks with a single strong punch that can stun Kunio faster and a spin kick. Like Riki, he is capable of grabbing a stunned Kunio and punch him multiple times.
Kunio will face off against a girl gang of students from the Taiyō Academy. There are no stage hazards in the arena. In the Famicom version, after defeating the first group of enemies, Kunio will be given the option of entering one of two buildings. The left building allows Kunio to skip the fight with Misuzu, while the right building will have him face her one-on-one.
- Kumiko: A junior high school student who is equipped with a chain whip. She has the least amount of health in the game and can be taken down with a single punch combo. Like Akira and Takeshi, her attack will knock Kunio to the ground.
- Kayo: Kayo uses a handbag as a weapon. She has more health than Kumiko and her attack will knock Kunio to the ground as well. She looks exactly like Kumiko in the Famicom version but she can be distinguished from her due to having her handbag.
- Misuzu: The sukeban of the Taiyō Academy girls gang, a third year student whose personal information is shrouded in mystery. She is the boss of round 3, the strongest boss in both versions of the game and requires a different strategy from Riki and Shinji to defeat. In the arcade version, she has two different grab attacks: one in which she headbutts Kunio multiple times and another in which she slaps him repeatedly before tossing him aside (the latter one is her only grab attack in the Famicom version). She can grab Kunio even if he is not stunned. For her size, Misuzu can also run really fast.
The final round in the arcade version takes place in a car dealership that is really a front for the Sanwakai, a crime organization. After defeating the enemies outside, Kunio will enter the office of the leadership and confront Sabu (who is flanked by more enemies). In the Famicom version, Kunio has to go through a maze of doors before he can confront Sabu, who he has to face one-on-one.
- Gray Bodyguard: These apparent car salesmen are yakuza thugs armed with icepicks which can take Kunio down permanently. To make up for this powerful attack, it has a slower startup time. They are the only enemies in round 4. This enemy doesn't appear in the Famicom version.
- Sabu: The game's final boss, the 46 year-old leader of the Sanwakai. Sabu attacks Kunio with a semi-automatic handgun which can kill him in a single hit. He can fire multiple shots at once if his health is low. His other attack is a front kick, the only attack in the final round that can damage Kunio without immediately killing him.
Taito published the western version of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, titled Renegade. It used the seventies film, The Warriors for inspiration and made multiple graphical changes. The sampled voices in the game were also changed to English, but the music was unchanged. In the arcade version, the player character, bosses and enemies are unnamed, but the player character and bosses are named in the NES version. The NES version, also published by Taito, makes further graphical changes to the game.
A port of the arcade version was released on the PlayStation 2 by Hamster on January 26, 2006, part of their Ore-tachi Gasen Zoku collections. Hamster re-released this version of the game for the PlayStation 4 on the PlayStation Store in 2014. This port was also released Asia, North America, Europe and Australia in 2015 as Renegade, which marks the first time that the arcade localization of the game is available on consoles. Hamster also released the PS4 version of Renegade in Japan, also in 2015.
The Famicom version of the game was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console on March 18, 2008 by Arc System Works, while the NES version (Renegade) was released on May 5, 2008 by Aksys Games. The Famicom version was re-released a second time on the 3DS Virtual Console while the NES version was re-released in Europe, Australia and North America and all were published by Arc System Works (released on April 3, 2013, February 20, 2014 and February 27, 2014 respectively, the European and Australian version were released on the same day). The Famicom version was re-released a third time on a Nintendo console on the Wii U Virtual Console, on January 15, 2014, while the NES version was re-released in North America on February 27, 2014 and in Europe and Australia on March 6, 2014.
The Famicom version was also featured in the Nintendo 3DS compilation Kunio-kun Nekketsu Complete: Famicom Hen, released on December 8, 2016 only in Japan. It will also be made available in another compilation: Kunio-kun: The World Classics Collection, which will be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows (via Steam). This compilation will also include Renegade and will be released in Japan in 2018.
- Main article: Nekketsu Koha Kunio Kun Special
Arc System Works released and published Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun Special for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 to celebrate the franchise's 25th anniversary. The game was developed by Avit-Niigata. The game includes an arcade mode which recreates the original arcade version using the graphic style of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari with new gameplay features. The game's story mode acts as a reboot of the original game and to the franchise as a whole. A prequel centering on Kunio's rival Riki was also released, Riki Densetsu. This game also had a sequel, which was released to the western market as River City: Tokyo Rumble (released in Japan as Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-Kun SP: Rantō Kyōsōkyoku, 熱血硬派くにおくんSP 乱闘協奏曲 which roughly translates to "Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio SP: Brawl Concerto").
Codes & Secrets
The Famicom and NES versions of the game has codes that allow the player to skip past the game's first stage. Two of these codes are available in Renegade's instruction manual:
- Stage 2: Hold
Lefton Controller 2 and press
Down, Up, Right, Up, Left, Up then Starton Controller 1.
- Stage 3: Hold
Downon Controller 2 and press
Up, Down, Left, Down, Right, Down then Starton Controller 1.
- Stage 4: Hold
Upon Controller 2 and press
Down, Down, Up, Up, Right, Left then Starton Controller 1.
As the first game in the Kunio-kun series, Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun would spawn numerous sequels and sub-series. The theme of revenge in this game and Renegade inspired future beat 'em ups such as Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Kishimoto was mandated to create a sequel to this game and to avoid making the graphical changes required for the localization, he created Double Dragon.
Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari is a sequel to Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, which Kishimoto produced but was designed by Mitsuhiro "Yoshimitsu" Yoshida and Hiroyuki "Mokeke" Sekimoto. They wanted to create a game similar to Double Dragon that children could play with a lot of freedom and thus, the game is a parody of Double Dragon with similar gameplay (and plot, a damsel is kidnapped), but exaggerated. The game's plot takes place months after the end of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, and the game was localized to the western market as River City Ransom in North American and Street Gangs in Europe, becoming a cult classic.
Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun: Bangai Rantō Hen is a direct sequel to Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun and shares the same theme of revenge as that game, but uses the graphical style of Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (super deformed characters, known as 2.5D in Japan).
- According to Kishimoto, the Famicom version of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun had to undergo multiple changes before Nintendo could approve it. These changes were related to the violence in the game. Kishimoto and Technōs staff made about three visits to Kyoto. As Technōs Japan's first game on Nintendo's platform, if it was unsuccessful Double Dragon would never have existed.
- Kunio-kun Nekketsu Complete: Famicom Hen wiki (Japanese)
- The Cutting Room Floor
- Arcade version at Kunio.PL (in Polish)
- Famicom version at Kunio.PL (in Polish)
- ↑ Polygon's interview with Yoshihisa Kishimoto
- ↑ The Tao of Beat 'em ups Part 2 by Eurogamer
- ↑ Yoshihisa Kishomoto's personal history on the Kunio-kun series (in Japanese)
- ↑ Small comments by the designers of the Famicom Kunio-kun games
|Nekketsu Koha Kunio-kun sub-series||Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun / SP • Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun: Bangai Rantō Hen • Shodai Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun • Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka • Riki Densetsu • River City: Tokyo Rumble|
|Nekketsu Koko Dodgeball Bu sub-series||Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu • Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen • Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: Kyōteki! Dodge Senshi no Maki • Ike Ike! Nekketsu Hockey-bu: Subette Koronde Dairantō • Kunio-kun no Nekketsu Soccer League|
|Downtown Nekketsu sub-series||Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari / EX / River City: Rival Showdown • Downtown Nekketsu Kōshinkyoku: Soreyuke Daiundōkai / ~All Stars Special~ / River City Melee: Battle Royal Special • Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki da yo Zen'in Shūgō! / Downtown Nekketsu • Bikkuri Nekketsu Shin Kiroku! Harukanaru Kin Medal • Kunio-kun no Dodgeball da yo Zen'in Shūgō • Downtown Nekketsu Baseball Monogatari: Yakyū de Shōbu da! Kunio-kun • River City: Knights of Justice|
|Super Nekketsu sub-series||Super Dodgebal Brawlers • River City Super Sports Challenge • River City Soccer Hooligans|
|Other games||Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (pachislot) • River City Dodge Ball All Stars!! • Nekketsu Kōkō! Kunio-kun Online • Nekketsu Dodgeball Bu i • Downtown Smash Dodgeball • Downtown Nekketsu Dodgeball • Nekketsu Taisen Kunio-kun X • Kunio-kun no Nekketsu Dodgeball ALLSTARS!! • Kunio-kun no Nekketsu Street • Nekketsu Kōkō Huŏbàn-kei Tŏng Kōryaku!|
|Spin-offs||Target: Renegade • Renegade III: The Final Chapter • Super Mad Champ • Super Dodge Ball Advance • Nijiiro Dodge Ball Otome tachi no seishun • Nekketsu banchō fīa-hen • River City Ransom: Underground|
|Compilations||Kunio-kun Nekketsu Collection 1 • Kunio-kun Nekketsu Collection 2 • Kunio-kun Nekketsu Collection 3 • Kunio-kun Nekketsu Complete: Famicom Hen • Kunio-kun: The World Classics Collection|