Study 24: River City Ransom/Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (NES/Famicom, Technos)
The Kunio-kun series, in Japan at least, rivals Mega Man and Mario’s Famicom exploits in terms of sheer quantity. Kunio began his career in Renegade, an early beat-em-up that led to both Double Dragon and later Kunio-kun adventures like the one I’m spotlighting today. Renegade will be covered down the road. Technos would revisit the Kunio-kun world in many spin-offs, including Nintendo World Cup, Super Dodgeball, Crash n’ the Boys: Street Challenge, and a myriad of other games we didn’t see on our shores. Hell, one of them became the American Double Dragon 2 for the Game Boy. XD
Anyway, Technos did do other games beyond Double Dragon and the Kunio-kun series. For example, Karate Champ was made by them, which helped launch the one-on-one fighter. They also did some WWF arcade games. The good times came to an end in 1996 when the company closed down. After their demise, Million acquired the rights to Technos’ properties and have done a fairly good job at keeping the Kunio-kun and Double Dragon franchises alive with new releases and re-releases on digital platforms like the Virtual Console.
Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari’s localization into River City Ransom saw some pretty severe shifts. We’ll get into those momentarily. Let’s examine the boxes first.
Here’s the Famicom box. A chibi approach, completely appropriate for the game’s spritework. The pink background with one of the girls looped in the background is a nice touch. America, meanwhile…
…got this. I’ll let my Artistic Discussion detail out what’s wrong:
The best thing this box has going for it is its logo. That’s pretty decent. The proportions and ability to draw decent human beings isn’t bad either compared to other NES boxes, but what made this such a sour box art for me is the poses. Our hero on the left is combining two styles of fisticuffs; the fist and the chop, which I believe don’t often go hand and hand (punny). The hero on the right doesn’t have the dashing good looks of our other protagonist, but he’s got a pipe! He’s scratching his head with it, but it’s at least a weapon! The punks in the background are sort of amusing, trying to look tough with minimal detail (only the frontrunner can pull it off…maybe it’s the knife). The dude behind him is channeling his inner geek or something…not quite sure what that pose signifies. But the key reason, even beyond the goofy poses, I picked this box is the sign toward the right that reads “River City High School”. HIGH SCHOOL. Do any of these guys even suggest that they are high schoolers? They all seem to be ripping off of Jimmy Dean’s wardrobe if you ask me style-wise, and not a single face or body teases the thought of youthful lads. So, we either have a mix-up on age or some of the oldest high schoolers ever pounding each other into BARF, and I don’t think that was Technos’ intention.
So, from the boxes alone we can see a shift in design. Japan sees school uniforms and schoolgirls, while Americans get middle-aged men pretending to be young Jimmy Dean types. XD Luckily, the chibi style was mostly left alone for the game itself. Let’s take a quick look at some screen comparisons. Japan is on the left, America in the right.
Pretty simple localization there. Kanji for Japan, a revisiting of the box logo for America. The background color in both isn’t that great, though. Black may have looked better.
Here’s some in-game comparisons. Japan has kanji text and the wall is sectioned differently, for one. The real noticeable change however is the sprites. Kunio’s morph into Alex transformed his clothes as well. It’s more appropriate for Alex to wear jeans and a t-shirt for America, but I admit that I prefer the original Japanese uniform look. Perhaps I’ve played EX too much?
As of press time, I’ve yet to discover more significant changes beyond remolding the sprites into more Americanized clothing and some text editing, but I’ll be on the lookout for more alterations. However, there is one bit of questionable content that escaped censorship at the hands of Nintendo’s conservative age:
Ah, naked butt. How in the world this slipped through Nintendo’s QA is astounding. Maybe they failed to visit the sauna. Definitely one of the more notable cases of nudity making its way into the hands of Americans.
River City Ransom kept the core gameplay of its Kunio-kun original, but shed its Japanese heritage in localization in order to do it. The sprites swapped their clothes to look more American, mainly, which is a pretty big change from the Japanese uniforms Kunio and Co. wore in Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari.
Kunio-kun Wikia Page on Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari – http://kuniokun.wikia.com/wiki/Downtown_Nekketsu_Monogatari
HG101 Article on Kunio-Kun – http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/kunio/kunio.htm
Wikipedia Page on River City Ransom – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_City_Ransom
GameFAQs Image Page for River City Ransom – http://www.gamefaqs.com/nes/563453-river-city-ransom/images