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.
- Tōru: 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: Tōru'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.
Both versions of Renegade were ported to multiple platforms. Arcade ports are listed first in release order, followed by ports of the NES version:
Imagine released a port of the arcade version of Renegade in Europe for the Amstrad CPC in 1987. Also in 1987, a port was released for the Commodore 64. The European version was published by Imagine while the North American version, which was released in a year later, was published by Taito. Both versions were developed by Imagine. A version for the ZX Spectrum was released in 1987 by Imagine in Europe, while Erbe Software, S.A. released this version in Spain that same year. A version for the DOS operating system was developed by Banana Development and published by Taito in North America and released in 1988. It received a disk re-release in 1989.
A version of Renegade for the Amiga was released 1989. The American version was published by Taito American Corporation and the European version by Ocean Software, who also developed the game. The Atari ST port was released in 1988 and 1989 in Europe and North America respectively, developed Software Creations. The European version was published by Imagine while Taito published the North American version.
In 1988, France Image Logiciel released a port of the game on the Thomson MO5, developed by Wise Owl Software and licensed by Ocean. It was only released in France.
The Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum versions were re-released in 1989 while the Amiga and Atari ST versions were re-released in 1992.
A port of the NES version of Renegade was released for the Apple II in 1987 in North America, developed by NovaLogic and published by Taito.
A version of Renegade was released for the Sega Master System in Europe and Australia in 1993, developed by Natsume and published by Sega (Tec Toy published the South American version, which was released in Brazil). It is similar to the NES version but it has enhanced graphics, cutscenes when the player loses a life and a new ending. The fighting pattern and attacks of the bosses is also changed, and one of the kung-fu women fought in the third stage fights with her bare hands, similarly to unarmed enemies.
Both versions of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun made multiple changes to the game's plot and graphics when the game was released in Western regions as Renegade.
The title screen used in the Japanese version was completely changed for the western localization. There is no music in the title screen or attract mode for Renegade. A copyright for Taito American Corp. was added. At the end of the attract mode in the Japanese version, the game's rankings would appear on the very screen where the attract mode ends. In Renegade, a separate screen is used to display the rankings.
When a coin is inserted in the machine in Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun a girl can be heard saying Ganbatte, ne (がんばって ね！ "Do your best!"). In Renegade, a man says "Good luck, kid!" when a coin is inserted. Additionally, all of the voice samples in the game were changed from Japanese to English.
The Japanese version includes intermissions prior to each round which shows the enemies of the current round attacking Hiroshi before Kunio chases them off. Renegade doesn't have any intermission screens before each round and thus the game has no plot, but it does tell a player before each round if the first or second player is about to play each round. This is done even when the game is played by a single player. Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun has no indication even when the game is being played with a second player.
In the Japanese version, the player's health shows Kunio's name. When the bosses get involved in the fight, their name is shown on their health meter as well. In Renegade, the player character is not named and neither are the bosses.
All the in-game character sprites were changed, edited or replaced with new sprites. Hiroshi was replaced with a female character that appears during the game's ending waiting for the player character. Kunio and the enemies and bosses had their sprites edited, but the enemies and boss in the final level only had their palettes changed.
Shinjuku station (the game's first round) was completely changed into a New York subway since the game doesn't take place in Japan. The subway is more detailed than the station. In the third and final round, all Japanese graphics were replaced with English text in Renegade.
The Game Over screen (which says Owari, おわり "End") was changed in Renegade, which literally translated the Japanese characters so instead of "Game Over", it says "The End". Kunio-kun has a name input screen for high scores separate from its high score screen. Renegade uses the same screen to show high scores for the input of initials. The Japanese version allows for a maximum of five characters while Renegade only allows three letters. Kunio-kun and Renegade have different music when entering a name or initials. The ranking screen of both games has no music (when all three letters are entered in Renegade, the music stops).
The title screen went through the same changes that the arcade version did, with one addition: the Licensed by Nintendo of America Inc. copyright. This was shown in the title screen of all NES games that had Nintendo's seal of approval. After some time has passed on the title screen of the Japanese version an intro sequence showing Hiroshi's kidnapping will play, with Kunio chasing the kidnappers and shouting matee- (まてえ- "Wait!"). Renegade doesn't have an intro sequence.
Just like in the arcade version, all character sprites were altered. Some characters retain a similar look from the arcade version, but the characters in the third stage where changed again. The enemies in round 3 from the arcade version of Renegade appeared to be from North America. The NES version of Renegade changes the enemies and the boss of stage 3 to Chinese women assassins wearing cheongsam.
The Famicom version gave names to each of the game's enemies (the bosses were already named in the arcade version). Though the enemies are unnamed in Renegade, the bosses are now named. The player character is given the name Mr. K. while the first three bosses are renamed to Jack, Joel and Kim (Riki, Shinji and Misuzu respectively). Though Sabu's name is unchanged, his palette was edited both during gameplay and during his appearance after Mr. K loses a life. In the Japanese version, Kunio's name and the name of each boss is shown next to their health meter while in Renegade, 1P, 2P and EMY are used for each player and the stage boss due to character limits.
The quotes said by each character in the Japanese version are the same as the voice samples the characters use when they defeat Kunio in the arcade version (Sabu is an exception since he didn't say anything in the arcade version). Kunio doesn't say the quote from the Famicom version in the arcade version. In the NES version of Renegade, the quotes used by the first three bosses are the same ones they say in the arcade version. Mr. K's quote is different from Kunio's. Sabu's quote in the NES version is the same one as Jack's. Interestingly, Sabu's quote in the Sega Master System version (where he is named Lucas) is different from the NES version.
The first stage in the Famicom version of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun has a different colored sky depending on which difficulty level the game is being played (blue sky on Level 1, sunset on Level 2 and night on Level 3). Because the first stage of Renegade takes place in a subway the time of day is not visible. This is also true for the other two areas of the stage. The second stage also changes the color of the sky and it does so in both versions of the game since it wasn't altered at all in the Western version (outside of changing the boss' sprite and the enemies' palettes).
In the third stage of Renegade, the Japanese signs were translated to English. Oddly, one of the signs got past Nintendo's censors, because it reads "Beer".
The Famicom version of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun has an ending similar to the arcade version. In Renegade, the game goes straight to the credits after Sabu is defeated. Since both versions of the game have a proper Game Over screen, the Owari and The End screens used in the Game Over screen of the arcade versions is shown after the credits.
The onigiri was changed to a hamburger in Renegade. The game's manual for the western version still shows the onigiri though.
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 Kōha 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 Left on Controller 2 and press Down, Up, Right, Up, Left, Up then Start on Controller 1.
- Stage 3: Hold Down on Controller 2 and press Up, Down, Left, Down, Right, Down then Start on Controller 1.
- Stage 4: Hold Up on Controller 2 and press Down, Down, Up, Up, Right, Left then Start on 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).
Both versions of Renegade were ported to multiple systems and the popularity of the arcade version led to the creation of sequels that diverted from the Kunio-kun franchise: Target: Renegade and Renegade III: The Final Chapter.
- 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.
- The title screen music of the Japanese version is the same one used in the title screen for the arcade version of Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu, which is also used in the Famicom version on the screen where the player is told which team they are going to play against in the Campaign Mode.
- The attract music used in the Japanese arcade version is used in the credits of the Famicom version. It is also Kunio's theme.
- The main antagonistic gang in the 2017 beat 'em up game Double Dragon IV, is called "The Renegades", likely as a homage to this game. The Double Dragon franchise was also created by Technōs Japan and is directly derived from the Kunio-kun series, with some even believing the original Double Dragon to be a sequel to Renegade.
Sega Master System version
- 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