Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka (新・熱血硬派 くにおたちの挽歌, lit. "The New Nekketsu Tough Guy: The Elegy of Kunio and Co.") is a beat 'em up game for the Super Famicom released by Technōs Japan Corp. exclusively in Japan in 1994. It was the fourth game in the Kunio-kun series released for the system and was developed by Almanic.
Directed by Yoshihisa Kishimoto, this game follows the same themes and settings established in his previous works in the series: Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun and Shodai Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun and thus ignores the events and characters in Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari. Like in Shodai, characters from the Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu sub-series are used, with some alterations. This game takes place at some point after the Famicom version of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun but before Shodai Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun (Kunio is in his second year of high school in all three of these games, but in Shodai, Kunio is in his final months of his sophomore year and is about to become a senior. In Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari, Kunio is in his third year of high school).
Almanic was comprised of former employees from Technōs Japan Corp., this is the only Super Famicom game in the series that was not developed by Technōs internally. Noriyuki Tomiyama was the game's producer (he previously worked on the arcade version of Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu and the Famicom version of Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen). Yoshihisa Kishimoto (the designer and director of the original game in the series) directed the game after previously directing Shodai Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun.
The late Michiya Hirasawa (sound programmer in previous games in the series including the Famicom versions of Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu and Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari) was the game's programmer. Kazunaka Yamane, the composer for the arcade version of Double Dragon, composed the game's music. Hiro Yokokura, who was the scenario writer for the adventure game Mamono Hunter Yōko: Makai kara no Tenkōsei (released on the PC Engine) wrote the scenario for the game.
According to Muneki Ebinuma(a designer at Technōs Japan Corp. during the game's development) he was taken to Yoshihisa Kishimoto's vacation home, when development of Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka was being finalized. He was shown the game's screenplay, which was made in the style of a movie screenplay, all of the characters lines were thoroughly described in each scene.
Kishimoto originally wanted Kōji Ogata, the character designer for the original Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun, to design the game's characters. He was unavailable due to being committed to another project, and the graphical end result of the game's sprites compared to the game's artwork was not well received by Technōs Japan Corp. staff. Kishimoto was pleased and satisfied with the final product, as well as the game's live-action TV commercial (the weapons used in the commercial belonged to the staff, the nunchaku used in the commercial belonged to Ebinuma).
Kunio and Riki are imprisoned on a juvenile correction facility in Nerima after the two are convicted of a hit and run. After spending a night in cell 218, the next morning the duo are visited by Hiroshi, Kunio's friend and classmate from Nekketsu High School. He informs the two of strange events happening inside the school and around the area, including the fact that people have seen Kunio around even though he is locked up in prison. Kunio and Riki claim their innocence and are well aware that they have been framed for a crime that they didn't commit. With the help of their new friends from cell 218, Kunio and Riki make their escape from prison to find out who framed them and clear their name.
Up to two players can play the game together, or a single player can play in a similar fashion to Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones. Unlike that game, for the purpose of the plot, if there is only one player, Riki is still available for use. Characters can be switched by simply pressing the Select button without entering a menu. If two players start the game together, it will not be possible to switch characters until additional characters are recruited. The game has two difficulties: Normal and Easy. After a certain key point in the story, the game will not continue unless the player continues on Normal Difficulty. Passwords are used to continue game progress.
All buttons on the Super Famicom/SNES controller are used during gameplay. The Y button is used to punch, the A button to kick, the X button triggers a back attack (which is character specific) and the B button is used to jump. By pressing either the L or R triggers, the character will block. Pressing any of the face buttons during the block animation allows each character to perform special techniques, such as the Flying Knee Kick, which all four characters can perform. Double tapping the directional pads to the left or right will have each character run in the specific direction.
At the beginning of the game, Kunio and Riki will be wearing prison uniforms. During this time, they are unable to perform their special techniques, sit down on top of downed enemies, or grab them.
Additionally, each character has the following additional moves:
- Uppercut: Pressing Y in front of a stunned opponent has Kunio and Riki will have them knock down the enemy with an uppercut.
- Drop Kick: Kunio and Riki can perform a drop kick on a stunned opponent by pressing A, knocking them down.
- Drop Knee: All characters can dive with a knee attack to hit downed enemies by holding down on the directional pad and pressing A in midair.
- Jump Kick: The sole jumping attack in the game, performed by pressing the A button during a jump. Can also be performed while running.
- Grab Object: Pressing the Y button during a jump will have the character attempt to grab onto an object or ledge. It can be performed during a running jump.
- Stomp: Can be done at any time holding Down in the directional pad and pressing A. The character kicks an enemy while they are knocked down for additional damage.
- Sit: When an enemy is down, Kunio and Riki can sit on top of them and punch them for additional damage.
- Grab: After punching an enemy a few times, they will be stunned. Kunio and Riki can grab them by holding the directional pad in the direction of the stunned enemy. Whole holding a stunned enemy, pressing Y allows Kunio or Riki to punch them, while holding the directional pad forward and pressing A during this time will have Kunio and Riki knee the enemy. Pressing A allows Kunio and Riki to kick an enemy that approaches them from behind. Kunio and Riki can throw the enemy behind them by holding the opposite direction and pressing Y. Kunio and Riki can also grab stunned enemies from behind and hold them in place, allowing another character to pummel them.
- Break Free: If Kunio and Riki are stunned, they can be grabbed by enemies. They can break free of their hold by pressing Y and moving the directional pad.
At specific points in the game, players will play a bike stage, just like in Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun for the Famicom/NES. During this sequences, the controls are changed. Pressing B accelerates the bike, while Y slows it down. With the L trigger, characters kick to the left and with the R trigger to the right. The first player has control of the bike and can attack, while the second player can only attack. It is impossible to switch characters during this time, and should the player be knocked off their bikes or lose all of their health, they will have to start over from the beginning.
During normal gameplay, if a player loses all of their health, they are eliminated from the game, with no option to switch to another character. If the game is being played in single player and the character loses all of their health, the player will get a Game Over (even though other characters have remaining health). When choosing to continue, players can choose to do so in single player or two player mode.
The game has four playable characters, using a system similar to Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones. At the beginning of the game, the player starts with both Kunio and Riki. Once they clear Nekketsu High School, Misako is added to the roster, followed by Kyōko after they complete Hanazono High School. Although Misako and Kyōko cannot sit down on top of enemies or grab them, they move and run faster than Kunio and Riki, and like them have access to special techniques.
Upon encountering Sabu for the first time, if the game is being played on Easy difficulty, the player will be returned to the title screen. Otherwise, the game will continue. At this point, players will no longer be able to play as Misako and Kyōko, they must complete the rest of the game with Kunio and Riki.
A second year student and the hot-blooded guardian of Nekketsu High School. His Special Techniques are the Whirlwind Kick, Spinning Headbutt and Back Fist.
The Hanazono High School banchō, Kunio's rival and best friend. His special techniques include his signature Mach Punch, Screw Upper and Back Kick.
A Nekketsu High School student and Kunio's girlfriend. She wears a green blazer. Described as a very fickle girl who is easily attracted to strong men. She joins Kunio and Riki to help clear their name. A character with the same name and hair color first debuted in Nekketsu Kōkō Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen, though the setting and personality of the character were different. Later releases in the franchise (specifically Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun Special and its sequel, River City: Tokyo Rumble) have established that this Misako is the same character from previous games. Her special techniques are the Whirlwind Kick, Screw Attack and Back Kick.
A student from Hanazono High School and Riki's girlfriend. A beautiful girl with a ponytail and a blue blazer. She is fully loyal to Riki and according to him, is the opposite of Misako in personality. She is friends with Misako and joins her and Riki to assist them in proving his and Kunio's innocence. Kyōko makes a re-appearance as Riki's girlfriend in River City: Tokyo Rumble. Kyōko's special techniques are the Mach Kick, Screw Slap, and Spinning Chop.
- Hiroshi: Kunio's close friend and a student of Nekketsu High School.
- Mamoru: Takayama's son, a student of Nekketsu High School and a friend of Kunio. He believes in his innocence.
- Nobu: An Hanazono High School student who is loyal to Riki and briefs him on the school's situation once he breaks out.
- Ryūsaku: An Hanazono High School student working a part time job at the amusement park.
- Kōji: A prisoner in cell 218 that attacks Kunio and Riki along with Tōru. Once Kunio proves his strength and he learns of his situation, he assists in the escape plan.
- Tōru Kōji's cellmate, he assists with the escape plan.
- Takayama: A police officer and a warden at the Nerima Juvenile Correction Facility. He has a strict personality and once Kunio breaks out, he is determined with apprehending him. After his son explains the situation to him, he assists Kunio and Riki.
- Daiki: During Kunio's absence, Daiki assumes the role of Kunio's guardian and wears his uniform. Kunio also hears from Hiroshi that Misako appears to be going out with him.
- Ryūta: He becomes the banchō of Hanazono High School during Riki's absence and kidnaps Kyōko.
- Shinji: The leader of a bōsōzoku gang known as "The Blue Emperors".
- Lisa: A woman who attacks Kunio and his friends in Roppongi.
- Joe: A black man who assists Lisa in Roppongi.
- Kinji: A member of the Sanwakai (三和会 "Sanwa Gang") that fights Kunio and his friends in a Disco in Roppongi.
- Misuzu: A senior from Taiyō Academy, a giant sukeban. She at first attacks Kunio and his friends at a pachinko parlor in anger, then later joins the Sanwakai for a while as Sabu's bodyguard.
- Ken: The youth who impersonated Kunio in the hit-and-run accident that landed him and Riki in the juvenile correction facility. According to information from Takayama, Ken is Kunio's long lost brother, who was adopted by Sabu take revenge for his previously defeat by having him impersonate Kunio and frame him for a crime.
- Akio: Ken's brother. He impersonated Riki to also frame him along with Kunio.
- Sabu - The game's main antagonist, the leader of the wanted criminal organization Sanwakai. To take revenge on Kunio, he adopted Ken (likely from a nursing home) to impersonate Kunio and frame him for a crime. He then used his influence to take control of Nekketsu and Hanazono High School, with plans to take over Shinjuku and Roppongi with help from Shinji and his gang. Upon meeting him in the game for the first time, after threatening Kunio and Riki for ruining his plans, he shoots Misako and Kyoko, who are hurried to a hospital with help from Takayama, who then escorts Kunio and Riki as close as he can to Sabu's villa in Izu.
Passwords in this game have four digits. The first and third digits determine the current stage, the second digit is used for bike stages and the final digit is used to determine the game's difficulty. Bike stage passwords require that the first and third digits be zeroes. Normal difficulty is determined by placing even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) in the final digit while Easy difficult uses odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9). Easy difficult cannot be used with passwords that start from the conversation with Sabu and the stages that follow, the game will instead return the player to the mode select screen since the game from that point must be played in Normal difficulty.
During the game's development, Kishimoto made a trip to Hong Kong. He wrote a draft for a proposed sequel to Kunio-tachi no Banka, titled Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun: Kowloon no Tsume (熱血硬派くにおくん ～九龍の爪～ which roughly translates to "Hot-Blooded Tough Guy Kunio ~The Claw of Kowloon~"). The game was planned to be released on the Sony PlayStation, but was never developed.
Kowloon no Tsume would have been the first official Kunio-kun video game to cross over characters from the Double Dragon franchise, as Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee were to appear in the game. Elements from this sequel were used in River City: Tokyo Rumble.
River City Girls, developed and released by WayForward in September 2019 draws inspiration from this game. It stars Kyoko and Misako as the protagonists. The game's lead composer Megan McDuffee arranged some of the tracks in the game.
- The scene where Kunio and Riki fall down to a river along with a collapsing bridge, and find a hideout behind a waterfall, was based on an unused bit of level design from Return of Double Dragon.
- Takayama is Yoshihisa Kishimoto's favorite character in the series, according to a Q&A with fans during the development of Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun Special.
- Information on the Kunio-kun series from Kishimoto's website
- Muneki Ebinuma’s commentary on various Technos projects
- Kishimoto talks about Riki's impersonator in Kunio-tachi no Banka
- Yoshihisa Kishimoto's personal website with details of unreleased games.
- Special section on Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-Kun SP: Rantō Kyōsōkyoku
- Yoshihisa Kishimoto's favorite character in the Kunio-kun series