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River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . The newest installment in the long-running Kunio-kun series is a real letdown. River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special looks great, but is woefully lacking in content. With only a few events to choose from, gamers will grow tired of running the same race over and over again. Kunio deserves better. Rating: 30%
River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special
River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special
  • Review Score:

  • D+
Like a lot of people who lived through the 8- and 16-bit eras, I've been a big fan of River City Ransom without realizing that it's part of a much larger franchise. Oh sure, I knew it was related to Super Dodgeball and Crash 'N the Boys, but I was legitimately shocked to discover that the Kunio-kun series has been going strong for thirty years. In fact, between Technos and Million, fans of the long-running series have seen more than a dozen releases since Alex and Ryan crossed River City in an attempt to save Cyndi.

The newest game in the series is River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special, a bizarro sports game where blocky characters race and fight through a series confusing challenges. When it comes right down to it, this action/sports mash-up has a lot more in common with Crash 'N the Boys than River City Ransom, but that's not going to stop the nostalgia from coursing through my body.

If you're looking for a good, old-fashioned beat-em-up, then you're going to need to look somewhere else. This River City game is a collection of short sporting events. It pits the students of Nekketsu High against a bunch of neighboring schools. This is all sewn together with an exciting story involving violence, love and revenge. It sets up what should have been an epic showdown with a wide variety of fun mini-games. But that's not what we get from River City Super Sports Challenge.

Before this turns negative, I want to say at least one good thing about this newest entry in the Kunio-kun franchise. As a longtime fan those old school Technos releases, I immediately fell in love with the visuals. It's a striking mix of 2D character sprites and high-res, near-photo realistic backgrounds. When I close my eyes and imagine a 21st century remake of River City Ransom, this is what I want it to look like. It's a really cool design.

That said, this game is an unmitigated disaster. It looks great, but is somehow even more limited than the 8-bit games that inspired it. Although it has the word "sports" right in the title, River City Super Sports Challenge offers almost no sports to choose from. Of the few events featured, two of them involve racing, one is all about rope climbing and the rest boil down to free-for-all street fights. There's no dodgeball or hammer throw, just a bunch of races and obstacle courses.

River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

To make matters worse, every race plays out almost exactly the same way. Instead of running through one large course, the races are split up into a bunch of bite-sized areas of the town. You'll run through the streets, bust through houses, swim through the sewers and even sprint across the rooftops. Players will earn extra points for coming in first on each leg, as well as beating up your opponents along the way.

While not a great way to conduct a race, the real problem comes when you are forced to run the same exact course a few dozen more times. This is not one of those sports games where you visit a bunch of new locations, you're basically forced to run through the same streets, houses and sewers every single time. Sometimes the legs will be rearranged, but it won't take more than a few races before the repetition sets in.

The same can be said about River City Super Sports' other events, especially the obstacle course. This plays out almost exactly like the race, only with each area offering a small obstacle to overcome. Usually this is nothing more than jumping on platforms or avoiding being pushed in the water by giant hands. This is, once again, fun the first time you play. But like all of the other events, there's not enough variety in the obstacles to keep my attention.

River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Of course, both of these race events are significantly more fun than the 4 player street fights. Playing out much like the versus mode in Double Dragon on the Nintendo Entertainment System, these combat events are a free-for-all where button mashing trumps skill. The characters do have special moves, but it's nothing like Street Fighter. These battles drag on far too long and remind me of a time when companies didn't know how to make a fighting game.

With so few events, you'll find yourself doing the same exact thing from one stage to the next. You'll watch the story unfold, choose an athlete and then race through familiar locations. Then watch more story bits, choose another athlete and race through the exact same locations. Then another cinema, athlete and exact same race. It's an endless loop that only hints at a more interesting sports package.

Had there been more events to choose from, I can see this being a fun multiplayer experience. It has a striking visual style and a lot of familiar faces. But that's not enough to make up for a shocking lack of content. After 30 years full of iconic brawlers and sports games, the Kunio-kun series deserves better than River City Super Sports Challenge: All Stars Special.
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