The History of Kunio-kun: Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes

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The final entry in the Double Dragon and Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle — which, as we’ve seen to date, is actually made up of a distinct minority of beat ’em ups — is another sports title in the series. This time around, as the obligatory overly elaborate title Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes suggests, we turn our attention to basketball, a sport that we haven’t yet seen Kunio and company try their hand at.

The setup, for once, does not involve the Nekketsu High School Dodgeball Club having to take the place of an incompetent sports club with the promise of undefined good times with Misako if they win. Instead, this time Kunio has won a trip to America by taking first place in a quiz, and decides to visit his friend Johnny. Godai and Riki come along for the ride also, and the four end up competing in a street basketball tournament for reasons that aren’t entirely clear aside for some vague promise of riches.

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes

As with most of the Kunio-kun sports games, the narrative setup doesn’t make a ton of sense if you stop to think about it for more than a moment, but the fact that Technos Japan at least made an effort to contextualise what’s going on is a nice touch. It helps the series feel more like it has a sense of consistent personality, and helps establish Kunio and friends as actual characters that you care about rather than just your avatars on the basketball court.

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes was originally released in 1993, and was the last Kunio-kun game to be released for the Famicom. Like most of the other Kunio-kun titles, it never made it west until the Double Dragon and Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle — particularly unsurprising in this instance as such a late game for the 8-bit platform, released while the Super NES was in its prime.

It’s a bit of a shame, though, as Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes is a particularly strong entry among the 8-bit Kunio-kun sports games. Like the other entries in the series, it plays pretty fast and loose with the real rules of basketball, instead emphasising fast-paced arcade action and taking influences from beat ’em ups to create an enjoyable full-contact sport.

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes’ main story mode can be played in either single-player or two-player cooperative; if playing solo, you take control of a single team member while the computer controls your partner. Two out of the four Nekketsu Dunk Heroes — Kunio, Riki, Godai and Johnny — can be selected to form your team for a match, with each having their own strengths, weaknesses and specific moves that they are able to perform.

Once into a match, the game becomes a non-stop two-on-two basketball match with no fouls, no penalties, no stoppage for “breaking the rules” and no resetting after scoring a basket. This means that matches tend to be quite high-scoring affairs — particularly as there are a number of silly twists on the basic rules that increase your scoring potential considerably.

Most noteworthy of these is the fact that each end of the basketball court actually features multiple basketball hoops at increasingly ridiculous heights, with more points on offer if you can successfully sink the ball in the higher ones. On top of that, if you can aim your shot in such a way that it lands in a high basket and then drops down through all the other ones, you can obtain an absolutely insane amount of points with just one extremely well-placed throw.

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes

In order to help you reach these high-scoring targets, each team of opponents in the game features their own distinctive stage, each of which has its own gimmicks. The New York stage, for example, features subway stations at either end of the court, which a player can run into to “warp” to the other end of the court, or jump on top of to reach the higher baskets. The Texas court, meanwhile, features a horse which can kick you up to reach the higher baskets.

Besides having unique stages, the different teams of opponents have their own distinct sets of abilities, also. The Floridian scientists from the Kennedy Space Center, for example, have psychic powers that they can use to teleport and enhance their attacks, while the Hawaiian surfers can breathe fire as part of their attacks.

This latter aspect helps make proceeding through the story mode a lot more interesting than in some of the other Kunio-kun sports games, as it means playing against each team is markedly different in a way other that simply a varying level of difficulty. Learning to deal with each team’s special attacks is as important as developing your own skills at attacking opponents and making accurate shots, and this helps make Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes as satisfying in single-player as it is in competitive multiplayer.

Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes

Of course, you can also play the game as a straight-up versus affair with friends if you so desire, too, and with the fast pace of gameplay and simple controls, it remains an enjoyable option for a multiplayer session even today. As a late-era Famicom game, it looks pretty good, too, with detailed backdrops and well-animated sprites designed within the inherent limitations of the platform — and in the Double Dragon and Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle, you can, of course, also enjoy the enhanced emulation that helps to eliminate flicker and slowdown, too.

All in all, Nekketsu! Street Basketball All-Out Dunk Heroes is a solid entry in the Kunio-kun series, whether you’re playing alone or with friends. Its simplistic take on basketball makes it accessible and enjoyable even to those who aren’t big sports fans, and its consistent presentation and feel with the rest of the series gives it a distinct appeal that remains somewhat timeless.

It’s a fitting conclusion to the Double Dragon and Kunio-kun Retro Brawler Bundle, then — but far from the end of our exploration of the Kunio-kun series. After all, I hear there are some River City Girls out there who are pretty keen to fight you with all their might to get back their boyfriends. They love them so.

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Pete Davison
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