River City Ransom is a cult classic among Nintendo fans. Its colorful graphics and playful merging of the Beat-'em-up and RPG genres make it something truly special. However, not many people know that it was originally intended as the epic concluding chapter to a trilogy of games.
How is this possible, when there was no "River City Ransom: First Blood" or "River City Ransom 2 Electric Boogaloo?" Well, to make a very long story short, the game you grew up playing was not originally called River City Ransom. It was the American localization of a Japanese game called Dauntaun Nekketsu Monogatari. (translated: Downtown Hot-Blooded Story) What this means is that the protagonist was originally a Japanese high school student, named Kunio-Kun. Kunio went on to star in nearly 20 games, almost none of which ever saw an American release. Fortunately, this was not the case for the first three entries in the Kunio-kun series: Renegade, Super Dodgeball and River City Ransom. And if one of those titles seems out of place, bear with me.
Renegade was the game where Kunio made his debut. It is one of the earliest examples of a side-scrolling beat-'em-up, and the first game to include four-directional controls and enemies that required multiple blows to defeat. This created a quasi-3D environment and Renegade is actually considered one of the most influential games of all time. It should come as no surprise that many of the developers that worked on Renegade went on to create the more well-known brawler, Double Dragon, which even borrowed Renegade's plot. In Renegade you play a tough urban youth, whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by a powerful street gang. Naturally, the only way to get her back is to punch, kick and pummel your way to justice.
Inexplicably Kunio-kun's next game, Super Dodgeball, was a bit more down to earth, focusing on his school life. Although any references to the previous game was omitted in the American version, the Japanese game's plot is basically the same. In both versions, you play a rough and tumble youth, hell-bent on leading his school's dodgeball team to glory. Over the course of six international competitions, you eventually manage to bombard all challengers into submission until your team is ranked number one in the world. Aside from the cartoonishly-intense depiction of dodgeball, Super Dodgeball has little to do thematically with River City Ransom. However, that doesn't mean it didn't play a pivotal role in its development.
RIVER CITY RANSOM
With the inspiration for Double Dragon and a wacky sports game as reference material, River City Ransom combined the gritty violence of Renegade with the brilliantly expressive character sprites from Super Dodgeball to create a masterpiece. In River City Ransom, Kunio-kun (Alex in America) is approached by his arch-rival, Ryan. Apparently, some punk named "Slick" has united nine school gangs and kidnapped Ryan's girlfriend. Ryan doesn't possess Kunio's experience as a vigilante and master dodgeball player. So, he's swallowed his pride to beg Kunio for his assistance. After setting aside their differences, the two set out to take back the streets by laying down the hurt on anyone who gets in their way. And the rest is 8-bit history.
For all intents, River City Ransom marked the end of the American adventures of Kunio-kun. He went on to star in a handful of other incredible beat-'em-ups that never saw an American release. However, the majority of Kunio-kun games were actually sports titles like Super Dodgeball. Among the few that were eventually ported to America were Crash 'n ' The Boys: Street Challenge and Nintendo World Cup. However, these titles were released in America after River City Ransom had helped to cement the series' popularity.
Get River City Ransom Here!
As a huge River City Ransom fan, I feel it's truly a shame that Kunio-kun, the original hard-hitting high schooler never really took off in America. Let's hope that one day Nintendo will see fit to release translated versions on the virtual console. But tell me, were you surprised to learn that these 3 games were part of the same series? Or did you always think that the characters looked a little too similar to be coincidental? As always, let me know in the Comments section.