about a month ago i played through the original xevious in preparation for checking out the enhanced version for 3DS. similarly, i decided to tackle the much-derided urban champion in preparation for trying its 3DS update.
i think it’s pretty safe to say that urban champion has become one of the consistently lowest-scoring first-party titles in nintendo’s history (although i’m quite curious as to what the reaction was when it first came out, way back in 1984). nintendolife’s review is fairly typical in its complaints about the repetitiveness, but i went into it with an open mind and had a mixed reaction. in general i found it to be fairly enjoyable, especially considering it was an NES launch title. the early NES graphics have a classic feel and there’s actually a surprising amount of variety in the controls (slow and fast punches that you can set to high or low, plus the abilities to block and dodge). the “history of 2-d fighters” at hardcoregaming101.net highlights the game’s innovations:
- Urban Champion is the earliest fighter with any kind of easily controllable defending. It invented evading, which in this game takes the form of quickly leaning and stepping back. This is performed by holding back before your opponent executes a attack. Most importantly it is the first fighter to have easily controllable, reliable blocking, which is performed by holding up or down before your opponent executes a high level or low level punch, respectively. It is also the first fighter with dizzies, the first fighter with a form of “ring outs”, and the first fighter where matches were decided by something other than health depletion or point totals.
aside from the historical appreciation, the game actually proved to be fairly addicting. it’s easy to see why people would dismiss it so readily, but i have to wonder how many of those people have played past the tenth level. at the higher levels the game definitely gets more challenging and it’s clear the whole point is to get to the highest level possible, although even after spending a fair amount of time on it it’s not completely apparent to me whether winning was a matter of skill or luck. it feel like it’s a mixture of both (not unlike the later fights in mike tyson’s punch-out!!).
i’ve seen the game occasionally get compared to the game & watch game boxing (random video on it on youtube here), and that seems fairer than comparing it to subsequent games like street fighter II that really defined the genre. (although it’s still hard to justify the $5 virtual console price tag when you could get so many other NES classics for the same price.) it does seem that the game has at least some fans, as you can tell by sifting through comments online, and in fact the 3DS version has an unusually high rating in the 3DS eshop. overall i’d say the game isn’t nearly as bad as the majority of people would like to make it out to be, and its 3DS incarnation may well help remove some of its bad rap. although i spent significantly more time with it than the average person, i didn’t enjoy the game enough to really master it, but it’ll be interesting to revisit this game via the 3DS version at some point.