A 3D update of Urban Champion? How did this happen? Here’s how I think it went down…
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata (the responsible one) heads over to the house of Nintendo creative mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto (the rambunctious one) on a bright and sunny Saturday, toting a briefcase. It’s filled with notes and suggestions on all the aspects of the company that need to be assessed if Nintendo is to survive into the next era of gaming. Stuff like beefing up the online experience on Nintendo consoles, developing portable games that are competitive with smartphone games in both price and quality, creating new IP that captures the imagination of gamers brought up on Mass Effect and Halo, and a myriad of other things that gamers have been begging Nintendo to look at for years.
Cut to twelve hours later. The briefcase remains unopened. Miyamoto and Iwata are both in fuzzy pajamas, eating brownie ice cream, listening to Beatles records, lying on their bellies, staring up at a SD TV, playing old Famicom games on their original cartridges. After spending hours replaying Clu Clu Land and Gyromite, they finally hit upon Urban Champion.
3D Classics: Urban Champion (3DS eShop)
Released: August 18, 2011
“This game is genius!” giggles Miyamoto. “If only people today understood how great it is!”
Iwata presses pause on the game, grabs Miyamoto by the cheeks, forcibly turns his head towards Iwata’s, and looks him dead in the eyes.
“I’m the President of the greatest videogame developer on the planet,” he hisses. “I’ll make them understand.”
“I’ll make the world see that it doesn’t get any better than Urban Champion. On the 3DS, it will become the most popular portable game of all time.“
“Damn straight, son!” bubbles Miyamoto. “Angry Birds can suck Urban Champion‘s chin-chin [Japanese word for penis].”
Have you ever talked to someone who hates fighting games? I sure have, and I’m usually quick to ask them why they don’t enjoy the genre. Most often, they say something along the lines of “They’re just stupid. One guy punches another guy until one of the two guys falls down and doesn’t get back up. That’s all. That’s it. That’s stupid.” In the case of most fighting games, that bleak summation would be missing a lot of the fine details. When it comes to Urban Champion, it’s one-hundred percent accurate.
Urban Champion is a versus fighting game with a grand total of one selectable character, who comes equipped with two types of attacks (high and low). That attack comes in two flavors (weak/fast and strong/slow), giving you a grand total of four different attacks altogether, spread across two glorious buttons.
As for defensive options, you can block (high or low) and dodge. That’s all you get in Urban Champion; no jumping, no ducking, and there sure as hell aren’t any Hadoukens. It’s sort of like Punch-Out!! turned on its side, except even more simplistic. There aren’t even any health meters. The winner of each fight is determined by who can knock the other guy off the opposing side of the screen first.
The combat plays out sort of like competitive rock/papers/scissors, except without the scissors. Rock (high punch) crushes paper (low guard) unless paper (low punch) hits rock (high guard) first, and vice versa. You could also say that Urban Champion is like that non-videogame game where you try to slap someone on the top of their hands before they can move them out of the way. It’s game that wholly relies on reflexes and guessing games, rather than on dexterity or complex strategy.
There are a couple of other random elements thrown into the game to keep things from getting totally repetitive. Disapproving neighbors will try to drop flowers pots on you and your combatant. If they score a hit, you’ll be dazed, giving your enemy an opportunity for a free attack.
The cops also come by every so often, causing the young, eager street toughs to head back to their respective sides of the block in order to avoid looking like criminals. That causes the fight to more or less start over from scratch, which can be a problem, as you also have to watch your stamina and time as the match goes on. If your stamina runs out, your punches will be much slower, and if time runs out, whoever is closest to losing the fight will be hauled off by the cops.
And that’s really all there is to the game.
Nintendo didn’t add too much to the formula for this re-release. Of course, you get some glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. The game’s world and characters are now made from polygons, though they stay completely faithful to the original game’s low-res, sprite-based style.
The 3D here looks really good, especially with the angled camera mode turned on. Seeing old NES games remade with new visual pop via the 3DS’ glasses-free 3D display still hasn’t gotten old for me. I just hope that in the near future, we see more deserving NES games — games like Kung-Fu, the original Mario Bros., and the previously mentioned Punch-Out!! would be great for this 3D classics treatment.
That’s not to say I don’t like Urban Champion. I know that I really should dislike it, as it is incredibly stupid, but I just can’t help but enjoy it. The game asks so little of the player in terms of thought or effort, and is so quick to reward you for simple violence, that it’s hard to not get back more than you put in.
It reminds me a lot of one of the many addicting micro games from the WarioWare series, except stretched out into a full, standalone title. There are a couple of catchy little chip tunes to keep you smiling, some simple and charming little animations, and constant moments of anticipation to keep you playing.
“Am I about to punch a man?”, “Are the cops going to catch us being bad?”, and most intensely, “Why am I still playing this?” are questions you’ll be constantly asking yourself while playing the game. The action, as incredibly shallow and random as it may be, is still non-stop.
Unlike in most real fighting games, there are no breaks between “big moments” here. There’s no waiting out a turtling opponent, no sense of deflation after failing to pull off a big combo, or feeling as though you are totally outclassed by your enemy. There’s also no boredom in being pitted against an opponent you can easily beat the crap out of. With Urban Champion, the psychology never gets deeper than “I won!”, “I lost!” or “I hope I win!”. There is a certain purity in that which is demands my respect.
The enemy A.I. in single player mode also ramps up considerably, demanding that you respect the computer’s abilities as well. I’ve only been able to get to round 61 (which took about an hour, and earned me the in-game achievement of “Village Champion”). By that point, I was really getting my ass kicked.
A quick save feature allows for you to put the game down if you don’t want to slog through that many rounds in one sitting. There is also local multiplayer, though I haven’t been able to test that out, as I don’t actually know anyone else in real life who is willing to purchase the game. I have played “competitive” Urban Champion on the NES plenty of times though, and assuming that this 3D port is faithful enough, I can wager that the Vs. mode is just as brainless and compelling as the single player “campaign.”
All in all, Urban Champion is almost an un-game. There is nearly no design here. I’m sure that most of you will hate it, but I know for a fact that few like-minded readers of Dtoid will enjoy it. In fact, I’ve already gotten a few private messages requesting that I fight them online. The game doesn’t actually support online play, which shows just how weirdly enthusiastic fans of Urban Champion can be.
This is an extremely acquired taste. Even fans of the game will likely admit that it is technically shallow and idiotic, almost to the point of self-parody. That said, if you have similar tastes as Miyamoto, Iwata, and myself, you’ll find yourself enjoying Urban Champion much more than you rightfully should.