Urban Champion
  • Genre:
    • Fighting
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 11/14/1984
    • US August 1986
    • UK 1986
Score: 50%

This review was published on 10/26/2016.

Urban Champion is a fighting video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on November 14, 1984, North America in August 1986, and Europe in 1986. There was also an arcade version of the game titled Vs. Urban Champion that came out sometime in 1985. The game was inspired by an old Game and Watch handheld title called Boxing, which was known in North America as Punch-Out!! If that name sounds familiar, it's because that game also inspired another one for the NES called Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! And that game went on to form the Punch-Out series. Anyway, Urban Champion is Nintendo's first 2-D fighting game, and it certainly shows. This thing has earned the distinction of being one of the worst NES games of all time. It was bad back then, and it's not any better now.

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As the title implies, this game involves two people fighting each other in an urban environment. You take control of one of those people. The A button is used to throw a fast, but weak punch, while the B button does a slow, powerful punch. Pressing left or right on the d-pad will walk you in those directions, and will also make you do a quick dodge move if you press the opposite direction you're facing when near the opponent. On the other hand, pressing up or down will move your hands up or down, which does two things. One, it allows you to do high or low punches, and two, it enables you to block high or low punches if you stand still. As you can see, the game really gets a lot of use out of the NES pad's limited buttons. Despite that, the controls are still pretty simple, so it won't take long to get a feel for things.

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The objective of the game is to punch your opponent into a manhole within the time limit. Initially, the manhole won't be visible, but as the opponent gets pushed back, you'll transition to different screens, and one of them will eventually contain a manhole. In a way, the proximity of the manhole sort of represents a player's health. If the fight isn't resolved within the time limit, the cops will show up and arrest whoever's closer to the end of the pavement or manhole. Essentially, they arrest whoever's losing. You've also got a number labeled as "stamina," but this isn't your health. Instead, this is sort of like your energy. Every time you dish out a hit or take a hit, you lose stamina. Taking damage depletes more stamina than dishing it out. Once your stamina runs out, your movements will be slower. Stamina for both fighters gets completely restored every time there's a screen transition. That's all there is to it.

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Like a lot of fighting games, there's a kind of rock-paper-scissors system to the combat. For example, heavy punches take a really long time to wind up, so they can be easily interrupted by light punches. The downside is that light punches don't push the opponent back very far. Blocking your opponent's attack also stops them from acting for a very short period of time, giving you a small window of opportunity to launch a counterattack. You can also try to fake out your opponent by constantly switching your guard between low and high. This is the crux of the combat, and since this is a fighting game, it's also the crux of the whole game. Due to the lack of depth, it doesn't take long for the boredom to set in. A two player mode also exists if you want to share the monotony with a friend, but I wouldn't recommend it. Playing with another human being is admittedly more fun than beating on the computer, but not by much.

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A couple of rogue elements will sometimes get in the way of your brawl. For instance, cops will occasionally show up to interrupt your fight even if time hasn't run out. Whenever this happens, both fighters will automatically back off and start staring aimlessly into the sky. What this accomplishes from a game play standpoint is reset the position of both combatants, erasing the advantage either side may have had. Basically, it's a complete waste of time. Additionally, sometimes people will appear from the windows of the buildings in the background to throw potted plants at you. This causes whoever it hits to fall backwards quite a ways as if they were hit by a heavy punch. Basically, they're stage hazards. All of this is done in a vain attempt to spice up the game, but all it really does is annoy the player or players. The potted plants are particularly irritating.

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There are an infinite amount of rounds, so the game never truly ends. You just keep knocking dudes into manholes until the cows come home. There are symbols at the bottom of the screen to denote your rank, which increase as you attain victories. You could consider the game "beaten" once you reach the rank of champion, but the game continues on even after you accomplish this. On top of that, the rounds themselves all feel the same. The only things to separate one round from the next are the buildings in the background and the color palette of the opponent, both of which eventually loop. Obviously, the opponents do get harder, but that's about it. This game is like a nightmare you can't wake up from.

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Really, there's not much more to say about this game. It's the absolute bare minimum of what constitutes a fighting game, with no bells and whistles. There's only one playable character, no special moves, and like the boredom it inspires, it never ends. Playing with a friend is slightly more fun than playing alone, but the game doesn't have enough depth to last either way. Not only that, but this game essentially encourages gang violence. I'm joking on that last part, but Urban Champion still sucks.

Word Count: 1,020

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