When Kunio Kun established its beat ‘em up template with Renegade in 1987, before hitting its stride with the open-world brawlfest that is River City Ransom, the team behind the franchise were simply not content with sticking with just making beat ‘em ups, as the series would later expand into the realm of sports. Of course, these sports were pursued with the rule book and the referee quite literally thrown out of the window in a no holds barred winner-take-all affair. The seven Double Dragon & Kunio Kun titles on Xbox One right now include two alternative sports titles, one of them being Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge.
Set within the comically violent River City Ransom universe, Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge is a mini-game sports title designed to be enjoyed with friends, although there is still plenty of entertainment to be had even as a single player time-burner. It’s a bit like those video games based on the Olympics where each of the events function as a button mashing mini-game of sorts. Back in the day, the benchmark had already been set by Konami’s seminal 1983 sports title, Track & Field, and so the Kunio Kun interpretation of this style of game in Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge remains largely consistent with the button mashing antics, but with an added dose of River City brawling.
It all comes together really well, creating a fun and challenging gameplay experience that can be an absolute blast with a few friends and a six pack. Landing on the NES in 1992, this was a rather late addition to the enormous NES library given that the Super NES had then stepped into the console gaming race. Still, even at the time, Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge was an enjoyable multiplayer pickup that really lives up to the quality of a more advanced NES title.
There are five events in the game: 400-meter hurdle, rooftop jumping, hammer throw, swimming, and a judo-style one on one. All four events involve selecting a team of five characters, and there is a bit of a River City Ransom element where you can purchase supplies that can “enhance” the performance of team members. No drug testing in this competition.
The 400-meter hurdles start out innocently enough; you tap the forward d-pad to pick up speed and overcome hurdles along the way whilst racing against another opponent, but with the added twist of not only beating the tar out of each other along the way but even going as far as throwing the actual hurdle towards your opponent. Rooftop jumping is exactly as the name suggests, building up speed to parkour from roof to roof and getting into silly antics such as riding a unicycle. Next is hammer throw, probably the least violent of the events but in a way one that mixes up the rules of the hammer toss event with that of… golf. Surprisingly it works too. Swimming is a race between two opponents, and yes, you guessed, they are allowed to beat the tar out of each other until one of them drowns. Finally, the fighting is a no holds barred rendition of an Olympics judo event, where typical River City brawling antics ensue, and it even has a Fire Pro Wrestling-style grapple system.
Only in River City can these “sports” be legally sanctioned by a sporting commission. If they sound ridiculous in writing then playing through them feels the same too. The ridiculousness is the entertainment here, and all the crazy ideas and brawling contribute to one of the most enjoyable couch multiplayer games ever made. It can be a bit difficult to get into, but luckily there is a practice mode. Also, handy tip: play with the d-pad instead of the analog stick as it makes the gameplay so much easier.
The presentation is chaotic and colourful like any River City game, with amusing expressions from the character designs. There is just something about the Kunio Kun character designs that instantly make you think about beating up anything that moves. It’s comically chaotic and violent, and there’s nothing else quite like it still.
Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge is the couch multiplayer game to rule them all, and the Xbox One release comes equipped with online multiplayer too, which can work quite well as long as you have a friend who owns a copy and can have a stable connection with you. It advertises itself as an unconventional Olympics game, but even that is an understatement because Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge throws the rule book out the window to make sports feel fun again. Synchronised swimming or no holds barred swimming where you drown your opponent? The choice is easy.