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3D Classics: Urban Champion (3DS) artwork

3D Classics: Urban Champion (3DS) review

"I think "Classic" is being used too freely here..."

The original 3D Classics concept by Nintendo was a genuinely interesting idea in the grand scheme; since the company loved porting their same old games on every new system, deciding to give them an "upgraded" look using the 3DS' capabilities was a commendable change of pace. There were so many possibilities and so much potential in seeing the classics, Mario, Zelda, Metroid, in an entirely new light, and pseudo-3D titles, such as baseball, golf, and Mach Rider, could've benefited from this endeavor. Things were hopeful... until 3D Classics: Urban Champion happened. Of all the games to choose from, of all the titles to spend precious time and resources on, you had a director conduct Arika, the company who developed Tetris: The Grand Master, into doing a reconstruction of this? I... was this some kind of contract obligation?

If you don't understand why this is so appalling, well... then, I apologize for being the one to inform you of this game's existence. Urban Champion's only significant relevance is that it was Nintendo's first console "fighting game", and it's a questionable one at best. The goal is to go from one screen to the next, taking place on city blocks, and you do this by "pushing" opponents off the right side with your punches. Throughout the tug o' war fisticuffs, you have to switch between upper and lower attacks constantly, while using weak or strong punches, to avoid hitting the brawler's blocks, and vice versa. Keeping things challenging, supposedly, is a numeral stamina meter that drains with every punch thrown, not to mention the added hazard of people occasionally dropping pots from second-story windows.

All that doesn't sound too bad when described, but the problem lies in how everything feels. In that regard, the game becomes repetitive and sluggish to play in its quest to be a "technical" fighter. There's an obvious, intentional delay with each attack performed, which is a pain considering the necessity to switch between upper and lower attacks quickly, and by the time you switch in most cases, the opponent has already changed his block stance to the same location. This makes pushing characters off the screen a slow chore, which doesn't get easier as the difficulty rises with every new challenger. To make things worse for the sake of making things worse, a police car randomly drives by, which makes both characters automatically revert to their respective corners of the screen, basically restarting the fight with less stamina.

That's it. That's the entire experience. If Urban Champion had a lot more going on with it, maybe these issues wouldn't be so annoying, but because the concept is so bare, these problems easily latch on to every aspect of gameplay, thus making things more irritating than they should be. Even without these flaws, the game simply hasn't aged well, and I don't mean through the decades, I mean it hasn't aged well within the short period from its original 1984 Japanese release. Titles like Yie Ar Kung-Fu and Nintendo's own arcade Punch-Out! showed that fighting games were capable of having more depth and agility, and Kung Fu, which isn't even a fighting game, showed that pummeling opponents while pushing towards the edge of the screen can be entertaining. By the time Urban Champion became available in other regions in 1986, it was already a complete joke.

So then why choose to "upgrade" this underwhelming game as the third choice for the 3D Classics lineup? And by "upgrade", I mean shove in some stereoscopic 3D and add an optional isometric view. While there isn't a definitive answer that I could find, the only thing I could guess is that it was simply one of the easier games to plop out of development. The reason I speculate with that is because the head of the 3D Classics project did an Iwata Asks interview, where he admitted difficulty in redoing the first two games, Excitebike and Xevious; he thought he could simply port the games, but doing so would screw over gameplay. Further more in the interview, the team passed on doing Tennis, because they didn't feel like putting extra work in making the field's depth functional in 3D.

Based on all that... well, 3D Classics: Urban Champion exists. And the 3D Classics line was abandoned shortly after. Go figure.

Even if you're going forward with a questionable release, why not add extra content to, you know, make it more appealing? You could have included some form of "special" mode where the gameplay is reworked to be more responsive and intense. Or maybe some kind of stat-building mode where you have to train your character, through minigames, for upcoming fights? I mean, give us something to work with here. This is embarrassing. Thankfully, the magnificent bastards of M2 came along and hijacked the 3D Classics brand, releasing Sega games that people would actually pay to play, made them functional in stereoscopic 3D, and added a bunch of neat extras. Even their worst releases had time-consuming effort put into them, because M2 actually persevered through a weird obligation. An obligation called: doing the job you were hired to do.


pickhut's avatar
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