Fans of Nintendo like to joke — or honestly lament — about every time the company issues a new release of Urban Champion, the idea being that it’s somehow preventing them from releasing some other game in its stead. This time, however, it’s not Nintendo at work bringing the Black Box title to a new platform, but rather Hamster, who has added it to their Arcade Archives series of releases for the Nintendo Switch (Arcade Archives does appear on other platforms, but good luck finding Nintendo titles there).
As an Arcade Archives release, this entry comes with the usual accoutrements we’ve come to expect from the line, such as the standard arcade mode, a Hi-Score mode, and Caravan Mode, which challenges you to get as high a score as you can within a five-minute span of time. Those features aside, there’s a little more going on here than you might be used to seeing in your standard release of Urban Champion, which is typically the Nintendo Entertainment System release.
Though it’s not as evident in the official screens above, the big difference is in the colors. The arcade version of Urban Champion seems to draw on a different, more vibrant color palette than its home counterpart, affecting the looks of some shops and fighters (one I came across had this white hair that made them look old, and with how the pixel art distributes the colors, had these bright white eyes to match. He looked like an old blind fighter, which is kind of cool). What’s more, there’s actually a day/night cycle in play here (which I always love), usually changing the skyline in the background around the deciding “manhole” round in a match.
In addition, there’s a new tune to listen to as you fight for your right to walk the street. The NES version has these low-key tunes that are kind of slow and relaxed, save for maybe the deciding round, but the arcade version has a louder, more upbeat tune that seems to fit better overall with the transitions and fanfare at the end of a round.
So here’s the rub: If you’re not a fan of Urban Champion — and I realize not many people are — this release is not likely to change your mind. However, if you’re like me (and the 65 others who had a better score than I do on the Leaderboards) and happen to enjoy the game for whatever reason, this rarely-seen arcade version punches things up a bit in a few ways that a longtime fan will no doubt appreciate. And if you’ve never played it before, it presents an interesting historical curio of what fighting games were like before Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros.
Arcade Archives Urban Champion is available now on the Nintendo Switch for $7.99 USD. And, incidentally, if you’d like to hear me talk a bit more about this game, you can do so by checking out the Power Pros podcast.