It’s rare that a sports game from the NES era has a point at which it can be called “beaten”. This, though, is one of them. And while I’m not big into sports games–as my brother and I acquired separate interests, and stooped playing sports games against one another, I fell out of playing them pretty much altogether–this is one of the more fun ones I’ve played, even though it plays into some of my weaknesses as a gamer. The game is a spinoff of the Kunio Kun series, one game of which was released in the US as River City Ransom (A heavily edited and Americanized version of another game in the series was released here as Renegade). A number of the other side games saw US release as well, notably Super Dodge Ball and Nintendo World Cup Soccer.
Released in 1992 by American Technos, Crash ‘N the Boys: Street Challenge is itself more urban than its Japanese counterpart. The game picks up after the All-City Track Meet, which Crash Cooney and his high school, Southside High, swept. Todd Thornley, captain of uptown rival Washington High, isn’t happy about this. To settle the score, he proposes an unsanctioned track meet, to take place near Cooney’s home turf. To stack the odds in his favor, Todd recruits two more “Hiller” schools, Lincoln High and Jefferson High, to take part in the competition. And it doesn’t stop there–Todd’s father, also named Todd, is likewise displeased with Southside’s athletic domination. He assembles a superteam, Team Thornley, composed of the best athletes from mega-corporation Thornley Industries, to act as a fifth wheel in the meet. Crash ‘N the Boys certainly have their work cut out for them!
At this point, I should mention that you can actually play as any of the four high school teams. Only winning as Southside, though, gets you the “full” ending; any other high school just gets you the trophy presentation and a “Coming Soon!” screen for a game that never saw the light of day in the US. The fact that winning with Washington High doesn’t get you some kind of “Vindication” ending for the Thornleys is a bit disappointing.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. The track meet itself is composed of 5 events (You can also play a shortened meet where you select 3 of the 5 events, or practice a single event). It starts off simply enough, with 400-Meter Hurdles….only here, you can tackle the hurdles, then pick up the remnants and either spin around with them, or throw them at your opponent. From there, the events get weirder–Hammer Golf combines Golf with the Hammer Throw, Swimming involves an underwater battle to unconsciousness, Rooftop Jumping is basically what you’d expect (But some of the gaps are long enough to require pole-vaulting over or riding a unicycle across), and Fighting Scene involves battling your opponent until one of you can fight no more.
Doing well in each event will net you medals. Medals are also scattered around the courses to be picked up. The team with the most medals at the end of the competition (After a sequence in which bonus medals are handed out in a proto-Mario Party way) is the winner of the Street Challenge. Sounds simple enough…but there’s a twist. The medals are also currency, and between events, you can buy various powerups designed to make the events either easier on yourself or harder on your opponents–for instance, you can put tacks in your opponent’s way in the Hurdles, or equip your hammer with a rocket in Hammer Golf.
While this game puts a Kunio-kun spin on the traditional Track and Field video game, the fact remains that it is a Track and Field video game at its core. That means every event involves mashing of some kind, either of the control pad in the Hurdles and Rooftop Jumping, or of a button in the other events. The control pad mashing is unusual, but it’s the button mashing, even in some of the more fun events like Swimming, that make the game a bit of a chore to play. I may well just be out of shape, but I find button-mashing for an extended period of time to be physically draining.
In spite of the physical challenge, the game itself isn’t super difficult in one-player mode (All bets are off when you get a group of friends together; because the events are a series of one-on-one matches at most, up to four players can compete using only two controllers), especially if you know which power-ups will make your life easier. One playthrough in one-player mode isn’t very long either, probably taking in the realm of a half hour to get through. Suffice to say that this is a game whose replay value is enhanced when you can find friends to play it with.
Even single-player, though, Crash ‘N the Boys: Street Challenge is a fun, if short, track and field experience, and it’s a shame the US never saw any of the other planned Crash ‘N the Boys games (We know the next one would have been Ice Challenge). Luckily, the game was re-released on both the 3DS and Wii Virtual Consoles, meaning it’s easy to acquire and give a try. I recommend doing so, despite not being a big fan of Track and Field games in general (Nor, it should be said, being a good button masher).