WayForward are at it again with their retro-inspired titles. This time, they’ve teamed up with Japanese developers Arc System Works to work on a spin-off title for the Kunio-kun (also known as Street Gangs here in the UK and River City Ransom in the US) beat em-up side-scroller series. River City Girls features the deceptively-tough high-school girls Kyoko and Misako, who escape detention to rescue their captured boyfriends Kunio and Riki (protagonists of the aforementioned series). There’s a lot of kick to this game, making it a very easy recommendations for newcomers and series veterans alike.
The controls are simple and responsive, with special moves requiring only one or two button-presses to perform. There’s a quick and powerful attack, as well as an aerial and special move. More moves can be bought at the local dojo, perfect for racking up damaging combos. You can even loot weapons to use against menacing students, corrupt cops, and even masked wrestlers will appear from out of nowhere to dish out damage. In some cases, though you’ll be swarmed by around six of the stinkers all at once, and taking them all on can be a bit of a time-waster. However, you have the ability to recruit injured enemies, who can jump into a fight to perform a surprise attack.
There’s plenty of neat additions in this one, like side-quests, auto-saving, and a simple leveling system. XP earned will beef up your stats, and can unlock more moves at the dojo. While there are unlimited lives, getting K.O.’d will rob you of a hefty chunk of cash. Earning it through combat alone is a lengthy grind. To keep yourself in shape, you can buy health items can be bought from shops, some of which offer additional stat boosts. Other stores offer equippable special items with bonus effects, though they’re never revealed until you buy them, and you can only use two at once. The perks themselves are of minimal help, offering very slight damage buffs or small amounts of health when you defeat enemies.
You can tell WayForward has a thing for their Metroidvania map designs, meaning there’s gonna be a fair bit of back-tracking. The layout isn’t too complicated, and there’s always the map to help you in case you’re lost, so navigation is not an issue in this one. Just don’t think about staying in one area for too long, as you won’t earn any more XP if you keep waiting around for more foes to spawn. Odd, considering you can just revisit the area to earn XP like normal again.
There’s lots of eye-candy to enjoy here.The pixel artwork is beautifully animated and designed, from the incredibly detailed backgrounds to the luscious colors. Dialogue exchanges feature cartoon-like images of characters with dopey facial expressions. You’ll be treated to the occasional anime or manga-like cutscene to advance the plot or introduce someone big ‘n’ mean, and they’re a real treat to gander at. Alongside all of this are some solid voice performances and catchy synth-pop tunes by Megan McDuffee, alongside other talented folk like Chipzel, Christina Vee, Dale North and NateWantsToBattle. Many of the stand-out tracks are the ones with vocals, which are a real treat.
River City Girls achieves exactly what it aims to be: a very satisfying side-scroller with solid combat, great visuals, fantastic tunes and lots of replay-value. Its flaws are usually just minor nuisances, and aren’t enough to sour the experience, and what an experience it is. Look no further if you’re after a top-quality, retro-inspired fighting game that’s ready to knock the socks off of you.
Game code supplied by WayForward.