I have so many fond memories of the NES classic, River City Ransom, from the late 80s. It was one of those games I took a chance on as a kid and it paid off in so many awesome ways, leading to it becoming one of my all-time favorite titles back then. Who knew thirty years later we’d get a sequel from WayForward and Arc System Works with River City Girls. It takes a bit getting used to thanks to some difficulty and scarcity of moves, but once you’ve leveled up a bit this gender-inverted take on the classic formula quickly becomes an all-out, fighting fun fest.
Kunio and Riki, our heroes from the original River City Ransom, have been kidnapped! It’s all good though as their tough girlfriends, Kyoko and Misako, are on the case to get them back by any means necessary. Starting off in detention, it’s up to you to help them fight their way out of school and onto the mean streets, malls, construction sites, and more to get their guys back.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a bit tough at first as you can only do a small basic attack, jump, and a heavy hit move while the enemies you fight have all sorts of skills and abilities to use on you. Thankfully you can block them and if you’re really skilled, block at the perfect time to parry their attack and unleash some nice damage. As you fight your way to victory, you’ll gain money from your fallen foes and experience points to level up with, opening up new skills to use with more that can be bought from the training dojo.
These sweet attacks include lengthening your basic attack combo for more damage, suplex throws and slams, flying uppercuts, and more to quickly take down any foe in your way. It also helps if you have a friend nearby for local co-op action, as the action really heats up as you go on. You can sometimes recruit enemies to help out as some will beg for mercy as you fight them. Once you spare them, they become a summon skill where you press a button and they’ll swoop in and let off a special ability and take off.
Right from the get-go I immediately fell in love with the pixel art and awesome animations throughout. Everything from the girls’ movement and fighting, to the enemies and backgrounds, everything is just fun to look at and go through. There’s also a ton of humor at play here as well, as Kyoko and Misako will talk among themselves and to other characters as they beat their way to victory. They even look down from their character portraits at the top of the screen down at the gameplay as they talk. Most of the dialogue is pretty funny and will make you chuckle, but sadly there are some cringe worthy moments as well.
River City Girls is a fun beat-em up that’s even better with a friend, but get ready for some mild frustration if you go at it alone. WayForward and Arc System Works do a great job with the art and animation, as well as with the humor and Easter eggs (Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon as well as characters from River City Ransom make their way here). If this sounds like a good time to you, then grab your baseball bat and brass knuckles and join these girls for some frantic, fighting fun.