A new challenger wishes to fight you...
Welcome all to the exciting world of beat em' ups. A genre I tend to shy away from, but a little birdie told me to give this brawling adventure a go! So, make sure that school uniform is on tight because these two daring heroines from River City aren't messing around.
River City Girls is a spin-off to a classic series known as Kunio-kun, which was originally released back on the NES in 1986. The game is a collaboration between Arc System Works and Wayforward, the same company that helped bring us games like the Shantae series, DuckTales: remastered and many tv/movie adaptations. Together they were able to give us this pixelated kick ass game on PC and home consoles.
Diving into the story we meet our two classic side characters, Misako and Kyoko, wasting away in detention when suddenly Kyoko gets a text message with a picture of hers and Misako's boyfriend, Kunio-kun and Riki. Furious the girls bust through school and different parts of the city to find their beloved partners. But it won't be easy as the entire populous is out to fight back and stand in their way.
GameplayThink Scott Prilgrim meets Double Dragon. That's the vibe I got from the trailer, but boy, oh boy is playing the game a different experience.
At the start of the game you get to choose between our two lovely ladies (I personally decided to kick butt with Misako). When the game begins you are given a basic tutorial on how to use the controls and practice your basic combo moves on teenagers that have nothing better to do than to get in your way. Along the way you will gain EXP by bashing adolescents against the walls to level up. As you level your stats will increase and/or you'll be given a new move. Some moves can only be unlocked at the local dojo, which is located somewhere in the city.
The game gives you is tons of usable items. See a trash can in the corner? Pick it up and take out the trash. Chains? Make sure to whip em' good. Bats and balls? Better score a home run. The game will even allow you to grab enemies and use them to smack down other baddies. Don't tell me that your aren't itching to try it?
To keep track of everything you have access to your cellphone, which holds your character stats, settings, maps and recruits. Speaking of recruits, you have the option to persuade your enemy to join your side. If they are the last man (or woman) standing there's a chance that they'll beg for their life. Accepting their help will allow you to use their ability, but they are still vulnerable to attacks and will run away if they take too much damage.
One of the most anticipated parts of the game would have to be the boss battles. At first I thought they were pretty standard, with having to block some of their moves and dodge a couple of powerful blows, but the deeper you get into the story the more unique each fight gets. You could be thrown into an unexpected bullet hell mayhem or dodging a riff of music notes from a crazed guitar hero styled villain. It's mind blowing and exciting not knowing what's gonna be thrown at you next.
Sight SeeingThe city is huge and can take time to hustle your way through. Luckily there are bus stops placed throughout the areas which will work as your fast travel. Shopping is also available and can be very beneficial. Good thing you mug everyone you fight because most store owners wouldn't give you the time of day if you have no money. Depending on what the store has to sell most of your purchases will heal your character, but don't overlook these items as just HP guzzlers. Each time you buy a new item for the first time it will not only heal you, but increase your stats... permenantly.
Remember how I mentioned the dojo earlier? Whelp, if you have the cash the dojo master can teach you some new moves. Depending on your current level only certain moves are available to learn. It's highly recommend that you save up your allowance since these are the moves that'll give you extra hits for your combo's, powerful one-shot moves to knock back angry mobsters and a super special secret move that'll blow the pants off of any jobless hobo who tries to shank you.
2 is better then 1I had the joy of playing this game with my good pal Solaris, who came along for the ride and boy, is it a game changer. For starters I had less GAME OVER'S playing with a friend. I kept K.O.-ing near the start of the game and losing a good chunk of change in the process, but with a bit of grinding I managed to push through on my own. Having a second player definitely helps smooth things over, not to mention that if either of us fell unconscious your teammate gets to beat your dead corpse back to life. I know what you're thinking, she's joking right? I assure you I'm not. The game allows you a small window of opportunity to raise from the dead as long as your girlfriend takes the time to slap your soul back into your body. Metal, right?
Another difference I noticed is that Misako and Kyoko have completely different move sets. While I tend to control Misako in my solo playthrough, head-butting my way through waves of hoodlums, Kyoko will dab, I repeat DAB! Her enemies eyes out. Total opposites, yet completely unique fighting skills which adds flavour to the gameplay. This is a great way to make any gamer excited to replay the game a second time knowing that they'll experience a new way of fighting.
Good music to help drive the fighting spiritIf there was ever a soundtrack that keeps me going after a GAME OVER... It's this one. Megan McDuffee was the composer for this beat 'em up. An award-winning artist that specializes in orchestral and electronic music. She mainly focuses on horror, sci-if, cyberpunk and anything with a retro 80's vibe. Alongside the talents of NateWantsToBattle and Christina Vee, together they rocked it. Not only does it embody the 18-bit era, it throws in some mad guitar and vocal performances.
*Incoming message from Solaris*
"It took me a week and a half to get the soundtrack to stop repeating in my brain."
Fresh performances from familiar facesThe voice acting is also on par with the rest of this game, but what really surprises me is the fact that half the cast are famous YouTubers. Dan Avidan, Arin Hanson and Ross O'Donovan from Game Grumps, Nathan Sharp from NateWantsToBattle, Anna Brisbin (Brizzy Voices) and Sean McLoughlin (Jacksepticeye). It's a nice change to see our generation dipping their toes into something they've always loved. Whether it be music, acting or gaming.
A Visual DelightLet's talk about the looks of this game... *insert satisfying clap here* Not only does it give us a classic arcade style from the good old days, it throws in a few modern upgrades. The sprites movements are smooth and fluid, giving you no delay on the graphics. Boss' have their own animated cutscene anytime they are revealed and the avatar portraits at the top of the screen like to have a full on animated conversation out of their picture boxes, talking and pointing down at the screen below. They even went as far as simulating a manga for different parts of the story. Throwing you into a book with narration to follow the visual gag. It's these small little details that they thought of that stick out the most to me. Plus... The opening is a great song to head-bang, too.
*Incoming message from Saloris*
"This song won't get out of my brain!"
You've heard it from him...
ConclusionThere ain't much about this game that I don't like. Other than the fight button being the same as the location button (which is the one that allows you to jump from one area to the other). It can be really frustrating when I'm giving some punk a knuckle sandwich to the face and then suddenly finding myself back on Main Street because I was too close to the area divider. Overall, River City Girls was a great surprise from the visuals, to the soundtrack and engaging gameplay. I would highly recommend this game to any and all my friends so they can enjoy this pixelated masterpiece. I'm giving this game a score of 9.5 out of 10.
Action, Brawler, Beat 'Em Up
Single Player, Coop
Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, PC
Article by Natasha