Game: River City Girls
System: Nintendo Switch (also Steam/PS4/Xbox One)
Developers|Publishers: WayForward| ArcSystemWorks
Price: US$ 29.99| £ 26.99|€ 29,99| AU$ 45.00
Age Rating: EU12+|USA 10+
Release Date: 5th September 2019.
Thanks to WayForward for the review code
River City Girls is a beat-em-up game developed by WayFoward and is published by ArcSystemWorks. This game is based on the settings and characters of the long running Kunio-Kun series, which has had a few games released in English. Most noticeably, River City Ransom and River City Dodgeball. This time WayFoward developed the game, with a brand new art style. It releases on the 5th of September on all major platforms.
Damsels In Distress
The usual protagonists of the series Kunio, and Riki have been kidnapped. It is up to their girlfriends Misako and Kyoko to save them. The first order of business being to bust out of detention and find out who took them.
You start off with light and heavy attacks, but as you level up you gain more abilities. Such as aerial attacks and ground stomping. Most of these must be paid for at the Dojo to use. Eventually you will unlock abilities that use your green agility bar. Dazed enemies can be grabbed either to beat or throw. You can also block or parry, which will stun but not daze them. Sidestepping is also possible.
A new feature, in this game is the ability to recruit enemies. If they’re the last one left they may beg for mercy. If you take them, they are then equipped, however you lose them if you die. Each different enemy type has a particular attack, such as the school boy’s sand attack.
Let’s Go To The Mall
Like previous games you can pick up items and use them. With the light attack, or throwing them with the heavy attack. It is important to be careful when throwing as you can hit your partner, or even yourself if it bounces off a wall/enemy. There are many different ones such as yo-yos, park benches or shovels. They do have a limited durability. About halfway through the game you can get accessories to increase their durability. One store has books which can increase your weapon power, the durability of particular weapon types. Vending machines, and rectangular crates can be beat up and occasionally have some food in them.
The Dojo is not the only place you can spend money. There are many, many stores in River City. Some sell food (and in-edibles) that can replenish your Stamina (health), while others sell accessories. You can equip two accessories at once for different buffs such as extra damage to females or recovering stamina. Some accessories are unlocked through story progression. You won’t know what an item does until you use it, which you can either do in store or save for later. Yes, you can pause and eat during a boss fight. Unless you are saving for a particular move it is generally a good idea to spend money, as you lose a lot whenever you die.
There are six different districts in River City. You will find high school students throughout it all, but new enemies show up as you progress. These all have different stores and the opportunity for more quests. Godai’s quests aren’t always necessary to progress the game however they give you a fair chunk of money, experience and sometimes accessories. There are also twenty five statues you can beat up around town.
Beating Them Up Together
River City Girls has local co-op for two players. This is drop in and drop out. However, both girls have different levels and their own money and inventory. Therefore if you plan on playing it co-op it is better to start from the start together. Or else you might have to grind a character individually.
One benefit of playing together is the ability to revive each other, by ground stomping their ghost back into their body. Of course there is a time limit to this, but if you fail they can be revived by getting to the next room. They will still suffer a money loss, however it does make boss fights a bit easier. If you aren’t revived before a boss fight finishes you will still get the extra experience and money as long as your friend beats it. If you get a game over (so you both die, or die in single player) it merely resets you to the previous room.
So unless you’re playing on Hard with friendly fire on it’s not a very tough game. I have to also mention that having the option to turn off friendly fire is great, but you can still hurt each other with thrown items.
Pixel Perfect Presentation
The game is done in a modern pixel art style which looks really nice. There are plenty of nice animations from parrying by camera flash to walking with the yo-yo. The intro and boss introductions all have very nice animated cut scenes. Some story segments are presented in a comic style which also looks good. Conversations between NPCs will be presented in a Visual Novel style. All of these feature full voice acting. Which is pretty good and some characters are even voiced by popular YouTubers. Such as Godai being done by “Jacksepticeye” which my brother picked up on immediately. I found a lot of the dialogue to be quite funny which makes it more pleasant to go through the story.
The soundtrack is also quite nice. I know some people were worried about vocal tracks in a beat em up, however they are in specific areas. It’s not particularly repetitive. I’d describe it as slightly electro-pop for the most part. The bosses all are quite varied and have a few fun mechanics you can discover. Such as Yamada also being able to fall off the roof and take damage.
Not A Tech School
Not until later in the game will you unlock moves that actually use combos. Most are just simultaneous button presses or an upgrade to a regular attack. I do wish that the game explained a move’s controls before you bought them (it only shows how it looks) so I would know which ones are upgrades beforehand. Asides from that the simplification isn’t too bad. Other than I got punished for my accidental dabs, a lot. As it is tied to any movement while using my heavy.
Both people I played with were annoyed by the vertical layer. As there is usually a lot of up and down space. For certain moves you have to be on the same invisible line as an enemy to hit them. This does occur in beat-em-up games but becomes a bit more of an issue as you can jump on tables and such. So you might need to stomp a friend back, but they’re just on the table. It can also be a bit tricky to walk on the right spot to pick up food. This issue is also particularly noticeable in a certain boss fight. Parts of the environment can also obscure your vision. There are a smidgen of unwelcome platforming sections. Also when you get locked into an area sometimes the game pushes you into the section.
There were a couple of technical issues in the game. In the latter half I did see very occasional clipping but this wasn’t an issue game play wise. The game also crashed once, during a locked in segment no less.
There are two difficulties which you can switch between at any time. Unless you are new, or playing solo I think Hard might be better. The only difference I could see was that in Hard, enemies are a bit smarter from the start, and deal more damage.
The game takes about six to eight hours to beat depending on how good you are with the game and if you do side content straight away. Upon finishing the story you unlock two new playable characters (whoever could they be?). You have the option to loiter, so you can go around town and beat up any statues or quests you missed. There is also the option for new game + which will make the enemies more difficult. However, you retain your stats, items and moves you learned.
River City Girls is a gorgeous and fun game, great to play with a friend. Unfortunately there are a couple issues. Yet it is definitely a good game for people who are new to the beat-em-up genre.
I like it a lot! (Enough even to order a physical through Play-Asia, Limited Run also has copies for pre-order until the 27th of September)