Game: River City Girls 2
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), Xbox and PS4)
Developers|Publishers: WayForward| ArcSystemWorks
Price: US $39.99| UK £26.99| EU € 29,99
Age Rating: EU 16| USA E 10+
Release Date: December 15th, 2022.
Thanks to WayForward for the review code WayForward.
That’s Right; They’re Back Again
Those fun-loving River City Girls return for round two courtesy of developer Wayforward. Famous for several retro-inspired classics, such as the Shantae series. You could not ask for a better developer for this series since it kinda acts as a spiritual successor to the famous River City and Double Dragon series. My wife and I played the original game last year on Xbox.
While not the best brawler I’ve played, we were kept hooked thanks to its sense of humour and incredible soundtrack. River City Girls 2 is more of the same, which won’t be a problem for the game’s fanbase, but if you weren’t sold the first time, this one probably won’t change your mind.
The game takes place straight after the events of the first game. After defeating the final boss, a new bigger badder Yakuza boss gets mad and literally breaks out of prison by punching a hole in his jail cell. As the new boss of the city, Yakuza are now running amok. Soon the heroes from the first game Misako and Kunio, are expelled from school by being thrown out the window. This leads to them having a two-month video game bender, which causes them to conveniently lose all their fighting skills and experience from the first game.
Once again, starting from scratch is up to the girls and their pals to take down the Yakuza and save the city one beat down at a time. It’s a silly story made all the more enjoyable thanks to the hilarious banter between the two lead characters, Misako and Kunio, who is once again brought to life with some fantastic voice work. Much like the first game, these gals constantly exchange humorous dialogue that pokes fun at the premise and even the missions they are forced to go on to progress the game’s plot. There was never a session playing this game where I wasn’t sniggering about something these girls or the weird and wonderful NPCs said. Cutscenes will occasionally play with a black-and-white comic design giving that manga feels to the experience.
In The City
If you’re new to the series, the general goal of the game is to hunt down various boss characters before taking on the big bad. You can play the game alone or with up to four players locally or two online. Like the first game, you can fully explore the city, which is segmented into small sections. Each area you enter usually has random goons that appear to beat you up. You can engage with them to gain experience and some money to spend in shops. Although, you can choose to run past them.
Of course, some encounters and boss fights will lock you in. You can follow the main mission, which is helpfully highlighted on a map, or you can explore the city, taking on side quests and finding secrets. You won’t always be brawling. Sometimes the gameplay will mix things up with the odd mini-game, which makes for a nice break from the formula.
If you get knocked out, you can start from the last nearby checkpoint or head back to base to re-tool. Here you can tweak the difficulty from three settings, change your character (four to start and two unlocked), each of which has their own move sets and witty personality and equip health items you’ve collected. You can even grab a goon you’ve recruited in the field to act as a quick attack, which can really help you out in a pinch. If you are knocked down in co-op, your partner can beat your floating spirit back into your body, but this is often a tricky affair when enemies or boss fights are coming down hard on you.
Clench Your Fists
The focus of the gameplay is brawling. When you begin the game, you are underpowered and pretty weak, but you will naturally acquire experience and level up as you defeat enemies. Your stats, such as strength and health, will increase when this happens. New moves will also unlock, which are handily displayed at the bottom left of the screen. New moves can also be purchased at the local dojo run by a familiar Double Dragon protagonist, and soon you will have many moves to take on the bad guys.
If you need a reminder, you can head into the options menu for a refresh. Stats can also be increased by eating food items for the first time purchased from various vendors around town. I liked that the game tells you what stat will increase, so you know what’s worth scoffing down. Combat starts off pretty sluggish and clunky, but as you level up, it becomes much smoother and more enjoyable, which is handy as you spend a lot of time beating people up. There are a huge diversity of enemies, many with weird and wonderful outfits like wrestlers with tails to punk rockers. And, of course, enemies return from the first game, like the excitable cheerleader and goons with huge hair.
Boss fights are once again epic encounters with multiple layers to them, requiring some pattern monitoring and waiting for your moment to strike. The finishing blow with the giant K.O. is still incredibly satisfying. My only niggle, which was present in the first game, is I still could not get blocking or parrying down. I feel like you need to pre-empt when the characters are going to attack to use it effectively. It can’t be instantly engaged while doing a combo which feels unnatural. It just didn’t click with me, so I mostly stuck with dodging or just taking the hit and hoping my wife would save me if I got knocked down.
The graphics, once again, are highly detailed sprites with smooth animations. While River City doesn’t look like the sort of place I would like to live in due to all the random people trying to beat me up in the game. I was impressed by how alive the world felt. You’ll encounter details in the environment, like smoke coming from sewers to litter on benches which can be knocked over and cause a pixelated spill. Areas are also filled with several NPCs, which will react if you try to punch them.
Many environments return from the first game, which is quite noticeable at the start. You will discover new areas not featured in the first game as you progress. The soundtrack is sublime. Once again, bringing in the talents of Megan Duffee, who provides some excellent scores and vocal performances. Some familiar but some new. The opening track of this game is highly addictive and has taken up regular residence in my brain for the foreseeable future. It’s also hilarious, but I’ll let you discover it yourself.
The performance of the game is pretty good on TV and handheld. I only played this in single and two-player locally, so I can’t comment on the online performance. It is worth pointing out that the game features cross-play, which is handy if your online buddy doesn’t have the same system as you. One of the most noticeable issues was the loading times. The game boots up with a pretty long one; every time you enter a new area, you are greeted with another load screen. I sure love the animation of the girls punching each other in the face during the load screen but it does get pretty old quickly, especially when you are moving between areas fast.
Conclusion – Familiar and Hilarious
River City Girls 2 is a fun and hilarious brawler that I enjoyed in both single-player and local co-op. However, it is more of the same and doesn’t feel like much has been really added to make it a stand-out sequel. The game still has an excellent mix of humour, vibrant graphics and fantastic music. If you loved the first game, then this makes for an easy recommendation. If you’re new to the series or just love brawlers, I would probably say this is slightly better than the first title, although you may be a little lost by the plot at the start of the experience. This game probably had me smiling more than the vast majority of titles I played this year, and that alone makes it a solid recommendation from me.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot
Def be checking this game out