The indie developers are an amazing bunch of people. Thanks to the smaller teams that dedicate their time and passion to make their dreams come true we have seen some amazing projects come to life. We also saw resurgences of genres long forgotten by AAA developers, like the beat’em-up genre for example. Wayforward is one of those developers that want to give couch gamers an amazing time and with River City Girls it seems that they succeeded!
If you played River City Ransom, then you might understand where this is going. Because in River City Girls we live the other side of the story. This time it is the girls, Kyoko and Misako, who “roll up” to face the street thugs of the yakuza and rescue their boyfriends. And how! The collaboration of Arc System Works and Wayforward (which has demonstrated its mastery of 2D games with Ducktales Remastered, The Mummy or the Shantae saga) works like a charm, in this “beat’em up” that pays tribute to one of the genres that dominated consoles and recreation rooms in the late 80s and early 90s.
It is a perfect “revival”. River City Girls retains the just nostalgic elements (electronic music, pixelart graphics, stage selection …) and adds a lot of new aspects, which give depth to this high voltage development. Everything, wrapped with a very careful sense of humor and lots of winks that will thank the most hardcore players.
Kyoko and Misako are truly adorable characters, because in essence they are still just kids going to school like normal, but oh boy can they chance in the blink of an eye to furious fighters. We can choose either of them – with some different skills – or take them both in an essential local cooperative multiplayer (with “friendly fire” that can be activated or deactivated according to our preferences). And what awaits us ahead are 6 levels full of enemies and secrets.
The places that a brawler has up his sleeve should be quite varied, and for River City Girls it is! There is the institute, the shopping center, an area under construction, the subway, the geek neighborhood (with its recreational rooms and merchandise stores), the beach and, inevitably, the huge building of the yakuza. But this time, we will not find a linear playthrough (which was the custom in the classics), but a series of locations connected to each other in different ways, with alternative paths and secret areas.
To advance through these scenarios we will have to complete a series of missions such as performing a ritual with a golden cat or discovering the answers to win VIP tickets for a concert. That will force us to travel back and forth, either on foot or using the bus (cus hey, you don’t have a driver’s license), and discover new areas. And in the meantime, we can enjoy a good story, narrated with anime and manga style sequences.
There are other aspects that add depth to the fighting, such as the ability to equip items that give us advantages, spend money in stores to get healing items, and level up with the experience we get for each enemy defeated. And of course, we also find collectibles, such as the 25 statues of the director that must be destroyed to get special bonuses.
You can also invest the money earned in different dojos spread across the stage. At first, the combat system may be too simple (a button for strong attack, another for fast attack and jump), but little by little we will discover all its wealth, as we unlock new combos and master the defense technique in the right moment. As in any “beat’em up” worth its salt, we can also use weapons that we find on the stage, which break after use.
Ending the “normal” enemies is not going to be too difficult for you – you can easily compare them to the thugs of Double Dragon and River City Ransom – but the final bosses are something else. Each of the “bosses final” that guards the levels has a unique strategy, which you will have to memorize in order to succeed, and each with their own special mechanics. Sometimes the screen loses depth and we have to fight with them in a strictly 2D arena, or even perform musical attacks, in which we have to dodge some notes like those of Guitar Hero, which appear to the rhythm of the music. All these playable aspects push us to play River City Girls until our thumbs hurt (and this is based on actual facts). And they are perfectly integrated with a surprising technical section.
As we have told you, the technical part of River City Girls is a tribute in itself. The designs are pixelperfect, they are animated superbly, and are very colorful and expressive. The design of the scenarios takes a lot of credit for the details, such as our visit to the prison ball field or the cars that we can smash.
The soundtrack deserves special mention. On the one hand we can enjoy “generic” electronic themes that set the levels perfectly, but at certain points of the game, the battle gains epic tunes when we listen to the vocal themes played by Megan McDuffee, NateWantsToBattle or Chipzel, which also have are set perfectly for the timing of the battle. There are even sound effects taken from the 8-bit games and “remastered” for the occasion.
Wayforward and Arc System Works have managed to perfectly balance the nostalgic appearance with more modern playable elements. River City Girls is a “monument” to a genre where it seemed difficult to innovate and has the perfect proportion of humor, depth and secrets to keep us hooked (especially if we play in the local multiplayer mode).
River City Girls is the perfect beat’em-up for both old and new fans of the genre. Offering great times in both singeplayer and co-op.