Outside of rail shooters, I’d say beat ‘em ups are the most fun games to play locally. They’re simple, easy to learn, involve a good amount of teamwork and they can be a lot of fun. Despite the genre dying off, there are still some great games to release under this genre. Be it Castle Crashers or the recent Double Dragon, it’s still alive for those willing to seek them out. And, in an interesting twist, the long standing River City Ransom series is getting a spinoff following the girls called River City Girls. With new characters, stunning pixel art and a lot of fun, is it a must or is it a bit much for this genre? Here’s our River City Girls review
Much to the series credit, River City Girls follows Kyoko and Misako on their quest to rescue their boyfriends Kunio and Riki. The delightful thing isn’t just that it puts two of the series most notable characters in a situation where they need to be saved, it shows a sense of openness to changes in gender norms. And, beyond simply going there, it’s more than happy to show differences based off gender.
Interactions, the characters you meet and more differ a bit from the mainstays. This allows the characters to feel unique, instead of simply playing female River City Ransom or something equally lazy. It also has a fair amount to say, though it really comes down to being a fun adventure for the sake of it.
From the amusing manga page cutscenes to widely exaggerated character expressions, it’s an adventure that stands out in a number of ways. Just seeing some of the looks or comments, gives River City Girls a nice breath of fresh air.
Between missions and character interactions, is a fairly interesting brawler. Leveling unlocks more skills and it makes it a little easier to ward off attacks. You can also occasionally recruit characters, each of which has their own name, backstory, stats and look. There are also a wide array of items you can interact with, weapons to use, locations to explore and oh so much more. The only real downside is, there is too many things controlled by the same buttons.
When one button is your main attack, pick up and enter, there are going to be times when you do the wrong thing. There were a couple times I would transition or grab something, both of which have their own punishments for doing so, when all I wanted to do was attack. The AI is also a bit smarter than you’d think.
Instead of grouping up and waiting for an opening, often times it will notice you’re fighting someone and will attempt to sneak behind you. If you’re not careful, this can be a devastating error, one that will cost you plenty of health. But, thankfully, River City Girls also rewards smart players.
Attacking with a specific combo or using certain moves can change the slow of battle. I like the strong punch because it pushes enemies back and stomping someone on the ground is a great way to get a few hits in. With enough luck you can actually combo, stomp and then finish off a stunned foe before they even realize they lost to a girl.
This means the ideal way to play is with a partner, which is a real shame, considering River City Girls currently only has local play. This limits potential partners and accessibility, assuming you’re not the most skilled one on one fighter, though I wouldn’t say it’s hopeless either. Local co-op is increasingly rare and it wouldn’t be the first game to possibly get online in the future, not that it has been confirmed or will happen.
Regardless of the limits, the nice thing is there are some return and explore elements. You can’t see everything River City Girls in the order you see it. There are rooms and items that require a return visit and since the world is interconnected based off the flow of story, it gives players something to be excited for. Whether the new rooms are worth the effort is debatable but it’s nice that there is more to it than simply moving forward and fighting slightly different foes or a blue girl instead of a brown one.
River City Girls has a fair amount to offer, it just is a bit rough around the edges. I had enough fun to see the value and the sprites and overall look is certainly nice, it just has some negatives that hurt it. Between the lack of online and sometimes difficult gameplay situations, it might frustrate less skilled or more casual players. This can be overcame through grinding, items and gear, but that isn’t the most fun. So, if you’re looking for another Castle Crashers this isn’t it but it is a good beat ‘em up if you’re a fan of the genre.