River City Girls
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This article may reveal major plot points, especially considering the game had either been released recently or not in specific countries yet.
River City Girls is a beat 'em up video game and a spin-off installment of the Kunio-Kun franchise developed by WayForward and published by Arc System Works on September 5, 2019, and on October 20, 2020 for the Amazon Luna gaming service. This game is the first colaboration between Arc System Works and WayForward, and the second time that WayForward works on an intellectual property that previously belonged to Technōs Japan Corp, being Double Dragon Neon their previous work.
Misako is in detention at River City High, accompanied by her best friend Kyoko. She receives an alarming message on her phone: a picture of Kunio and Riki, the heroes of River City High and their boyfriends, seemingly being kidnapped. Kyoko and Misako decide to spring into action to rescue their boyfriends. The pair rampages across the city, attacking any suspicious person they find while attempting to find answers.
River City Girls is a beat 'em up brawler where you can choose between Kyoko or Misako, they have very similar gameplay, but each one has its unique movements and animations. The player progresses through six areas in a linear manner, but in a similar way to River City Ransom, the player is free to return to previous areas to buy items, grind money, make missions, or break Sabu statues. The player can buy certain health or clothing items in many stores and learn new fighting movements that can be executed later in the game. There are six bosses in the game, one per area; to advance to the next area, the player must defeat the boss of the current area.
Why It Rocks
- You can play as the girlfriends of the Kunio-Kun protagonists: Kyoko (Riki's girlfriend), a friendly and cheerful girl with good intentions, and Misako (Kunio's girlfriend), a hot-blooded and impulsive girl that often gets into a lot of troubles. Both of these characters have great designs and unique personalities that you will surely enjoy the more you play. You can even unlock Kunio and Riki if you finish the main story of the game.
- Unlike the other games of the saga that use an 8-16 bit style for the graphics and sprites, here a new art style is introduced, presenting high-quality pixel-art style graphics and sprites that can resemble some old arcade beat 'em up games, and not only that, the cutscenes and the character sprites use an anime/manga style that is pleasing for the sight.
- As usual for Kunio-Kun games, it features a wide-open world map, meaning that you can visit earlier stages once you've beaten them. Also, you can save some time traveling by using the bus stations, and of course, using them is completely free.
- There are many stores that sell many useful items, most of them consist of food and medical items that can increase your health or stamina, but there are also some clothing stores that sell many useful clothing items and dojos where you can unlock new special attacks. It's worth mentioning that each time you consume an item for the first time, some of your stats will increase permanently, like your strength or luck.
- As stated before, the game has a leveling system where you can level up your character to get stronger, but there are also many different stats that can be upgraded by leveling up or consuming certain items:
- Stamina (ST): Which determines your total amount of health.
- Attack (AT): The amount of damage of your regular and special attacks.
- Weapons (WP): The amount of damage of your attacks with a weapon.
- Special (SP): Your bar that determines the energy available for the special attacks.
- Agility (AG): The walking and running speed of your character.
- Luck (LK): How often the food drops are.
- An inventory system where you can hold a certain limit of items is present, and there two kinds of inventories: one for the health/stamina items and one for the clothing items.
- The gameplay and the controls are pretty easy to understand and get used to. You have three buttons used for the attacks: one for the light attack, one for the heavy attack, and one for a special attack (in combination with some joystick movement), and not only that, you can block and call one of your allies to give you a hand. You can also perform certain moves with some button combination, like a normal fighting game, these movements are pretty powerful, but depending on their power, they can consume more or less from your stamina bar.
- If you're low on health or want to make things easier, you can pick up certain weapons like bats, chains, shovels, a magic wand, or even a giant fish to beat the enemies quickly, however, these weapons will break after some time using them, although you can buy an upgrade to make them unbreakable, and this upgrade is not too expensive, costing only 150 for each upgrade.
- A funny non-serious story where the protagonists have to rescue her kidnapped boyfriends and interrogate any possible suspects. The story also involves a lot of funny situations and missions that are not related to the plot at all but are useful to gain some extra money and experience or get through a zone, like the missions from Godai (The guy that appears suddenly from trash containers).
- When you finish the game, you can still make some extra tasks, like the secondary missions from Godai, destroying sabu statues, buying all of the available items of the game (Which counts for the 100%) and using Kunio and Riki to complete the game with them (Which will unlock an achievement).
- A great and memorable soundtrack composed by Megan McDuffee that does a great job at creating intense pacing between the many different zones from the game, reminiscent of SNES era games with some modern instruments and vocal tracks thrown in.
- The voice acting is pretty well done and it perfectly caught the emotions of all the characters, especially from Misako and Kyoko, who is voiced by Kayli Mills and Kira Buckland respectively.
- In order to compensate the criticisms of the ending of the original game, the developer studio, WayForward, decided to add a new ending completely free in January 2020. In this ending, apart from beating the rivals of the main characters: Hasebe and Mami, Kunio and Riki behave much better with Misako and Kyoko, recognizing them as their girlfriends and even inviting them to eat at a hamburger restaurant. However, the original ending is still in the game, though it can be qualified as a "bad ending", as you need to make some tasks in order to get the new ending, which can be considered the "good" and the real ending of the game.
- For starters, the game can be incredibly unfair because it has a massive difficulty spike right at the beginning of the game. Since your character has weak stats and you can't make a lot of moves to defend yourself from the enemies, it's almost sure that you will die a lot of times in your first levels.
- When you die, all of your allies will disappear and you will lose a great portion of your money, to make things worse, the loss of money increases the more money you have, something that can be extremely annoying and frustrating if you have more than 500 coins, mostly because farming coins can take a lot of time if you're not making missions or have the coin purse.
- One of the main features of the Kunio-Kun games mechanics: the grab, is not present here, instead, you can only grab your enemies after unlocking the required movement and when they are down or stunned, is not too bad, but it surely limits the creativity of the player when making combos.
- Unfortunately, the main story of the game is not too long. If you just focus on completing the plot-related missions, you can complete the game in less than 6 hours. As stated before, you can still extend your overall game session by making secondary missions and getting collectibles, but there isn't a lot to offer in comparision to other games.
- Spoiler Warning: While the game plot is still enjoyable despite not being the strongest pillar of the game, it has one of the worst endings of all time for a video game. After beating Sabuko (The final boss), Misako and Kyoko decide to throw her out of her edifice, but they also fall from it and land into a nearby building. After recovering from the fall, both of the protagonists realize that Kunio and Riki weren't kidnapped, but all the time they were relaxing at a spa together, this might be funny at first, but the problem is that both Kunio and Riki behave like complete douchebags with them, calling them "crazy girls", not recognizing them as their girlfriends and even saying that they want to see Hasebe and Mami (The rivals of the protagonists) in front of them instead of showing some kind of gratitude, both Misako and Kyoko decide to punch them and throw them away and suddenly the game ends. The ending was so bad and criticized that the developer studio had to make a new ending as part of an update four months after the game was released, this ending was much better and it can be obtained after completing certain tasks, but the damage was already done.
- The additional special moves that you can learn in the dojo are too expensive, most of them costing between 150 and 400 coins.
- Some special attacks don't seem to respond well at all, like the powerbomb.
- While the PC port is pretty decent in gameplay and fidelity to the base game, the mapping for the controls in keyboard is not the best one you can play with, and to make things worse, you can't even change them in the options menu, so, the only option available to make it more playable is to use a gamepad.
River City Girls received generally favorable critics from the reviewers and it currently has an average score of 79 for the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4 versions on Metacritic , while the Xbox One version has a score of 80.
Nomura Hikaru from IGN Japan rated the game with an 8.0 out of 10, praising the RPG elements that the game has within its mechanics, the visual style and the quality of the pixel art sprites, the senseful dialogues and the animated cutscenes, but critizising how frustrating can the game be with its forced battles, the disappointing final boss battle and the weak plot. In short words: "The new city, a fusion of downtown and River City, warmly welcomes ancient fans. And for new players, it's pop, cute, and cool, and it's a daily slapstick brawl. However, the foreshadowing of the story is weak and lacks catharsis, and it is not an epilogue that is worth the trouble for gamers who have no experience in the genre."
Sebastian Quiroz from the mexican magazine Atomix gave the game a 90 out of 10, describing the appealing visual style of the general game, the energizing chiptune tunes used for the soundtrack, the great quality of the voice acting and the satisfactory gameplay, in his final verdict, he said the following: "River City Girls is one of the most beautiful beat'em up in recent years, and one of the best experiences of the genre, achieves an evolution within the Kunio-kun series, although it can be repetitive, it is an experience that any fan of the genre can not miss. Also, one of the Kyoko's moves is a dab, so, it's automatically the best beat'em up in the history."
- Metacritic's page of the Nintendo Switch version: https://www.metacritic.com/game/switch/river-city-girls
- Metacritic's page of the PlayStation 4 version: https://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-4/river-city-girls
- Metacritic's page of the Xbox One version: https://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-one/river-city-girls
- IGN's review about the game: https://jp.ign.com/river-city-girls/38406/review/river-city-girls