As we look forward to the next-generation of consoles, it has become increasingly rare to find genres like the classic beat-em-up making an appearance on modern hardware. More of a product of the 80s and 90s, side-scrolling brawlers such as Streets of Rage, Double Dragon and Golden Axe are probably walking into the sunset.
However, WayForward Games and Arc System Works have given us a modern gem with classic trappings in River City Girls, bringing the unique brand of storytelling of the Kunio-kun/River City series together with brawling that is up there with the heavyweights, and looking damn fine while dishing out the pain.
River City Girls flips the table on the franchise, giving us besties Misako and Kyoko as the primary protagonists instead of the usual male leads. Notified of the disappearance of their boyfriends, Kunio and Riki, through a nefarious text, the girls waste no time in busting out of school and beating the living crap out of every obstacle in true River City fashion.
It was evident from the start that River City Girls knows its humour, and it shows throughout the entire duration of the game. Every character you meet is entertaining to look at and hear, every discovery a genuine surprise, and longtime fans would be glad to see some familiar faces make an appearance here. There is plenty going on here than one would expect from a side-scrolling brawler.
Going from screen to screen, players (solo or co-op) will have to contend with a variety of fearsome foes, ranging from school children to Terminator-like cyborgs. Each brings their own patterns of attack, and can be a real handful in large groups.
This is especially clear in all of the boss fights, a definitive highlight of River City Girls with memorable villains that are full of wonderful dialogue and even more impressive combat mechanics to overcome.
It is a classic formula given a fresh makeover, with an ever-expanding map full of secrets and sidequests to find amongst the city’s six zones. The semi open-world nature of River City Girls may be gated by boss fights, but you will be free to explore once the pesky enemies are taken care of.
And exploration is a must if you wish to enjoy the pristine combat that awaits in River City Girls. It is simple enough to pick up the controller and mash the attack button at the start, but the game slowly reveals its immense depth with combos, special moves, juggles, aerial attacks, and more.
Going from a basic four-hit combo to chaining into powerful juggles and finishers is utterly satisfying, and every move seems to belong perfectly in this world. There is even a cool Recruit system that allows Misako and Kyoko to bring enemies into the fold, acting as assist attacks when called upon.
River City Girls possesses a masterful system that respects the player who put the time in to learn, but never alienates the beginner either.
Putting the work in is essentially how the game gets even better as an experience. Defeated foes drop both cash and XP, allowing the fighters to level up and get better stats. The money is handy for purchasing supplies, new gear which can augment your abilities, and new moves to improve your arsenal.
If that is not enough, there is even a New Game+ option for players to jump right back in for more brawling, along with a tougher challenge, secret characters, and more to enjoy. For players who want to 100% everything, River City Girls is a perfect tonic for the completionists looking for value-packed time.
Of course, it can be a grind for the unprepared, but the entire journey from start to finish will no doubt be a peach of a time, aided by the stunning visuals and phenomenal sound of River City Girls.
Every location and character you will come across are brought to life in exquisitely detailed pixel art, the voice acting superb, and the manga-like cutscenes are striking, to say the least. Both Misako and Kyoko are wonderfully realised characters, each with a distinct personality that jumps off the screen right from the start, and having them around for the entire game not only meant more awesome fighting, but also the continual laughs.
There is life teeming everywhere in River City Girls, and it is an immense pleasure to be able to take it all in while exploring and fighting.
Not to mention the perfect soundtrack done by the likes of Chipzel and several songs sang performed with full vocals by Megan McDuffee as Noize, the de facto musical genius of River City Girls. The visual and audio fidelity of this game is up there among the best of 2019.
Suffice to say, River City Girls is everything a brawler should be. Amazing combat blended with charming characters, a joy to behold and listen to, and a wacky plot that is fun but ultimately fails to stick its landing. It is proof that a classic genre like this has a place in the modern gaming landscape, and we are all better for it to have Misako and Kyoko patrolling the streets.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Side-scrolling brawling at its best, there is so much to love about River City Girls and little to hate, if this is the second coming of the beat-em-up, we are ready for more.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help.