Sometimes you just want to watch cute girls beat the crap out of everyone.
As I played River City Girls, it brought back memories of the Scott Pilgrim video game that came out back in 2010. I adore that game, but River City Girls from developer WayForward (Shantae) is a step-up. It offers more depth and character. It’s flashy, full of life, and injects some much needed variety into the beat-em up genre.
Oh, and it has great music too.
River City Girls takes place in the same world as the classic River City Ransom games. This time around though, the ladies are trying to save their boyfriends (series mainstays Kunio & Riki) after finding out they’ve been kidnapped. It’s refreshing to see a story that has always relied on the guys trying to save their girlfriends be completely flipped on its head. The whole city (literally everyone from school students to zombies) is trying to stop Kyoko and Misako, so you’re going to have to punch, kick, and dab your way to victory.
Much like its predecessors, River City Girls is a single or co-op game that is open and free for exploration. There are six “stages” such as the School or Downtown, but the entire city is interconnected. It’s pixelated, gorgeous, and vibrant. You can take the bus to travel to certain areas on the map quicker. There are hidden secrets to find, foods to eat, and items to equip to earn that coveted 100% completion. Each area flows seamlessly to the next, offering players the choice of returning to previous areas to earn some more experience to level up or to purchase healing items for a tough boss fight.
Each of the girls you’ll play as offers a different play-style depending on who you choose. Kyoko is fast with a flashier move set (I mentioned it before but I’ll mention it again, she has a dab attack. It’s amazing), where as Misako feels slower but hits like a freight train with her fists, heart-shaped purse, and even her head. As you level up, you gain access to new fighting moves to purchase at the Dojo to expand the variety of attacks you can perform. The animations all look fluid and every hit feels like there is momentum behind it as it connects. The only negative experience I had with the controls was activating the dash. You double tap in the direction you want to move, but sometimes it wouldn’t go off and I’d be at the mercy of my enemies, usually during a boss fight, causing me to die and having to restart. It was a minor nuisance, but it didn’t have an effect on my enjoyment with the game since if you do get that dreaded Game Over screen, you can continue immediately from the previous area you had entered.
A new feature added is you can recruit enemies to aid you in battle, which is a nice change from just beating everyone you see to a pulp. When summoned, they will use one of their signature moves (Security Guards throw gas grenades) before leaving the area, and trying to find them all is encouraged. If your enemy is begging for mercy, why not give them a second chance?
Also, if you are playing in single-player and decide to switch to a different girl to play as, the money and items you have earned on one of the characters will carry over to the other. It keeps a tally of what you’ve earned overall (even if you’ve spent it) and this allows you to catch up on purchasing all the abilities you haven’t earned for that character and you can jump right back into the thick of things. This sense of progression really helps bring everything together.
In between combat you’re treated to some very well made cut-scenes, some designed to look like they’ve come straight from a manga. The dialogue isn’t anything spectacular, but it is pretty funny and self-aware, poking fun at itself from time to time. Kyoko often wonders why everyone in the city fights with each other, but then continues to fight everyone in the city. NPC’s you meet are fully voice acted and will usually want your help in exchange for their services. They all have their different quirks and even the bosses (from a loner who will never forget his first love to a fashion designer that models herself after a spider) aren’t just one-dimensional, with their own personalities and intricate fight patterns for you to overcome.
The music is another highlight. It’s catchy synth pop and features talent such as Megan McDuffee, NateWantsToBattle & Chipzel. It fits perfectly with the tone of the game and is a soundtrack I could see myself listening to when I’m not playing. The sound quality overall is extremely well done, whether it’s a bone crunching punch or the beeps and boops of being in an arcade, it all really brings this cute and violent world to life.
River City Girls offers something new and refreshing for players to try out. It expands on the concepts that make River City Ransom such a cult classic after all these years, while paving its own path with its new leading ladies. – NVJ
River City Girls is now available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One & PC
A physical version for PS4 & Nintendo Switch is available for pre-order until September 27th, 2019
PS4 review code provided by WayForward PR