When you read the title ‘River City Girls’, it’s unlikely to envoke any memories from your childhood for most people. Despite this, the River City games (also known as Kunio-kun) have actually been around since the late 1980’s and has quite cult the following. River City Girls is a spin-off of this franchise, developed by the fantastic team at Wayforward, the team responsible for the brilliant Shantae games and the Mighty Switch Force series.
River City Girls is a beat-‘em-up games where you play as one of two heroes – Kyoko or Misako, two rather hot-headed school girls. What’s their problem exactly? Their boyfriends have been kidnapped and they are mad as hell about it. It’s up to them to save their boyfriends and if that means punching, kicking, headbutting and creating all round carnage across River City then so be it.
Upon my first play-through of River City Girls, my initial reaction was how brilliantly Wayforward were able to capture the 90’s arcade vibe of the old school beat-’em-up titles. One of my favourite games growing up was Streets of Rage and River City Girls is very much in the similar vein with a 2019 twist. This is Streets of Rage meets the streets of Harajuku – and I love it.
You begin the game in school where you must roam the corridors beating up your classmates in order to escape and begin the search for your boyfriend. It’s a great way to introduce you to the controls which are relatively simple. You initially begin with a quick attack, a strong attack, a single jumping attack and a single running attack. It’s the building blocks of these style of games and they work well. The key to a game like this not getting old fast however, is ensuring they you can unlock new skills and level up. And that’s exactly what you do in River City Girls and thankfully you begin levelling up quite quickly. Before I’d even reached the first boss, I’d already levelled up a considerable amount. It’s not just about levelling up however, it’s also about creating a fighting style that works for you and adapting it to the enemies you face.
Along with learning new moves, you do have some other things in your arsenal – some items can picked up and used as weapons. It’s a real delight to pick up a bench and just whack someone over the head with it. You can pick up bins, baseball bats and even a yoyo and use them in battle. It’s a lot of fun.
While the combat is obviously the main reason for wanting to pick up this game, a lot of the game is also about exploring River City. Each area has a number of exits which you can explore, with some require unlocking which means a little bit of going back and forth at times but I liked exploring each area, seeing where I could go, entering shops and more. The retreading of areas can be a little tedious but thankfully you can catch the bus and avoid having to do this too often.
Visually, River City Girls is gorgeous. Each area is full of detail, packed with bright colours and a really fun 90’s anime style. It’s clear that Wayforward have put a lot of effort into making this game look great while staying true to that 90’s 2D beat-’em-up graphic style that we know and love. The soundtrack is also great and really reminds me of the arcade classics. Add in the brilliant cut scenes, comic book strips and it’s clear that Wayforward have developed River City Girls with so much love.
- Stays true to the beat-’em-up genre
- Visually great
- Feels like a classic 90’s game
- Some may find it a little reptitive
Verdict: This is going to be a classic soup that people will pick up and play for a long time to come. Great job Wayforward.