Providing a massive update to a long-running franchise can be a risky endeavor. However, with the right team behind it, you can find massive success – just as WayForward has done with River City Girls.
Initially released in 2019 as part of the Kunio-kun (or River City Ransom) franchise, River City Girls provides a personable take on the series. You get to know its two main heroines (Misako and Kyoko) pretty well while they scour the city to rescue their boyfriends from a rival gang. However, it’s all about the journey here, which is still as fun as it’s ever been.
Now, as we prepare for the sequel and the prequel this year, River City Girls has seen a re-release on PlayStation 5. Is it the definitive version of the game out there? Pretty damn close, actually. There are nothing leaps and bounds over other versions that are on the shelves, but if you don’t have it yet, you can’t go wrong here.
Brawling With a Purpose
What’s great about River City Girls is how its combat system evolves. As you begin with your character, you only have a handful of moves. These include both defensive (a dodging technique) and going on the offense (a fairly decent combo).
Like Kunio-Kun games before it, though, this is all about progression. While continuing through River City Girls, you’ll unlock new moves to incorporate into combat. These include a sick dive technique to knock enemies out of the way; a fun combo system that includes the “ultimate dab”; and, most importantly, the ability to smash someone while they’re on the ground. (That, or you can pick them up and throw them like a rag doll into others.)
What’s more, you can recruit others. Bring someone to their knees and they’ll beg for mercy. It’s here you can either finish them off (you monster) or add them to your team, calling them in for a special attack. It’s a bit limited but still cool. When’s the last time you got an angry cheerleader to hit foes at your beck and call?
The combat system helps keep River City Girls from going stale. Obviously, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. The more you unlock, the more of a badass you become. You can always refuel your health with a quick stop at a restaurant, though. Never forget how important that is.
River City Girls just feels right, a natural evolution of the series dialed to 11 by WayForward. I can’t wait to see what the sequels bring.
A Refreshing Presentation
You may recall past Kunio-Kun games with shrunken-down mobsters and dudes saying, “BARRRRRF!” when they’re defeated. (Not just me, right?) However, River City Girls turns that on its head with a vibrant, beautiful presentation.
The visuals pop off the screen elegantly. The animations are both cute and practical for a game such as this; and the background settings, ranging from neighborhoods to a frickin’ mall, are excellent. They do require a bit of backtracking, which can test your patience a little bit. Get through it, though, and you’ll be treated to some fun stuff later on. Especially the wildly entertaining boss battles. They’re the best in the series.
What’s more, the game looks sharp on PS5. We didn’t see any glitches to speak of, and it moves pretty nicely. Of course, this is the PS5 we’re talking about, so processing power isn’t exactly an issue.
If you think the visuals are really something, imagine the surprise you’ll get from the audio. Along with inspired voice acting (the girls are great, and their adversaries equally so), the game’s soundtrack pops to life. Christina Vee and company once again produce some energetic 80s style music (ala Double Dragon Neon) that’s truly addictive. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming a song or two after you finish playing.
It’s Time To Head To River City!
Despite its small flaws – backtracking, having to work for your combos – River City Girls is a masterful achievement. It’s a brawler with a fun story and, more importantly, purpose. You and a friend will have a field day running through this thing, beating up everyone, and continuing on your journey.
The visuals and music are amongst WayForward’s best; the controls are excellent, and the game has lasting value. At the very least, you should enjoy it until River City Girls Zero and, eventually, River City Girls 2 arrive. That’s a lot of Girls’ adventures to love. So why not start off on the right foot with this polished – and highly enjoyable – venture?
VIBE Rating: 9/10
Looking for more games on this level? Check out our review of Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2!