A few weeks ago, we reviewed River City Girls for PlayStation 5, WayForward’s port of its hit brawling game. As expected, it continued to deliver in many ways, and set the stage for the sequel to come later this year. Little did we realize, however, that we would actually get a prequel as well – River City Girls Zero.
This isn’t an all new game like its predecessor. Instead, it’s actually a U.S. release of the long-lost Super Famicom (SNES) game Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-Tachi no Banka. Not only does it serve as the introduction to the heroines of the series – Misako and Kyoko – but it also provides an interesting narrative. This sets the stage for the action to come.
If you’re expecting the sophisticated combat that River City Girls produced, you might be slightly disappointed. This is a product from the 90s, after all. However, if it’s history you’re after and want a good old-fashioned 16-bit brawler, you’ll promptly enjoy.
A Different But Familiar Direction
Rather than the playful tone that River City Girls provided, Zero takes things much more seriously. A hit-and-run murder has taken place, with the characters ending up in jail as prime suspects. This might be a little misleading to some considering the game’s energetic, anime-style opening. Don’t be thrown off, though – there’s a lot of fun to come with this prequel.
This is because the game actually allows some switching off between the girls and their respective boyfriends as it goes on. Not only does it open up some fun dialogue between the foursome, but also introduces neat little fighting styles. This includes unleashing some devastating techniques, which can be unleashed by holding block and one of the attack buttons.
Again, it lacks sophistication. Most of the moves are of the general basic style, like Technos’ fellow beat-em-up Super Double Dragon. However, it channels back to those days almost flawlessly. Along with a story that keeps moving along, the combat is a real treat. What’s more, it’s supported for two-player local co-op, so a friend can join the fun.
There are also 3D biking stages thrown in for good measure. While they’re not technically impressive – they look like a racing game from the SNES era, to be sure – they provide a little relief. Also, they control pretty well, and it’s not every day you see a thug traveling from place to place Road Rash style. (Yes, you can knock a thug for a loop, River City style!
So if you can accept the simplicities of combat and a story that isn’t quite as ironed out as other games, you’ll find River City Girls Zero to be a suitable throwback. Literally. They throw people in some cases.
It’s a 16-Bit Design Through and Through
It would’ve been nice for WayForward to provide a few touch-ups to River City Girls Zero so it resembled its modern counterpart. Alas, I think it wanted to make a point here, providing a bit of fan service for the sake of the lore.
River City Girls Zero is a straight-up 16-bit port with no touch-ups and dialogue translated by WayForward. However, it still holds up. The old-school animations shine, the backdrops look like vintage River City Ransom, and the enemies spout great design. I also like parts of the dialogue, though, again, tone is all over the place in comparison to sillier games. Still, fans won’t want to miss this.
Throw in a classic 16-bit style soundtrack that fits the River City motif and fun sound effects, and you have the complete package. Again, River City Girls this ain’t, but accept the retro tone and you’re in for a good time.
Sadly, it does come to an end all too soon. The game is over after just a few hours, like any typical SNES affair. Still, it’s fun while it lasts, especially if you bring a friend along.
If You Accept Its Limitations, River City Girls Zero Hits the Spot
Once you accept the somewhat off-beat storytelling and limited combat, River City Girls Zero is a treat. The fighting moves that are here are excellent, especially if you’ve beating up toughs alongside a friend. The presentation is also incredibly loyal to the original game’s code, and the 3D bike stages are fun. It doesn’t move the series forward in a big way, but has enough to keep you busy until the second game comes along.
For good measure, I’d love to see more classic games get a treatment like this, just for the sake of preservation. Looking at you, Cooly Skunk.
VIBE Rating: 7.5/10
Looking for another blast from the past with that 90s touch? Check out our review of Gynoug!
Streamer and Cosplay Enthusiast