River City Girls 2 Review

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River City Girls 2 Review

Round Two... 

The Kunio-Kun franchise was one I was fortunate enough to experience as a child growing up, being an owner of Nintendo Family Computer, or Famicom rather than it’s westernised Entertainment System platform. In that came an abundance of titles that never made it across to our shores other than the most popular out of the series, that being Street Gangs or as it’s popularly known as and quite obviously adapted to this spin-off series, River City Ransom. The beat ’em-up was an instant classic, forging a phenomena in side-scrolling fighters that had been commercialised for home console in partnering series from same development team, Technōs’ Renegade – known in Japan as Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun – which had released three years prior. In what obviously the same formula, only stripping back on some heft that slowed down the former’s pacing, River City Ransom was a major turning point for the Kunio-Kun franchise, laying the foundation for what would turn out to be a global success story, leaving a firm legacy intact for other titles to be developed in the future.

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While the Kunio-Kun brand itself had been shopped to other studios over the years, the magic of River City Ransom came to pass with title’s like River City: Tokyo Rumble, or ATLUS’ River City Ransom EX trying desperately to cling onto the original’s legacy, only to fall flat. Hell, some Kunio-Kun titles continued to stay Japanese exclusive due to the fact that they weren’t selling gangbusters in Japan, and were recycling the same ideas in each title. River City Girls has been the series’ saving grace, bringing the fictional town’s name back to prominence in gaming with two cocky, confident and brash protagonists that were ready to lay the beat down on anyone that was deemed a threat to their family or friends – or boyfriends to be exact. It was refreshing to see the boys take a backseat, and have the girls be their heroes. I akin the original to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game, in terms of action pace and all-round qualities, but to know that River City Girls left a mark on its own, I was simply elated to know we were going to be treated to an all out, action packed follow-up to one of 2019’s best fighters.

Dab it out...

River City Girls 2 follows up with much of the foundations laid in its prequel, both in plot and gameplay. After being late to class, Misako and Kyoko are disingenuously expelled from school by the River City Yakuza. The gang themselves run roughshod on River City, and it’s up to the girls in taking back the town alongside friends Kunio and Riki from the original River City Ransom titles, but also newcomers Marian and Provie. The plot carries a comical and quirky element to its delivery that keeps in line to what the Kunio-Kun franchise has been for over decades. Funny dialogue, some meta and incredulous banter between characters will keep you engaged between brawls, with the only thing missing here would be an anime style cutscene to further its already complex campaign. Again like the prequel, none of the story told is mandated or carries any weight to what you do within the game, but is still great to follow.

Gameplay wise, River City Girls 2 takes what was great about the first and adds some cut and polish to sprite animation, fluidity in character movement, visual enhancements that are absolutely stunning – especially on Steam Deck – and brutal brawls to boot a fun free for all style beat ’em-up. The title introduces an aerial-based like fighting technique, which allows your character to launch an enemy and follow-up with chain combos mid-air. Think of it like a Devil May Cry style uppercut that throws a demon into flight and Dante leaps to hack and slash his way into them while defying gravity, that’s pretty much what happens here, except with fists – and it’s just so amusing. But other than that, it more-or-less adapts the old adage that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, which I truly appreciate. Everything about the original was cut and dry, bountifully delivered and demonstrated some of best in retro-modern style gaming that it didn’t need to tear itself down to build-up a new entry.

Furthering the gameplay however can be a grind in some regard, with upgrades costing characters a nice chunk of change which is collected through each bout or boss encounter – some which have hilarious names such as the Reverse Donkey. Each character carry respective stats and style like speed or strength. Marian for example like to chain-wrestle her way through swarms, suplexing most of them to oblivion, while Misako will chop you down and whack you stupid with her back pack, while Kyoko tends to let her feet, bat and dabs do the talking. Levelling in it’s own right is strategic in River City Girls 2, understanding how to either lay the playing field evenly between your party, or sticking to a one man or woman wrecking crew. It can be somewhat of an issue to players that want to swap out mid-story, and utilise other character’s respective manoeuvres’, but it’s either all for one or one for all in this matter.

River City Girls 2 is a smash hit that's ensured itself as an essential for onlookers heading into the new year.

You could be level 10 with Kyoko, but level 6 with Misako so switching out is an incredible downgrade and will hinder the linear campaign’s experience in some circumstances. Unlike prior River City entries, not all encounters won’t lock you into position to defeat massive swarms. If the screen doesn’t display a padlock, you’re free to roam each area as you please, avoiding some overwhelming fights but this can only spell disaster as you try to skip your way through the campaign. If you don’t fight, you don’t level up. If you don’t level up, you can’t beat that level’s boss. Sometimes you just can’t take the express lane in order to get ahead, but you can beat an enemy into submission which makes getting into fights much more enticing. Instead of grinding a foes bones into dust, you can pummel them until they beg to join your team, to which you can request their assistance during a massive swarm or you can decide to let them go, the choice is yours. Sometimes you won’t even need to duke it out, you may find an NPC that would love to join your ranks to which you could accept or decline.

River City Riot...

SOLID POINTS

✔️ The best beat ’em-up. Period.

✔️ Visually Stunning. Fluid, engaging and addictive. A gameplay loop that intersects with multiple mini games.

✔️ Comically meta. A cavalcade of characters backed up industry greats deliver memorable anecdotes.

❌ Story not as strong as its first entry.

While River City Girls 2 is expected to have quite the delivery of platforming warfare ahead of its escapade, you may find yourself sidetracked by its mini-games like Dodgeball, a throwback to one of Kunio-Kun’s most popular NES releases, or becoming a Ghostbuster which was such an unconventional quest, but fun nonetheless. These expeditions do lead to some rewards, but are mainly grinds for new techniques to purchase for the campaign’s endgame, which can be a major pain if you aren’t prepared. Massive waves of enemies and mini-bosses attack you from left to right in forced encounters that are just downright nasty and unfair at times, and without the proper skillset, it’s a helpless endeavour to grind through.

The mini-games do however server as a side offering that takes away some cumbersome, repetitive and monotonous gameplay loop. Fighting on a Dance-Dance Revolution arcade with directions labelled on screen to take out oncoming baddies is seamlessly comical in its own right, and makes for a jam with fantastical music offerings. Your inventory will need replenishing throughout the story, which can be done by collecting item drops or purchasing food or equipment from a convenience store. Different items will deliver different quirks toward your offense or defence, while there are one-time consumables that add a buff toward your character overall.

River City itself has had an expansion it seems, with multiple new areas and venues unlocked through your adventure. The one I found to be most meta in itself – although now developed by WayForward – was trampling through the founders of Technōs’ hallways. Although linear in most cases, the sandbox like backtracking through each landmark is mandated, and will require some investigating to either beat down certain enemies or find clues. It can be motioned toward bottlenecking the story somewhat, but again strays from recycling the same experience over and over, so it’s an appreciable feature. The story itself isn’t as strong as the first, but is still interesting enough to follow, but I did find myself skipping some of the dialogue midway as it started to become a little forced in play rather than needing to listen at all. It’s not that I wasn’t invested, it was mainly that I was already backtracking and wanted to get ahead of the campaign trail without any stoppages.

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Visually as vibrant and detailed as its first offering, River City Girls 2 does an astounding job in presentation overall, going above and beyond most recent titles of similar ilk. I’d class it greater than TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge in animation alone, pairing it perfectly with Megan McDuffee‘s overture offerings. The soundtrack is a massive bop with sensational beats and lyrical offerings that tie into the story’s events. To have the level’s boss call you out through it’s BGM is insanely creative for a beat ’em-up. A star studded ensemble reprise their respective roles with notable names such as Kayli Mills (Crisis Core: FFVII Reunion, Soul Hackers 2) returning to River City as Misako with her BFF Kyoko portrayed by the incomparable Kira Buckland (NieR Automata, Soul Hackers 2). Greg Chun (Lost Judgment, AI: The Somnium Files) leaps into action as titular franchise character Kunio, with Kaiji Tang (Persona 5 Royal, Tekken) as long time confidant Riki. Other names in this massive line-up include Erika Harlacher, Brianna Knickerbocker, David Lodge, Aleks Le, Cristina “Vee” Valenzuela, Christopher Niosi, Patrick Seitz, Xander Mobus, Xanthe Huynh, David Forseth, and yes, Jacksepticeye himself, Sean McLoughlin.

River City Girls 2 is a ferocious fighter that’s sure to cheerfully close out 2022, and brazenly blaze a bashful path that pummels its way into 2023. It’s late in the game, but it’s lasting impact on the year out will highlight how imperative the franchise is toward its respective genre. The girls are back in town leading the way for the Kunio-Kun franchise, not for anything but keeping it alive with innovative delivery and high levels of creativity that are setting a standard for the beat ’em-up category. There’s a litany of titles that are likened to it like the aforementioned Shredder’s Revenge, or the revived Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game, or the recently released and critically acclaimed Streets of Rage 4, but River City Girls 2 demonstrates excellent pacing, ingenuity through its expansive universe that sandboxes our characters into revisiting, investigating and furthering their trails through tribulation. River City Girls 2 is a smash hit that’s ensured itself as an essential for onlookers heading into the new year.

River City Girls 2 Review

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River City Girls 2 is a beat ’em up game featuring role-playing elements developed by WayForward Studios and published by Arc System Works. It is the direct sequel to River City Girls. It brings back all previously playable characters.

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Story
7
Gameplay
8
Presentation
9
Sound
9
8.5

8.5

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