Genre: Beat ‘Em Up
It’s a fine day for the girls today. River City Girls is the newest title from developer WayForward and it drops with style for its debut. The River City franchise has always been a classic mainstay for the beat ‘em up genre with its unique level progression and RPG leveling elements and item system. River City Girls continues the legacy with its own flavor, including an enhanced pixel art style, a catchy synth-pop soundtrack, and a ton of love into its execution.
Animated Violence: Players will beat up enemies ranging from students to zombies with punches and kicks. Items can be found in levels like whips, guitars, yoyos, etc. to fight enemies. Feedback is portrayed using screen effects, cries of pain, and sounds of impact. A number of sequences depict small blood stains on floors and on characters’ held items.
Suggestive Language: Some suggestive innuendos are in pieces of dialogue (e.g. “They want a woman with meat on her bones. And I got all the meat”; “Didn’t you get kicked out of your school for taking secret photos of the girls’ volleyball team”; “Have you guys seen Kunio and Riki? / Just like, every day…every night actually.”).
Mild Language: The word “a*s” is heard in the game.
It’s a fine day for the girls today. River City Girls is the newest title from developer WayForward and it drops with style for its debut. The River City franchise has always been a classic mainstay for the beat ‘em up genre with its unique level progression, RPG leveling elements, and item system. River City Girls continues the legacy with its own flavor, including an enhanced pixel art style, a catchy synth-pop soundtrack, and a ton of love poured into its execution.
RCG is a classic beat ‘em up with RPG elements that can be played cooperatively. It is incredibly faithful to the gameplay found in previous River City titles. You can choose between Kyoko and Misako, who each have significantly different movesets; Kyoko moves fast and has decent combo potential but doesn’t deal as much damage, while Misako hits harder but has simpler combos. As you defeat enemies and gain experience and money, you can visit the in-game dojo and learn additional moves from a familiar face of Double Dragon.
You have a light attack, heavy attack, and a special attack, and different moves are influenced by directional input. You also have a couple of aerial attacks and can use environmental items to attack enemies as well. This may appear conventional for a beat ‘em up; however, RCG has a lot more going on.
There are six zones to navigate through as you clear the city of its dastardly delinquents (or recruiting them as an assist attack), complete side quests for its unique residents, and take on the craziest bosses ever, ranging from a musclebound female student to a manic, mystical dropout. But you’ll find yourself enjoying the ride with its colorful characters and environment, enticing soundtrack, and spectacular moves. You can deliver a devastating haymaker with Misako or dab your way to victory with Kyoko. Yes, you can beat up enemies with a dab. That’s pretty cool in my book.
One major gripe I have is that the control for your attack button is also the same one to advance to another area. You have to actively ensure that you’re outside of the range of transition before continuing to attack. Aside from that, the controls are solid and there are no complex moves. This will make or break the experience for players who enjoy beat ‘em ups with advanced combat. However, the game does not overstay its welcome despite this simplicity. It’s still a beat ‘em up, meaning there will be a lot of trial and error, especially with the bosses. But it doesn’t really come down to grinding, just memorizing all the attacks and knowing when to capitalize on extra damage.
I also need to acknowledge the voice acting in the game. The voice direction is on point and the characterization for each unique NPC is just enough that it avoids obnoxiousness. It only becomes a problem when fighting bosses, as on multiple attempts you have to watch their introduction animation as well as a follow-up dialogue scene. You can skip these by briefly holding down a button, but this still means going through two hold-to-skip sections when you’re just trying to fight the boss again.
The voice acting is also the bright spot of the storytelling, which is otherwise unremarkable thanks to its conventional plot development and a fairly predictable twist. But then again, beat ‘em ups were never about their story. The animated cutscenes and manga story panels that appear periodically are a nice change of pace and inserted right where the player starts to feel the excitement wearing off. River City Girls plays and feels like a fun romp as opposed to the long-haul brawl of most other beat ‘em ups. It’s another tale of “Simple is best”.
I recommend River City Girls for those who are looking for a solid and simple game that they can play in between other games. Fall 2019 has been a surprisingly crazy month with game releases, so one can feel overwhelmed with all the hot titles available. River City Girls is a title you can pop in once in a while or knock out in a day for a good old-fashioned smackdown.
The Bottom Line
River City Girls is like a sweet treat of the beat 'em up standard and does not overstay its welcome.