This Bellytimber Made Me Barf!
If you are a Kunio-kun fan, you gotta hand it to Natsume and Arc System Works. These guys took it upon themselves and have been releasing a steady stream of Kunio content since they acquired the series back in 2015, and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon. The latest release, titled River City: Knights of Justice, is taking our favorite hero out of his hometown of River City and traveling way back in time to the days of spectacular castles and dastardly dragons.
You may notice that all the characters that you’ve fell in love with through the years are in River City: Knights of Justice, but since this it’s own story, all of their names have been changed. These changes are names that would be fitting of the medieval era, for instance, Kunio is now Alexander and Riki goes by the name Reinhold. You can think of this game as a play that the cast of River City would be putting on for their high school classmates.
The plot is your basic RPG fare. A rainbow-colored crystal tower that lies in the heart of Riverandia has suddenly been enveloped by darkness. Several years pass and Riverandia has plunged into horror and chaos. Dragons strike fear into townspeople and grotesque (they’re really cute because this is a Kunio game) monsters have run amok; destroying several villages. Just when everything seems lost a legend starts to spread throughout Riverandia about a savior who would come and rid the world of all evil. Then, all of the sudden, a lone knight appears and a glimmer of hope can now be felt by everyone who was afraid to crack open their doors. Kunio… I mean Alexander is here to strike fear into the monsters and slay the dragons!
Sit You Down and Have a Laugh
If you’re a fan of the series, then you’ll be glad to know that all of the humor that you come to know and love is still completely intact. Yes, enemies still BARF and say cute things when they are defeated, but all of this humor has been overhauled and blended with vocabulary that would have been spoken in the medieval time setting. It made the comedy fresh in a way, but not changed to the point that it felt out of place. The music has made the transition as well, and classic tunes have been revamped to fit in the game’s time period. For instance, when you enter a shop the classic shop music can be heard, but it’s tweaked just a tad to remind you that you’re not in River City anymore. It’s immediately noticeable that a whole lot of care went into making sure that this still felt like a River City Ransom game should.
So what makes River City: Knights of Justice stand out other than its setting? Well, a whole lot actually. First and foremost is the weapon variety that can be found in Riverandia is obviously different than previous River City games. Brass knuckles and lead pipes have been replaced with bastard swords and magical staff. Instead of bashing enemies faces in with a hunk of metal that fits across your fingers, you can now take them out with a sword so big that it would make even He-Man blush. The real fun is in the numerous magical staff that can be acquired throughout Riverandia. These special weapons serve several different functions, but the lightning staff was my personal favorite. With this magic staff I was able to dispatch several different enemies at once by making bolts of lightning rain down from the heavens in a spectacle that I never thought I’d see in a River City game!
The weapons weren’t the only River City component that made the medieval transition. The classic coffee and sushi roll consumables have been swapped out with magical potions and hunks of dried meat. Additionally, the books that Kunio could read to gain new fighting abilities have been replaced with scrolls and amulets, but these new items seem to provide Alexander with a lot more power than the River City books granted. Again, Arc System works knew the source material and changed it just enough to make sure to keep long time series fans happy.
What did change drastically in River City: Knights of Justice is the progression system. No longer are you required to “level up” your characters. There’s no need to swap out teammates to make sure one is getting the same amount of XP as the other because Knights of Justice completely does away with the XP system. You are still able to level up in a way, but it isn’t permanent. Alexander’s armor has the ability to have different jewels installed in it, and these jewels have different characteristics. One jewel may have a higher defense than another, but the movement and toughness might be slightly degraded. You can swap these jewels out whenever you like, but you must visit a particular character that you’ll meet early on in the campaign. Unfortunately, if you do wish to visit this character for a jewel swap, you just might have to travel across the whole map. This is where Knights of Justice can get a bit tedious.
I Cry Your Mercy
Traveling in River City games has never been easy. Walking the around River City can be compared to walking around Camp Crystal Lake in Friday the 13th on the NES. No matter how far you walked you’re probably going to check the map and see that you’ve been walking around in circles. River City: Knights of Justice changes things up a bit and introduces an overhead map where you can travel between different landmarks. Traveling the map is easy, but all of the random encounters will eventually tire you out. When walking from one landmark to another you can be expected to have a random encounter every 2 steps, and I’m not exaggerating. The random encounters will usually be the same two brothers who are out to steal your loot, and since there isn’t an XP system in the game, there really isn’t a need to fight these guys over and over again. After my 100th random encounter with the same brothers I got really bored and just started running toward the edge of the screen to escape the battle. There really should have been an option to cut down on these encounters.
Even though Knights of Justice overloads on the random encounters, the fighting is so good that I can give it a pass. The classic River City fighting style that we all know and love has never been better, and the aforementioned new weapons keep things fresh and interesting. Knights of Justice is cute. Enemies are adorable and always got a laugh out of me when taking a hit or dishing out the pain. Since this is a medieval story the enemy variety is tenfold compared to the other games in the series. You’ll be battling ghosts, goblins, evil knights, and even a screen-filling 8-bit dragon! Weapons can and will be dropped and it’s up to you to make sure to pick up whatever looks like it could be an upgrade. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell if a weapon is worth picking up until you do so, but thanks to a 10-slot “favorites” inventory system, I never had an issue where I wasn’t able to pick something up.
Even though the combat controls as it should there are some downfalls that were introduced with the newer mechanics. My main issue was with the inventory’s favorites system. If you were to purchase any weapons and/or potions you will not be able to use these items during battle unless you place them in one of your favorite slots. I had several instances where I purchased food for health and I ended up dead because the item was unavailable during a fight. It would have been ideal to have access to my full inventory during battle. Another issue I had with the battle system is the inability to heal my teammates. This is not a new thing, as it was this way in previous titles in the series, but I found that my teammates were dying off a lot more often in River City: Knights of Justice. These are small complaints but they did hamper my enjoyment a tad.
If you’re a fan of Kunio you’ve probably already made up your mind on getting River City: Knights of Justice. I can honestly say that any fan of the series will be more than happy with what Arc System Works and Natsume has created. They took a huge risk by changing River City’s setting and placing it in a medieval time period, but it totally paid off and it works beautifully! I can’t wait to see what they do next!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo 3DS; Publisher: Natsume ; Developer: Arc System Works; Players: 1 ; Released: June 20th, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $14.99
Note: This review is based on a copy of River City: Knights of Justice given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.