Kunio Is Back In River City
Fans of the Kunio-Kun series took a trip back to medieval times with the last installment of the franchise – River City: Knights of Justice. That game, although a nice change of pace, felt a tad out of place. Sure, Kunio was still walking around beating enemies to a pulp, but replacing a Dragon Jacket and brass knuckles with armor and a bastard sword was a jarring experience. I loved Knights of Justice, but by the end of it I felt homesick and just wanted to be eating at a Tech Burger and stomping around Nekketsu High School.
River City: Rival Showdown brings Kunio and friends back to the River City we all know and love. Let me rephrase that. Rival Showdown doesn’t just bring the series back to its old setting, but it actually brings the franchise back to the beginning. Yup, the story from the original NES version of River City Ransom gets a retelling of sorts in Rival Showdown. So, if by some chance you’ve been living under a rock and have never played any River City games, Rival Showdown is a good starting point.
Rival Showdown’s story starts with Kunio getting attacked by two mysterious figures while walking home one night. These guys are tough as nails and almost end up killing Kunio, but thankfully the cops become alerted to the trouble and Kunio lives to see another day. Upon exploring the town the following day, Kunio catches wind that his best friend and rival, Riki, can’t find his girlfriend and he’s beginning to get worried. Kunio and Riki set out to locate Riki’s girlfriend and unravel the mystery of Kunio’s unknown assailants, who are now making a name for themselves around River City. Obviously, Kunio aims to solve these mysteries by doing what he does best: Beating up the gangs in every school around town!
Fans of the series will feel right at home with Rival Showdown’s RPG elements. Kunio starts off with a basic moveset of punches and kicks. Jump kicks and jump punches are also viable options when dealing with baddies. These basic moves will deal more damage as Kunio earns experience points and enhances his stats. Eventually, Kunio will learn more attacks by observing enemies and/or spending cash at River City’s bookstore. Other than learning new moves, Kunio will also acquire super moves that deal severe damage to multiple enemies at once. These super moves are delightful to pull off, especially towards the end of the game when Kunio is facing off against 20 plus enemies at a time!
It’s All in the Shoes
Additional elements such as clothing stores and Ramen shops make a return. Kunio is a man of impeccable taste, so spending some hard earned money on new threads will keep him looking good while punching faces. Clothing items upgrade several stats at once, but with there being so many options, players will be forced to strategize when considering what outfit they like to put Kunio in. For example, one jacket may enhance Kunio’s punch power, but might drastically cut down on his defense. But to offset this, a quick trip to the ramen restaurant will give Kunio a bump in defense. It’s a tried and true formula that has worked well in the franchise for years. I just wish changing Kunio’s clothes would actually change his in-game appearance. I want to see what a Dragon jacket really looks like!
The campaign takes place across three days. Kunio’s day begins after school lets out at 3 pm, and it ends at 11 pm. In between this time span events will pop up on River City’s map, which is handily located on the 3DS’s bottom screen. The in-game time moves slowly, but eating at a shop or getting knocked out will progress time forward. Kunio can also visit a drug store to purchase sleeping pills to pass time, which comes in handy if there are no events happening on the map or you know when an event is supposed to occur and just want to get right to it.
The reason why it is set up this way is because you’re going to have to play several campaigns to see everything Rival Showdown has to offer. Any XP, cash, clothes, and moves learned in a single playthrough, gets carried over after the three-day campaign ends, so take your time. I personally played through two campaigns just to grind and level up Kunio. Yes, grinding is a necessity because Kunio starts off really weak.
We Gotta Start Somewhere
Even though Kunio’s reputation for being a great brawler is known throughout River City, he starts off as a complete wimp! I’m talking a getting knocked out in one punch kinda wimp. This was extremely frustrating at first. As far as I know, Kunio has never been this weak in a video game before. The main reason for my frustration comes with the XP system. Kunio only earns XP if he knocks out an enemy. But when facing several enemies at a time with Kunio in such a weak state, it’s incredibly difficult to get even one knockout. I was going into fights that took what seemed like 5 minutes without anything to show for it. Eventually, I was able to grind enough to become a powerhouse, but having Kunio starting off so incredibly weak felt out of place.
If, like me, you find it hard to take care of business at the beginning of the game, a friend can join as Rikki as long as they also have a 3DS and a copy of Rival Showdown. Taking on River City’s delinquents is always a good time, but co-op brawling is a River City staple. A bonus Double Dragon (hint, hint to the story’s two mysterious delinquents) one-on-one fighting game that is featured in the campaign can also be enjoyed by two players. It’s nice to see that multiplayer experiences still get a nod on the 3DS nowadays.
Playing through the same campaign several times may sound tedious, but thankfully there is a lot of stuff going on around the town of River City. Visiting different spots on the map at various times will yield different results. Depending on who and when you talk to people will also determine what type of ending you’ll get. If I were to put an hour amount on maxing out Kunio and seeing everything there is to see, I’d feel comfortable saying 8-10 hours.
Of course, I need to give a nod to Rival Showdown’s amazing soundtrack. These are all the tunes that fans know and love, but with a bit of a spin on them. There are a few new tracks thrown in for good measure, but they fit in so well that you might think that they are revisited tunes. I visited shops in this game more times than I would like to admit. My reason? I just wanted to get a few nostalgic minutes of the shop music.
Whether or not you’re a longtime Kunio-kun fan or a newcomer to the series, you’re going to love Rival Showdown. The River City charm is still in full force. Yes, Kunio starts off as a weakling, but this is a remake of the first game, so I’ll give that a pass. Speaking of remakes, they make this old story feel as if it’s set in today’s world. Internet slang like “Get Rekt” and cell phones make appearances and don’t feel out of place at all! Thanks, Arc System Works for keeping my favorite franchise of all time alive and fresh! Long live Kunio!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed); Publisher: Natsume ; Developer: Arc System Works; Players: 1-2 ; Released: November 21, 2017 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This Review is based on a copy of River City: Rival Showdown provided by the publisher.