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AX 2019: River City Girls Hands-on

The Kunio-kun franchise returns! Except for this time, it’s up to Kyoko and Misako to rescue Kunio and Riki. Time to go hands-on with WayForward and Arc System Works’ River City Girls.

River City Girls | Featured Image

Time to be badass? Ha, these two were badasses from the beginning!

The River City or Kunio-kun franchise is one that’s dear to many who grew up with an NES. Which is amazing when you consider that many of the Kunio-kun games haven’t made the trip to the West. Though, in recent years that has been changing. However, keep in mind that River City Ransom is still probably the most well known in the franchise. Which is why, I think, that WayForward studios and Arc System Works decided to team up for River City Girls.

River City Girls is a collaborative project between two very high-quality companies. Arc System Works is responsible for games like BlazBlue, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Fist of the North Star: Twin Blue Stars of Judgement, and Granblue Fantasy Versus which we’ve already discussed. As for WayForward? Ducktales Remastered, Contra 4, Mighty Switch Force!, and of course, Shantae. When it comes to understanding retro games and their mechanics, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better developer. Which is why I made it a point to go play this demo as soon as I learned about it. So, did the demo live up to my expectations? Let’s take a look.

Time for These Girls to Let Their Fists Do the Talking

River City Girls | Happy-Go-Lucky-Brawling

One of the best things about this game is how expressive everyone is. Seriously, everyone looks like their having a blast despite the fact Misako is about to smash someone with that bike.

River City Girls is named as such due to the stars this time being Kyoko and Misako who are Kunio and Riki’s girlfriends. The boys have been kidnapped and it’s up to the girls to break out of school and go rescue them. A simple plot, but effective and to the point; which is the best way of describing this game. It’s simple and to the point, but that’s what makes it so fun. What stands between you and escaping the school is any student who dares to get in your way. So, you better get to punching.

Combat is simple. You have your light attacks as well as a heavy attack. Get close to a stunned enemy and you can throw them. In addition, you also have some aerial attacks you can use. And they are quite useful when dealing with certain enemies. If you’re familiar with the old beat ‘em technique of jump kicking your foes to death, you’ll know what I mean. While combat isn’t hard, you do need to watch what you’re doing, or you can quickly end up dead. Thankfully reviving your partner is hilarious.

Beating Your Friends Up to Revive Them

River City Girls | Spin-to-Win

Sadly, the trailer below doesn’t show off the revival mechanic. So, instead, enjoy this sweet image of Kyoko showing off one of her special moves.

The revival mechanic in this game is something to behold. Upon dying, your character will faint and their ghost will slowly ascend to heaven. If that angel reaches the top of the screen, they’ll be removed from play until you change rooms. So, how do you save them? Simple, run over and stomp on their unconscious form until the ghost returns to its body. Yes, you literally stomp your ally alive again! I love insanity such as this. Of course, pulling this off during a boss fight might be tough. Especially when that boss is Misuzu.

Yes, Misuzu was the boss of the school. And she hits like a truck. What’s interesting about this boss fight is that it’s divided into three stages. Misuzu’s health bar is divided into three segments. Thus, once you’ve drained one section of it she’ll move onto her next phase. I like this approach since it allows the player to easily gauge how close they are to a phase change and plan accordingly. As for the fight itself, while the first phase was simple enough the second phase was touch-and-go due to me dying and my partner needing to revive me. Thankfully, we pulled through and were able to clear the demo. So, what’s my final takeaway?

These Girls Look to be Another WayForward Classic

River City Girls | Party Time!

I’d say “come on and slam if you wanna jam” but looks like Misako is already about to do that.

This is something I’m probably going to buy day one. The hard part is honestly going to be choosing whether to play this first or Luminous Avenger iX since they both come out the same month. But, aside from that, this is a no brainer for me. This is an excellent demo.

The gameplay is fun; it’s easy to pick up and play; it stays true to the other Kunio-kun titles I’ve played in the past, and it looks great. In short, this game looks awesome and I honestly can’t wait till it’s out.

River City Girls will be out on September 5th for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Benny Carrillo
A gamer since the days of the NES and SNES and a reporter since 2015. This hat-wearing otaku loves niche Japanese games, but has a soft spot for visual novels, Super Robot Wars, Mega Man, yuri, and Nepgear. Benny has covered E3 and Anime Expo since 2015 and served as Operation Rainfall’s Visual Novel Manager. Now, this seasoned reporter spends his days trying to clear his epic backlog in between writing analytical articles and reviews.
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