River City Girls Review – Don’t Cry Me a River (City)

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: WayForward
Publisher: Arc System Works, WayForward
Release: 5th September 2019
Price: 29.99

Being a new entry in the Kunio-kun series, of which I haven’t heard much about until now, being the Beat´em Up noob I am, River City Girls is the first collaboration between Arc System Works and WayForward. Knowing WayForward, no one should have been surprised to see what an utterly beautiful beast they crafted here though.

Kyoko and Misako’s boyfriends Kuni and Riki were kidnapped and now it’s on them to rescue them with their own set of tools.

Yeah, well, that’s basically it. Similar to other Beat´em Ups, River City Girls is pretty light on the story, focusing more on providing quirky, fun interactions during dialogue or what not. Given, those work fairly well, as illustrated by teh first boss Misuzu, who’s basically an eternal highschooler despite her quite, well, advanced age. None of the dialogues are truly unique but always provided something to grin or even laugh about for the few minutes they take up every chapter and I utterly enjoyed those comedic sections.

The true core however, is undoubtetly the presentation of it all. Starting with the opening, River City Girls is once again a beautifully animated, stylish and absolutely stunning looking game, just look at how great this opening is and how well it transitions into the main menu! Featuring comic or rather, manga inserts to progress its minimal story, it also pays service to the original Japanese franchise it belongs to, which is another nice touch, besides them looking really, really good for the little screen time they have. Mostly because even here, the style absolutely nails the portrayal of our two heroines, mixing their personality into most panels to give the rather uninteresting events the needed creativity and charme to entertain.

Nonetheless, despite those already stunning additions, the actual pixel artstyle is once again absolutely breathtaking. I adore WayForward’s animations and how they truly nailed the balance between fluidity and conveying personality through nearly every animation.

Kyoko for example has this sort of “girly” theme going for her, so some animations see her using her heart bag to perform various attacks while her whole body and face tries to put as much power into the punches as possible, even incorporating some little “fails” into some of them. Misako on the other hand is nearly the complete opposite and so she features much more refined animations and more brutal attacks. As a result, simply watching River City Girls is always a treat and the two heroines actually look very different too. Naturally all this is topped off with a killer soundtrack, that mixes cool vocal tracks with as great instrumentals.

Compared to the thoroughly amazing visuals though, the gameplay itself feels a bit too normal and even slow sometimes. Especially in the beginning, where the most you can do is punching, kicking and some very few basic combos unlocked in the first minutes. By grabbing weapons it’s possible to mix this up temporarily but progression in the first hours feels a bit sluggish. Yet, once some combos are accumulated though, River City Girls opens itself up as a really fun, rather fast paced genre entry.

While the normal stages require you to utilize your combos smartly, dodge and keep track of the enemies on screen, most bosses have a way larger focus on you knowing how to avoid attacks. Mainly because it’s a surprisingly challenging endeavor for people not really into Beat´em Ups in general, due to the limited health and high damage of some enemies. It never feels unfair, to be clear, since the game usually grants you a handful of missteps but learning the system is a necessity to truly feel powerful in River City Girls.

Conclusion

River City Girls is beautiful, fun and simple a blast to play. Given, it isn’t the easiest Beat’em Up and has a slower start than I would have liked but in the end, every single aspect came together to form a truly wonderful experience you shouldn’t miss.

[A Review Code was provided by WayForward]