River City Girls has Mischievous Energy in Spades

Beat-em-up games can be a ton of fun, especially with a friend. Over the years, these games have evolved into often stunning displays of pixel art, pacing, and music. Masters of retro-inspired titles, Way Forward have injected their signature energy and style into the genre with River City Girls, a brawler featuring two strong ladies out to save their men from thugs.

Developed as a spin-off to the Kunio-kun series of games (which featured titles like River City Rampage), River City Girls puts players in control of either Kiyoko or Misako to rescue their boyfriends Kunio and Riki. Sure, this sort of setup is a pretty basic spin on a classic scenario, but what sets River City Girls apart is the sheer style being presented.

Visually, the game looks stunning with well animated character art and backgrounds. Manga style panels help shake up the cutscenes too. Judging by the various trailers and some brief demo time at PAX West, there also looks to be quite a few combo opportunities depending on which character is chosen. For example, Misako shows a brutal tenacity to put punks in their place, stomping enemies into dust while their down. Her character reminds me a bit of Ryuko Matoi from Kill La Kill.

On the more timid side is Kyoko, often seen playfully chewing bubble gum and lamenting about her kidnapped Riki. Her cute demeanor should not be underestimated though, as she gets fired up with inner strength to save her man. While Misako looks to be enjoying the violence, Kyoko appears to be frustrated with having to punch everyone in her path. That said, she seems awfully comfortable and shows some real intimidation while holding a baseball bat.

Both of the characters’ personalities shine in the animations, facial expressions, and scenes. I barely know anything about the Kunio-kun games aside from some brief time I’ve spent with the NES titles but after seeing these characters in this style I am determined to give this game a go. I can only hope that the game launches with as much polish as it appears to have in the trailers.

Way Forward have yet to disappoint me, so I’m pretty confident in this release. I’ve rated both Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero high and they’re games that I come back to a lot. Hell, Way Forward took that awful Mummy movie and made The Mummy Demastered, a rather fine Metroidvania title. There are few things Way Forward has done that I don’t have interest in; they’re an awesome studio rooted in retro-inspired perfection.

River City Girls could be an instant classic for a lot of players.

I was able to play the first level or so of River City Girls at PAX West, which confirmed the weight each attack has. Music was tight. Gameplay seems quick, seamless, and easy to understand. Performance on the Switch was buttery smooth and it seems other players were really enjoying their time with it.

Even better, Limited Run Games will have an exclusive cover for the physical release of the game for both PS4 and Switch. They be opened pre-order sales on Friday, August 30th. Limited Run Games teamed up with Way Forward for PAX West, where they had kiosks, an arcade cabinet, lots of promotional materials, and of course several games and items to purchase including a VHS or vinyl copy of the Snatcher soundtrack, which could be a way for the company to strike that coveted deal of bringing Snatcher to a modern audience.

Way Forward also has some killer games on the way such as Shantae and the Seven Sirens and the charming Vitamin Connection both of which were playable at PAX West. I didn’t get any time with these games but I did chat with others who did and most were excited for Shantae and pleasantly surprised by Vitamin Connection.

River City Girls is out now for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam, GoG, and the Humble Store. More information can be found on the official Way Forward website.

Alex McCumbersComment