When it comes to beat ’em up games, there are a couple titles that immediately come to mind. For most, at least in the west, this is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Battletoads, Streets of Rage, and if you’re an older gamer like myself, possibly X-Men, or The Simpsons. In Japan, one of the longest running beat ’em up franchises is Kunio-Kun, though it’s probably better known as River City. These titles never quite took off the same way, though over the years we’ve seen a number of them release. Among the most notable is River City Girls, as it combines the charm of the Kunio-Kun universe, with a more mainstream art style. With the original proving so successful it earned a sequel, is River City Girls 2 another fantastic adventure, or does lightning fail to strike twice?
River City Girls 2 takes place after the events of the original adventure, with the criminal organization you humiliated wanting revenge. With a number of silly enemies, and over-the-top foes, you need to overcome all of these threats to survive.
Despite sounding rather simple, River City Girls 2 manages to stand out by keeping things fun. Most cutscenes are presented as manga panels, often with over-the-top characters, dialogue, and even events. This makes things fun, as it’s pretty clear River City Girls 2 doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Besides the main narrative, players can do optional events by talking to other notable characters in the universe. Each of these characters have their own quirks, which the characters generally play off. Some of these characters are more amusing than others, though there is enough variety to prevent any singular character from being too annoying, or their joke getting old. Several of these also offer unique experiences, some of which are nods to the franchises history, or had outlandish situations that you can’t help but laugh at.
The Four Playable Characters
Gameplay is in an interesting spot. Initially, River City Girls 2 isn’t that deep, or fun to play. Only after unlocking attacks, through leveling or purchasing, does the system start to expand. Several initial moves are extremely important, such as nutcracker, since they really help the flow of attacks. Instead of doing a simple four hit combo, I could do three, use that, and then continue my combo by juggling enemies in the air. Even if you don’t find every move useful, as several have limited value, they add a lot of variety. Even simple things like grabbing enemies, or running attacks, help expand on the core beat ’em up experience.
Staying true to the genre, there are also a lot of objects that can be used to damage enemies. Some of these are standards, like a baseball bat, or dodgeball; with others adding some outlandish charm, including a bike, broken sofa, and more. These options are fun to use, mostly because they change the flow of battle. Several can instantly down an enemy, followed by defeat them before they can even stand back up. Levels also include a fair amount of variety, making the limit more of a choice, than anything else.
Visuals Have a Lot of Charm
In addition to this, River City Girls 2 brings back the recruit system. For those unfamiliar, occasionally enemies will beg for mercy instead of continuing the fight. When this occurs, you can recruit them to aid you in combat. Every generic enemy has its own move to aid you, some of which are really good, and others not so much. They help further combat variety, while also giving players something to constantly work towards. Classes generally have multiple different characters, which each have their own colorway, or small design changes. It makes things interesting, even if there isn’t much difference between them.
All this being said, it is important to understand River City Girls 2 isn’t like most beat ’em up games. Instead of having a finite number of stages where you fight predetermined foes, it’s closer to an open-world adventure. This makes things somewhat unique, as there are more places to explore, areas to uncover, and tasks to complete. It can also make getting from point A to B a little more tedious, though the overall result is quite enjoyable.
River City Girls 2 Review Verdict
All things considered, River City Girls 2 is an amusing game that is a blast to explore. With local and online play, plenty of optional objectives, and wide array of moves, it’s a really solid entry in the genre. Some people might be put off by the weak initial impression, but those who put in the time will likely walk away happy they gave River City Girls 2 a chance.
[Editor’s Note: River City Girls 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review.]