River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks … but curious

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We rate the unruly students from Nekketsu and Hanazono high schools in our River City Girls Zero review for Nintendo Switch

If there’s one thing that takes more courage than putting a controversial reissue through the process of reviewis undoubtedly the choice to translate and export Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka for a new audience: this is the premise of River City Girls Zero. In reality, the meaning of the subtitle is to be understood in a more literal sense. We are not faced with a prequel to the recent (and phenomenal) reinterpretation of the beat’em up by Arc System Works by WayForward; rather, it was their title that was a sequel to the episode we are talking about today.

As the passage attached to the new animated introduction, “What is this, a whole new game? Well, more or less, yes and no. It is our first adventure together, one of the deadliest, though “. In a nutshell, the debut of Misako e Kyoko as playable characters happened in a title centered mostly on their boyfriends, the rebels Kunio e Riki. The basic idea is to re-propose this classic in several different languages: the Japanese original, a translation more faithful to the original and another more in keeping with WayForward’s semi-series scripts. And things are about to get more confused …

Heavy meta

There is no review without examining the narrative pretext, and of plot River City Girls Zero doesn’t have one but two. The first is that of our framing device, or the cornice where the development team wanted to embed the original story. In a comic strip (which we do not call “manga” only for the order of reading the balloons) Misako and Kyoko struggling with an “old” cartridge, which requires an equally antiquated console and a cathode ray tube screen to work. The two comment on the fame of their boyfriends, even making fun of the game’s dated look: “Pixels are now in fashion,” they say. How videogame satire it is not very veiled, but in these parts we know how to appreciate the metanarrative.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

Curiously, while texts and audio up to this point have been presented only in English, with great pleasure (and as much perplexity) we have noticed that the plot of the game itself is instead usable in our local language, without however maintaining the dualism of the translations. The actual story, decidedly less light-hearted than the dialogues between the two suggest, shows Kunio and Riki grappling with a judicial misunderstanding. Two hijackers looking identical to theirs have set them up, and it will be up to the protagonists (and their girls) to clarify things… with a bang, after an escape.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

The Hokuto School – River City Girls Zero review

For the rest, what can be said in our River City Girls Zero review that has never been said about the Kunio-kun franchise? The game looks like a scrolling fighting game (O beat-em-up) where our progress depends on our ability to… incapacitate all enemies that appear on screen. In that sense, the genre did not boast who knows what room for maneuver in 1994, and this re-edition does not intend to reinvent the wheel anyway. There are also sporadic gameplay ideas here and there, but beyond the occasional point to swing from, you don’t see much.

If anything, it is precisely the intention to show through the gameplay the “not very honorable” fighting style of the Japanese gangs that gives the entire Kunio-kun series that breath of fresh air that sets it apart from the crowd. Depending on the characters used (swappable at any time, in order to save us in the corner when things go wrong), it is possible rage on enemies on the ground or grab them by the collar and hit them again. We don’t want to say that this makes the clashes less woody a priori (indeed, immersion goes to bless you every time the hitboxes don’t match), but it helps a little.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

From point A to stitches – River City Girls Zero review

Speaking of linearity, the whole game is linear by conscious design choice. We remember not to be faced with a tribute to the genre like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, but to be grappling with a real exponent. There is no map, level select or hub: it is the scenes and the dialogues that separate those that, given the strict formula in its observance of dogmas, it is natural for us to call levels. Enemies, cutscene, enemies, cutscene: this is the rhythm that marks the unfolding of the plot. After all, if the aforementioned Scott Pilgrim and the “seven evil ex” are born as a tribute to River City Ransom, there will be a reason.

This linearity is also reflected in the management of the multiplayer in co-op. There is no middle ground: if the drop-in and the drop-out have accustomed you all too well, in this case you go back to basics by deciding only at the beginning whether to start this journey as a couple or alone. Not all evil comes to harm, as the game over screen never fails to offer us the same choice. By dying we will therefore have the opportunity to resume the reins of the adventure alone or with friends, which is a good thing given how tough some bosses can prove to be. Better still, every dialogue acts as a checkpoint, but without forcing us to reread it at every defeat.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

Variations on the theme – River City Girls Zero review

They can also find a place in the original title less linear gameplay sections, although the title remains far from the first seeds of open world seen in other chapters of the series. They also give us a way to appreciate some gameplay ideas with which to diverge from the alternation between cutscene and fistfights. Already in the first levels we can see imaginative implementations of the attractions of an amusement park, while later in the game it is also possible to see our anti-heroes put their motorcycle skills to use. It is not a single plot element: Kunio and Riki are centaurs through and through.

In these fleeting sections what we are faced with is a real Road Rash ante litteram (which then sprouted as an IP in its own right, Super Mad Champ, exclusive to Japanese soil; you never know, however, that in the future come to us as well as this game did …). In other words, therefore, not only will we have to get the better of our rivals in speed; we can even beat them up if they don’t learn their lesson. Again, it’s still about sporadic digressionsand soon the basic formula (with all the monotony that derives from it, for the detractors of the genre) returns to be the master.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

A prestigious wrapping paper, or maybe not – River City Girls Zero review

Speaking of the presentation of this classic, our impression is that we are faced with a middle ground between the treatment of the various compilations seen so far on Nintendo Switch (console of the reviewed version), although applied to only one game, and the translations seen through patches in recent years. In this regard, before moving on to the extras section, we would like to dedicate a little applause to the available languages. Although for the aforementioned framing device there is (strangely) no way to change the language, the game itself not only offers multiple, but each variant brings its own. three save slots.

As for the “home menu” available between a fight and the other, the options are not lacking. In addition to a “reset” (recommended only for those of you who have marked the password view in the regular pause screen), you can adjust the size screen, apply a filter adapted to emulate the cathode ray tube or to place borders. The latter are perhaps the poorest extra, being just two publisher-inspired edges Limited Run Games. If we can give you some advice, rather opt for the stretch and adapt the screen to the sixteen ninths. We would have liked more artwork-inspired frames, but LRG seems to have preferred self-celebration.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

Little Extraordinary Extras – River City Girls Zero review

The voice “extras” takes us to the closing bars of this analysis, although there is not much to say. The available voices show the credits for the reissue, animated in a sort of homage to Lupine III, the introductory scene, the final one and, finally, a image gallery. The “heart” of this new release, understood with rhetoric and sentimentality, resides here. We have scans for the cover and the original game manual, which are also the only way to enjoy the artwork. In this sense, there is no real museum, although given the different artistic styles in the project we can understand the choice.

We also appreciated the presence of “virtual” cartridges and packages through 3D models that you can admire during their rotation, but in addition to these additions we just have to spend a sentence for the tutorial, if you can call it that. Before your first start, the player has the opportunity to consult the item “How to play”, which is a single screen to remind us how to attack and alternate the various characters. It can also be seen among the extras present in the game, leaving the player with the necessary experiments. There is nothing more to add: we have gutted everything.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

From fighting technique to technical aspect – River City Girls Zero review

There is nothing left to do but to sum up, starting from the overall presentation of the game. Graphically speaking, we have the devil and holy water in every respect. The movies are phenomenal, but the menu is bare; sprites have personality to spare, but enemies are recycled. As for the original title, in its temporal context (1994) the attention to detail is something to occasionally cry out for a miracle (the scenario at the end of Hanazono’s high school, for cinematic ambition, is still applause), but the intention to value it is without infamy and without praise.

The same can be said for the sound. On the one hand we have a real song to keep us company during the opening movie and in the main menu, while on the other we do not have the feeling of being in front of one of the great classics capable of really squeezing the Super Nintendo like a lemon. There are ups and downs, though: some sound effects succeed in the intent of increasing immersion, while others (like the prison sirens, a little too zealous in their attempt to recreate the real sound) can be annoying. In general, we are also average here.

River City Girls Zero review: woody sticks ... but curious

Final considerations

If you wanted to know from our review whether you should make River City Girls Zero your own… it’s all up to you and your familiarity with the franchise. If you want to enter the world of scrolling fighting games or the Kunio-kun series specifically, this will not be the game to change your mind: if you already wanted to do it, one entry point is as good as the other. For its historical value in the context of the saga, this title is worth being part of your collection. This argument, however, only applies to the original from 1994; we try to make another one for the reissue.

In case…