Image: WayForward/Arc System Works/Kotaku
At the start of the year, there were only a handful of video games that piqued my interest, and chief among them was the spin-off of the classic beat ’em up series. Kunio-Kun (or River City). River City Girls 2 finally arrived in the United States on December 15 after changing release dates all year, and the game not only met the high expectations of its predecessor, but exceeded them.
River City Girls 2, developed by Wayforward, is a pixel art action beat ’em up set right after the first game. In its first moments, the brutal sukeban duo of Misako and Kyoko kicking yakuza-affiliated boss Sabuko out of her skyscraper window. However, when Sabuko survives the fall and reports to his incarcerated father, he decides to take matters into his own hands by breaking out of prison and taking over River City. His hilarious first step is to order his son to beat up Misako and Kyoko and have them suspended from school for their punches. Unsurprisingly, Kyoko and Misako use their newfound free time to play a bunch of video games at Kyoko’s house for two months straight.
Nintendo/WayForward/Arc system works
A big part of my enjoyment with previous levels of RCG2 is how it narratively writes around the video game trope by stripping its heroes of all the great power-ups and moves they had in previous games. What prompts their adventure isn’t a heroic call to save their town from a swarm of Yakuza. The only reason they aren’t hikikomori is because they want to go to the mall to buy a new video game. Oh and also, Kyoko’s mom worries that lazing around for months has hurt their lower backs.
It turns out that Momma Kyoko wasn’t far behind as the girls quickly find out that they aren’t as strong as they used to be. This narrative excuse for their lack of practice not only serves as the reason why Misako, Kyoko and their boyfriends (who are also playable) have no money and zero experience points, but it also gives me some room to actual maneuver to sniff out combos in the early game.
While relearning moves in sequels is frustrating for me, picking them up in RCG2 by racking up enough experience in the middle of a fight is fun. For example, I usually play Kyoko because I like the “ora ora oras” that her English voice actress, Kira Buckland, does as well as her heavy, bright attack, the rainbow button. So every time I leveled up in the middle of a yakuza combo, the perfection of the basic combo strings was rewarded with the extra punch of those later moves coming back into the heat of the moment.
The father of the crime is upset. Screenshot: WayForward / Arc System Works
RCG2 picks up the pace of its predecessor’s mad dash to the final boss by encouraging players to take their time as they fully immerse themselves in the world of River City. To hammer home this point, RCG2 leans more into its RPG elements with new additions like its fake social media app Twitter where you view messages from NPCs and track their quests. Yes, RCG2 has side quests. After completing a side quest, you can recruit characters to fight alongside you. However, since cash rules everything around you in River City, if you want help from a dead ally, you’ll have to spit out the same amount of paste as the first time around to get their help again.
Another quality of life improvement with RGC2 is that enemies combo into corners with the light attack button no longer cause you to accidentally waltz into the next area by mistake. Now you need to click and hold the button prompt to enter the next area so the game doesn’t confuse your button mashing with a carnal desire to move on to the next area. This was annoying to say the least in the first game, as it required me to stop saying “my turn forever” while constantly bouncing enemies off walls so as not to trigger an area transition. There are also safe houses around the map where you can recover your stamina and swap characters instead of having to return to the start menu.
Merged by Honkr. Screenshot: WayForward / Arc System Works
Unlike the previous game, River City Girls Zero, combat in RCG2 has a faster and more satisfying pace. Instead of feeling like I had to stagger and cheese enemy attack patterns to sneak in a punch just to have enemies attack harder and more often than I ever could have dreamed of, the margin of RCG2’s error is much more forgiving and makes you feel just as powerful as the bosses you encounter. Every attack is super fast, and its block and parry counters are responsive and satisfying. The added cherry on RCG2 is that it has two-player online co-op on top of its local four-player co-op play so you can kick ass with friends whether they’re in the same room as you or in a different state, depending on the reliability of your Internet connection.
While shaking the rust off my River City Girls ring, I was wowed by how surprisingly expansive the previous game was compared to its predecessor. I entered the game anticipating an adventure on the rails, but found a river town that felt more alive and explorable than it had ever felt before. Overall, RCG2 sits at the top of the Kunio-Kun game pile as a must-have game for beat ’em-up veterans and beginners alike.
Article source https://kotaku.com/river-city-girls-2-review-wayforward-beat-em-up-anime-1849916920