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River City Girls 2 Review

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Going into River City Girls 2 I was beset by doubts – having not played the original River City Girls, would I be able to catch up on the story? Would I need to play the first game? Where is River City, and why are the Girls so special? Well, all these and other questions were answered as I played on, so, if you missed the first game as well, you need not worry.

Coming from WayForward, River City Girls 2 appears to be a side-scrolling beat ‘em up in the old skool style, a bit like Double Dragon; you should therefore know what to expect should you get onboard. However, at risk of derailing the review in the first paragraph, it isn’t all plain sailing. Come with me to the mean streets of River City…

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So, the previous game saw our heroines, Misako and Kyoko, rampaging across a city to rescue their boyfriends, defeating anyone who got in their way. This included a Yakuza boss, a woman whose father was in jail and had left her in charge. Upon hearing that his daughter had failed, the boss immediately escaped from prison, and set about ruining the lives of the heroines from the previous game and their boyfriends. As River City Girls 2 opens, we are violently expelled from school (through a window, as it happens) and then we pick up the action two months later.

Sadly, the girls have spent the previous two months sitting on the couch playing video games instead of training, so the lack of skills is easily explained away, and we have to regain them all. Going back outside, it appears the Yakuza have paid various bad guys (like cheer leaders and school girls) to give us a good kicking on sight. The scene is set for a scrolling beat ‘em up brawler. 

Now, the graphics of the first River City Girls were done in a pixel art style to fit in with earlier games in the franchise, and so in order to keep that chain going, River City Girls 2 features very nice pixel art too. The designs of the heroes (we can play as the boyfriends this time too, Kunio and Riki) and that of the characters is bang on; a very nice anime aesthetic is all present and correct. The game moves quite nicely as well, and while the animation may be a little jerky for my taste (moves seem to come out of nowhere, rather than flowing from one to the next, sadly) it all shifts along at a good pace and looks decent doing it. 

Positives come in the soundtrack too; it is very good indeed, with amusing songs and interesting fully-voiced dialogue. The thought that has gone into the way the characters interact not only with each other but with bosses as well is very entertaining, and it is always worth watching the cutscenes as there is generally a giggle or two to be had in them. 

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The story is there, it looks good and sounds great – how about the actual gameplay? Well, here it is slightly less good news I’m afraid. There are, in effect, two games going on here – there’s the fighting side of things, then there is the ‘getting money and buying stuff’ kind of side of the game too. 

Sticking with the fighting first, as the only real way to get money is to kick people in the face, a lot, let’s check out the action on offer. The controls were designed to be simple, and I think we can say that the mission has been accomplished. X is a weak attack, Y is a strong attack, B is a kind of magic attack and A is jump, with RB being the block button. One caveat with the block button – it doesn’t usually work. If an enemy is attacking you, and they will be usually, they normally attack not only from all sides at once, but also with combo attacks. If the first hit of the combo hits you, you cannot block the rest, so keeping your distance soon becomes your best form of defence. 

Another pro tip – when you knock an enemy down, unless they flash yellow (this means they are stunned) then do not stand over them as they get up, as 100% of the time they will launch straight into a combo attack. Keep your distance, keep moving, and above all keep punching!

Every now and then, as you go through, you will get a chain and padlock appear on the screen. This signifies that you have to defeat waves of enemies until the padlock is smashed, and then you can move on. Bear in mind though, if you go back, the chain will appear again as well. 

Now, as I mentioned above, as you defeat foes, they will drop money, and with a little light grinding you can soon amass a tidy amount. The map that River City Girls 2 takes place on is made up of discrete nodes, each one self-contained, and so you can keep going backwards and forwards, fighting as the enemies respawn when you exit an area. The ultimate goal of each area is to make it to the boss fight at the end, and this will unlock the next major area. 

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Anyway, this moolah that you earn by beating up young girls can then be spent on a variety of things. As you wander about, you will come across various shops, ranging from sushi shops to music shops, even to a Dojo where you can learn new moves. The first time that you buy a health (or stamina, if you will) restoring item, it will give one of your stats a boost. So buying lots of different things will help you in the long run, although the ability to purchase music tracks I’m not quite so sure about. 

It is in the Dojo where you should look to spend the majority of your cash, as anything that will either improve the efficacy of your existing moves, or even add extra hits into your favourite combo, should be seen as very helpful indeed. Levelling up, getting new moves, fighting – those two months on the couch will soon be forgotten. 

Are there downsides to River City Girls 2, besides the slightly dodgy block system? Well, the bosses are a cheap bunch, as should be expected. The first boss has a move where he drops grenades from the roof, and if the first one hits you, you can pretty much kiss your ass goodbye, as the amount of time it takes from your hero to get to their feet is longer than the grenade drop interval; you soon get bounced around and your health bar vanishes. Once you learn the patterns, they are beatable, but my goodness a lot of bad words will be uttered. The animation doesn’t help with the timing of the blocking, either, to be fair. 

So, all in all, River City Girls 2 is both good and not-quite-so-good. There is a lot of charm and personality oozing out of the screen as you play, and the way that the dialogue is written and performed is great. The difficulty is real, the slightly jerky animation makes things tricky, and the block is rubbish, but despite this there is a good deal of fun to be had. 

River City Girls 2 is on the Xbox Store

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