We may have to wait a little longer before we can ora ora ora our way in River Town Girls 2but beat ’em up fans can satiate their hunger by warping time in the reissue of a much older game from the 90s, now rebranded River City Girls Zero. It is now available on almost all platforms including PC and Switch.
River City Girls Zeroset up by WayForward, is a localization of the 16-bit Super Famicom game developed by Almanic in 1994 Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka. Thanks to the success of 2019 River City Girls, Shin Nekketsu Koha is officially playable in the West for the very first time. Instead of rushing into fights like sukeban girlfriends Misako and Kyoko (don’t worry, they’re playable later in the game), you get back in the saddle like their in-laws, Riki and kunio.
The start of the game sees Riki and Kunio in jail after the pair are framed for a crime they didn’t commit. After the necessary crouching bancho, the pair beat the toughest guys in the slammer, escaped, and began their warpath to dig up the asshole who masterminded their demise. From now on, RCG ZeroThe tale of turns into a bloody phone game in which the delinquents and their girlfriends beat a series of percussive faces before figuring out who framed Riki and Kunio. Whereas RCG Zeropreservation of Shin Nekketsu Kohathe graphics and music of are welcome, preserving its 94 era gameplay proved to be a hindrance to my enjoyment of the game.
Contrary to RCG’s rich combo strings and wacky special moves, RCG Zero has a limited arsenal of attacks. Your toolbox consists of a punch, kick, block, special punch and kick and the punch attack or kick that has proven itself. On paper, these core mechanics comprise every beat ’em up. But in practice, they are extremely limiting, especially given the finesse of combat.
While it was easier to land full combos in RCG, starting your attack too close to the enemy could lead to whiffs and retaliation. RCG: Zero offers much less margin for error on both fronts, so if you don’t execute perfectly, nine times out 10 the enemy’s attack will land first and knock you swiftly onto your generous ass, making for an irksome playthrough.
If your button inputs happen to be a millisecond slower than that of the computer’s, your would-be flurry of attacks is swatted away by a simple punch or kick. To deal with this, I either had to cheese enemies with jump kicks or get lucky by striking within the narrow window of blocking one of their attacks. All the same, either of these tactics made for a pyrrhic victory.
This made the gameplay less like a frenetic beat ‘em up and more like a methodical game of kiting and micromanaging enemies at a chess player’s pace. To make matters worse, punches and kicks from your characters feel futile in comparison to enemies because, unlike you, they do not stagger when put on the receiving end of a combo. To make matters all the more frustrating, their punches tend to land more often and hit twice as hard as yours. A game being difficult is all well and good, but a game being this busted is just excessive.
RCG Zero lacks RCG’s revive mechanic of stomp the ghost in your body KO, as well as item pickups. Instead, the four playable characters serve as additional health bars. For example, if Kunio is Ripped from Appetite, you can switch to Riki, Kyoko, or Misako and use their full health bars to complete stages. But because of the aforementioned delicacy of hitboxes and enemies hitting arbitrarily harder than you, boss fights became a frenzy of swapping between characters and praying that my hits would land first.
Whereas RCG ZeroThe gameplay was annoying, everything else about the game was pretty darn awesome. Right off the bat, the game wastes no time evoking the feel of a Saturday morning anime with its catchy theme song as it returns Girls composer Megan McDuffie. Its opening cutscene was also masterfully accompanied by David Liu’s smooth and deep throwback anime style.
RCG Zero also has a bunch of customizations. From the pause screen, you can toggle a CRT (old fashioned television) filter and change the border art and screen size. The game also lets you choose between a relatively literal and more vivid translation. RCG-text style. Although WayForward first found itself at the center of some discourse to his formulation of the original text as “literal”, I preferred the RCG-style localization for its hilarious language flavor and because the more i played RCG Zerothe more I found myself missing RCG.
That doesn’t mean that RCG Zero is devoid of its own fun beat ’em up segments, they just turned out to be more boring than exciting after a while. RCG ZeroThe fanciful levels of also tend to overstay their welcome with the length of certain action segments. As fun as it was to jump to the top of a carousel and kick bad guys off their rooftops, having to repeat the action an odd number of times afterwards made the creative centerpiece feel like felt like padding for the game’s runtime. I’m also starting to believe that motorcycle fight scenes in video games just suck because the gripes I had about padding and the game’s demand for an accuracy of the fine-toothed hitbox were only exacerbated during the long period of RCG Zerofighting on the highway.
Suffice it to say, though RCG Zero is a fresh coat of paint on Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Bankarote preservation of old-school beat-’em-up gameplay does the game a disservice. Instead of just injecting its modernized take on the franchise through the new cutscenes and lavish text, I wish WayForward also took a bit longer to ramp up their fight.