Posted on Nov 25th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under gaming, review

I recently played all the way through a game that was really outside of my comfort zone. My regular listeners and readers will know that I tend to see gaming as a relaxing, leisurely activity. I am not a fan of difficult games. Life has enough difficulties and although I don't mind a challenge here or there, I'm usually not looking to get my ass kicked. I recently signed myself up for a swift ass kicking, but I did not realize it when I first started River City Girls. I thought I was starting a run of the mill beat 'em up in the vein of Turtles in Time, and although I quickly realized this isn't that kind of game, I stuck with it through the end and I'm glad I did.

River City Girls developed by WayForward is part of the River City or Kunio-kun series of games. It was released this year and based only on the aesthetic I could not resist buying a physical copy for the Switch from Limited Run Games. I have never played a River City game before, so all I knew about this game was that it was a beat 'em up. As it turns out, this series is more of an adventure RPG with beat 'em up combat. Character level, money, items, and accessories are all very important. In the beginning, I was just trying to button mash my way through the game, not paying attention to the finer details of the game. I hit a major roadblock at the first boss battle of the game and almost quit. Luckily, I was chatting with our very own Crabmaster2000 and he clued me in to some of the mechanics of the River City series.

I played the entire game as Misako.

Armed with this new info from Crabby, I grinded up a few levels and was able to beat the boss. From that point on I approached the game completely differently. In this game, everything matters. You can't just wing it. Even continuing after a game over costs you your hard earned money so it pays to respect all the game's systems. Once you get out of the first level, shops will be made available to you. You can spend the currency you have earned on items and accessories. Most items give a permanent stat buff the first time you consume them. As for accessories, you can equip two at a time and each on offers stat buffs or other bonuses while you have it equipped. I also scoured all the shops for the best accessories, though I found the benefits of a lot of them to be lacking. I stayed with accessories that added strength to my attacks. The ones that regenerated health (called stamina in the game) were so slow acting that I found them to be useless. I became obsessed with tracking down every item and accessory and grinding for the money needed if necessary. After all, if the first boss of the game was such a menace, the rest must be even worse, right?

As I played through the rest of the game, I fell into a groove of progressing, grinding, and spending. Though the game auto-saves quite frequently, I developed a quite slimy tactic of quitting to the home screen if things started to get really hairy so I wouldn't have to use my money on a continue. Then, once I was in good shape with all enemies beaten and full health, I would stake my progress with a hard save. You can call that cheating. I don't care!

The game is split into six levels which you can explore to extent of doors being open, or the occasional "locked" screen, where you have to defeat a few waves of enemies before you can go anywhere. The pacing is kept in check with entertaining, fully voiced cut scenes. There are the perfect amount of these in the game and they never wear out their welcome. Each level also has one or two bus stops that can be used for fast travel. I spent a lot of time grinding in one particular area that had a bus stop, high value enemies, and a shop all within a two screen area. From time to time, a weakened enemy will beg for mercy and you will be able to recruit them. You can hold on recruit at a time in reserve to jump into battle and perform a normal attack. I wish the recruits were more effective. For me they missed their targets most of the time, but the game tracks which characters you have recruited, so it's fun to try to catch them all.

Rich is my favorite song from the game.

Beyond the first boss, I only had major trouble with one other boss about midway through the game. I ended up with a character level of 27 by the end of the game, which is just shy of the cap of 30. I got to the final boss equipped with an inventory full of items that replenished stamina 100%. I thought I would go through them all, but I only used two throughout the battle. The game is very funny in general, but the final cut scene had a moment that I found to particularly hilarious. After a long journey of grinding and battling, I found the ending to be very satisfying.

The presentation of River City Girls is one of its biggest selling points. The graphics are highly detailed pixel art with smooth animations. The game is very colorful and vibrant. Cut scenes feature cartoon-like portraits of the characters, and they look great. They are more western than anime style, but I still liked them a lot. The music and sounds are incredible in this game. Most of the music is a mixture of synthwave and chiptune which will really get you pumped to bust some skulls. Throughout the game there are a few tracks with vocals on them and they are very well done. Some of the songs have been stuck in my head for weeks.

Although River City Girls frustrated me at times, I couldn't put it down. It was truly a labor of love. It was one of those games where the necessary grind was quite enjoyable. I highly recommended it for everyone. It's a very good all-around game.

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I also found the first boss harder than the rest. I like the soundtrack but found that I usually leave or finish a level before the song is over. I left off at the fashion designer boss and need to go back and finish it. Glad to hear you liked it and thanks for the review.
@Addicted: The fashion designer, Hibari, was my second biggest hurdle, though perhaps the best as far as pattern recognition and old school design. I think I had to grind like four levels out to beat her, and all the rest of the bosses seemed easy in comparison.
I definitely need to make some time to play this. I also bought the LRG physical edition for Switch. Was happy to see the soundtrack CD was a bonus they threw in for all purchases, and I'll be ripping that to my computer, so I can get that OST on my phone. Digging the song you linked above. It's sort of synthwave, but not as droning as a lot of it can be.
I also picked up the LRG switch version of this. This is one of the many games on my need to play list, unfortunately that list seems to be getting longer and not shorter right now haha. I have some time off work coming up so hopefully I can at least start this game.

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