BY DEAN MOSES
Game: River City Girls
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Rating: T for Teens
History is important. Whether it is one we are proud of or one we strive to overcome, we all have a history, just like video games. There were the classic beeps and bops of the 1980s that came to shrill life on arcade cabinets and the famous Atari family of home consoles, and then came the pixel art of the 1990s. During this time period we enjoyed fast-paced plat-formers and side scrolling beat ‘em ups. Beat ‘em ups defined a generation—many childhoods—and developer/publisher WayFoward knows this, which is why they have given us River City Girls.
Back in the 90s, we mostly played as a male character setting out on a mission to rescue the helpless female damsel in distress. Thankfully this offensive and out of date trope has not only been done away with in River City Girls, it has been reversed in humorous fashion. Our two protagonists Kyoko and Misako are wallowing away in detention when the pair receive a mysterious text message. It isn’t their parents checking up on them or a friend asking to hang out, oh no, it’s a warning, alerting them that their boyfriends have been kidnaped. Infuriating the girls, Kyoko and Misako escape detention and go on a butt-kicking spree throughout school and beyond. Will they rescue the boys? Well, that’s up to you.
Retro beat ‘em ups were always more fun when played with a friend, especially when that friend is sitting on a couch next to you. This was the magic of the 1990s, if you wanted to play multiplayer, you had to be in the same room. Things have changed for the better since then, allowing friends from around the world to unite and play together. Still, there is something special about playing in the same room; this is where River City Girls excels, so much so it almost does not feel right playing it in single player mode. The two protagonists engage in playful banter as they fight their way through hordes of enemies, the only issue with this is if you are playing alone. The chitter-chatter comes from a character that does not even appear on-screen. Despite this aesthetic issue, the action is fast and fun. Students come ready for a fight, which means you will need to either pull off combos or unleash some button mashing action on foes. The good thing is that after winning battle after battle, you will level up, netting you more moves to batter bad guys with. Not only that, you can also recruit downed adversaries. So, when you are becoming overwhelmed you can call upon their aid in order to provide you with a much-needed respite.
Pixel Art. This is the best term to describe the beautiful visuals found in River City Girls. The 16-bit sprites bounce with bubbly vigor, each punch and kick are animated with superb pixeled detail. Speak-ing of detail, there is lot of it, great and small. From cheerleaders’ skirts and pom poms ruffling as they use cartwheel attacks to stars spinning around the head of a dazed enemy, there is a lot cram-med into this 2D world, almost as if developers wanted to create what they yearned to experience during their childhoods.
River City Girls does a lot to keep players interested: unlockable moves, witty banter, fast-paced action, and epic boss fights. It does all of these things very well. How-ever, it is still a retro game and being such, it will only appeal to hardcore fans of that genre.