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04 May 2014 @ 08:23 pm
Game Review: River City Ransom  
I bought this game back when it first came out after renting it a few times, as we did in the days of yore before digital downloads and virtual consoles and web stores, but I never really managed to get very far because I couldn't figure out the boss mechanics. Despite that, I loved playing it. I used to play it with my sister all the time, and we'd wander around beating up rival gangs of high school kicks, downing vitamins, and playing in-game baseball using a rock and a lead pipe, and that gave us enough fun that we'd rent it over and over until I finally bought it. Even then, we never managed to beat it, and it sat in my brain's list of games that I loved until I got to university, checked the internet, figured out where Blade was and the whole "backtrack to the park" thing, and then I beat it.

I had occasionally told softlykarou about how great the game was, but for a long while we had one PS2-to-USB plugin and otherwise had to use the keyboard, and If there's any genre that suffers from having to use a keyboard other than platformers, it's side-scrolling brawlers. Recently, though, we picked up a USB Xbox 360 controller, and after playing around with that a bit I suggested that we play River City Ransom so I could show her why this was so nostalgic to me:
 photo River-City-Ransom-NES.jpg

And it was great. The plot is paper-thin, but the gameplay still holds up even now. It's just fun to go from screen to screen and beat up the Generic Dudes and the Home Boys and the Frat Guys and the Internationals, take their lunch money, and go to town and buy all the food you can eat and stuff your face with both it and the container it came in.

Thinking back, I suspect River City Ransom was one of the games that lit the spark for the bonfire of my love for shoving RPG elements into everything no matter how tenuous or ridiculous it makes things. The game is maybe an hour long start to finish, but you can get more playtime out of that if you're willing to travel from town to town, buying different foods and raising all your stats. There's surprising depth for an 8-bit brawler, with stats for all your attacks, breaking enemy blocks, blocking yourself, health and max health, and getting a second wind even when you run out of health. And I've always been willing to do that because the moment-to-moment gameplay is great.

Something else I love is that River City Ransom is an open world. Unlike other brawlers like Streets of Rage or, more appropriately, Double Dragon, you can and indeed are expected to backtrack throughout the game, either to beat one of the bosses you missed or just to farm lower-level gangs for their money. Which you probably won't need to do if you're good, but I did a lot of as a child because hey, numbers, going up, you know how this ends.

Open world, RPG elements, sidescroller...you may notice the buzzwords I love piling up here.

And co-op just makes everything better. It does make the game easier, since you can resurrect your partner by moving to another screen instead of getting knocked back to the previous shopping area, but there's also no way to turn off friendly fire. It's sometimes annoying when you accidentally kick a trash can into your partner, knocking them off balance and letting the boss smash through their defenses, pick them up, and throw them into you, killing both of you...but it's also hilarious. Not that that's ever happened to me. (>_>)

I was actually surprised with how well softlykarou and I synergized during the game. We'd have moments where it'd be a comedy of errors, but often on bosses we'd set up a kill zone, sync up our attacks, and every time the boss got up, no matter which way he turned one of us would be hitting him in the back with a lead pipe or a length of chain. We didn't have to do nearly as much grinding as I remember having to do to beat the game by myself. Not that grinding would have been too bad, because like I mentioned, running around and beating people up is great. We had some difficulty with SlickSimon because we were out of position and only hitting him from one side at a time, but after a bit we got into position and then he didn't stand a chance.

I have nothing bad to say about this game. It's a classic, remains just as playable now as it was back in the day, won't take up too much of your time, and is a great co-op couch game. Play it.
Current Mood: nerdynerdy
Current Music: River City Ransom - Main Theme
q99q99 on May 5th, 2014 09:54 am (UTC)
There's a small internet film group, X-Strike studios, who made a River City Ransom movie, 'River City Rumble' (which I haven't picked up because they're currently out of the DVD but planning a reprint).
dorchadasdorchadas on May 11th, 2014 02:01 am (UTC)
I found a trailer on Youtube. It looks pretty neat!
q99q99 on May 11th, 2014 02:10 am (UTC)
Cracked.com had an article speaking highly of it, comparing it favorably to Scott Pilgrim.