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River City Girls 2 Review

Initial release date: December 13, 2022

Developer: WayForward

Engine: Unity

Series: River City Girls

Platforms: PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S

Publishers: WayForward, Limited Run Games, Arc System Works

Genres: Action game, Fighting game, Adventure game

"Review Copy Provided By Wayforward Technologies"

2019 saw the release of the critically acclaimed River City Girls from Arc Systems works and Wayforward of which is a spin-off/sequel to River City Ransom as well as a semi-cross worlds of various Technos Japan created games (the original creators of Nekketsu, Double Dragon, Combatribes, and more) and bring them into the Kunio-kun as series as canon. This game was so beloved by gamers the world over and was such a success, especially with its fantastic OST from Megan McDuffie, that I went on to get a localization for River City Girls Zero (Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka) and the new River City Girls 2! So, the question now is does this sequel live up to and exceed the original, or is it just a glorified expansion to the original game? Let’s find out!

The story of River City Girls 2 picks up directly after the ending of the first game, with Misako and Kyoko having beaten the Yakuza boss Sabuko and having found Kunio and Riki. This leads to the yakuza boss’s brother Ken arriving on the scene to taunt her and let her know that their father who left her in charge will be incredibly disappointed in her failure. Heading off to the prison where the true leader of the yakuza, Sabu, is residing who then breaks out of prison to exact his revenge on Kunio and company. This ultimately leads to the crew of Kunio, Riki, Misako, and Kyoko showing up late to school the following day and getting expelled by Ken and the Twin Dragons Ryuji and Ryuichi. After spending (literally) 2 months sitting on the couch playing video games at Kyoko’s house, the crew decide to go get a new video game from the store and this takes them on their latest adventure!

Yeah, this plot is ridiculous and in many ways mocks not only the continuity of Nekketsu but also long time fans of the series like myself. For all others, you will probably enjoy this game’s humor filled plot through River City.

Gameplay-wise, RCG2 is very much more of the same of what you got in the original with some tweaks to the games mechanics to make it play smoother. It’s still a very much open-world like beat-em-up with a large map of River City that you can explore that house shops, secrets and more. A lot of the city is not accessible from the start as you are initially guided on a path due to where the plot wants to take you and then after some time it opens up allowing you to explore more. You can gain missions to undertake by speaking to certain characters of which will give you some prerequisites which leads to some goodies once completed.

You have a base of operations aka a hideout (Kyoko’s moms house) where you can switch between your playable characters as well as select any of you previously recruited allies.

Just as in the original, you still gain experience from beating up all many or thugs which goes towards your experience points and unlocks more moves for you to add to your move list. You can buy more moves from the Double Dragon Dojo that’s run by Jimmy Lee and more as the game progresses. You have your standard light and heavy attack, jump, block, a special move bar that depletes meter, and the ability to call in assists (now stackable to 2 recruits) to help you in battle. You can chain light attacks into heavy attacks as well as special attacks, rushing attacks, and even recruit assist call ins. You still get your down attacks for when you knock down your enemies and want to pummel them and keep dishing out the pain.

New to RCG2 is the enhancements made to the combat system allowing you to get up quicker from knock downs and or roll out the way similar to most fighting games as well as do guard crushes on enemies (they can do this to you as well), lift-off combos, tag team maneuvers, and much more! The game definitely focuses on the new lift-off launcher system with you launching an enemy into the air similar to the Marvel Vs Capcom and Guilty Gear games with you being able to launch them and then follow up with an air combo. While the first game started you off with slower paced combat and moves, RCG2 gives you a short introduction level and then gives you access to a lot of the move set that was unlockable in the original from the start.

When enemies are stunned, you can grab them and then throw them if you want and if you beat them into submission then you will see them begging for mercy of which you can either recruit them or kill them off. Recruiting enemies is the same as it was in the original with the exception now being that you can stock up to two of them instead of just one and they are now mapped to each of your shoulder triggers on your controller. Added to RCG2 is the ability to pay for recruits called “hired heavies” of which cost about as much as a mid-level healing item at a shop yet unlike your normal recruits, they hit like a truck and can clear out the majority of your enemies in one or two hits. It’s a pretty neat addition that shakes up the formula a bit.

From the start, you’re able to select one of four characters from Misako and Kyoko as well as the main characters of the Nekketsu being Kunio and Riki. You can unlock Marian from the Double Dragon franchises along with Provie from Banon Rudis’s River City Underground as the game progresses giving you a total of 6 playable characters to choose from. Each character plays starkly different from one another as you’ll have your all-around brawlers like Misako and Kunio, technical and faster Kyoko and Riki, and then you get the break-dancer Provie and MMA grappler Marian; each of these characters has their own pros and cons of which you will need to find who best suits your play style. For me being a Nekketsu fan, I stuck with Kunio for the majority of the game and only occasionally switched over to Marion and Provie to try them out.

Graphically, RCG2 is no different than the first game save for some new locations and enemies. That’s not a bad thing as the first game had amazingly fluid pixel artwork so I really don’t any complaints here. You still get the manga style cutscenes and character cutouts like before along with the animated opening movie which is all nice. Performance wise, I’ve found that the Nintendo Switch version runs at a locked 30fps at 720p in handheld mode and 1080p 30fps when docked and can dip below 25fps when too much is going on. On the Steam Deck and PC it has a fluctuating yet unstable framerate that hovers around 40-50fps yet dips down to 30fps when too much is going on. This is to me, a rather odd thing to see given how well the first game was optimized and ran buttery smooth on all platforms, while this one struggles out the gate. I’m hoping that there’s a performance patch down the road to fix these issues.

Audio wise, RCG2 fires on all fronts with a stellar voice cast returning from the first game with Kayli Mills and Kira Buckland and more. The OST is once again handled by the phenomenal Megan McDuffie with nothing but bangers to rock out and bust skulls to.

So what are the downsides? Well for one is the fact that if you change characters at the hideout or select screen, then you will have to grind to level them up to whoever you were playing as which for me, disincentivizes any desire to play as any other character and to me bloats your play time beyond what is necessary. This was a problem in the first game if you chose to switch between characters and is something I would’ve hoped they would have changed in this one but unfortunately, they didn’t. The other issue is the humor and tone of the game, while yes, this game nor the first took themselves very seriously and always broke the 4th wall; RCG2 doesn’t know when to stop with the jokes and ultimately gets to a point where I find it to no longer be funny as the game continues to run its jokes into the ground. No amount of great voice work can hide the fact that this games humor falls incredibly flat. I am hoping that if this series continues or if we get more of the mainline River City/Nekketsu games following Kunio and Riki, that they go back to the tone of the original series and let this excessive need to make a joke of everything and everyone go. Lastly, is the co-op, more specifically the online co-op as it doesn't make sense to me as to why the game has 4-player local co-op and yet only 2-player online co-op. This is especially odd when you have games like Shredder’s Revenge offering up to 6 players online co-op and even Streets of Rage 4 offering 3 player online.

River City Girls 2 isn’t the substantial upgrade to the original nor is it as groundbreaking as the original was. While it has substantially better gameplay and mechanics, new characters to play with, and a much larger world to explore; RCG2 ultimately ends up feeling like DLC that came out 3 years later or better yet, River City Girls 1.5 and has been far surpassed in the genre by other games since the 2019 original game. The humor in this game, while initially funny, really drags on and becomes tiresome and the tone gets old. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a fundamentally and mechanically sound brawler that challenges you to maximize the potential of your characters, then River City Girls 2 is the game for you if for nothing alone than the stellar OST and voice acting! As a fan of the genre, I say get this game now and especially if you loved the first game, but for all others, maybe wait for a sale before you dive in.

Rating: 4/5
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