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River City Girls Zero Review

Initial release date: April 29, 1994

Global Release: February 23, 2022

Series: Kunio-kun

Designer: Yoshihisa Kishimoto

Composer: Kazunaka Yamane

Publishers: Technōs Japan, WayForward, Arc System Works

Developers: WayForward, Givro Corporation

Platforms: Super Famicom, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Steam

"Review Copy Provided By WayForward"

Originally released in 1994 as Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka for the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo), this was considered one of the best brawlers around and one of the best entries in the Nekkestsu Kunio-kun or River City franchise that never released outside of Japan. In 2021, Wayforward made the announcement that they were porting that title to the west albeit with a change in title to make it fit into the River City Girls sub-series even though this is NOT a River City Girls title, along with some retcons and localization changes that smudge up the Kunio timeline. To Be honest and upfront, I’m not a fan of the rebranding of the title, however, I understand the reasoning given that River City Girls is more known in the west but still I’m not a fan of wiping the history of the franchise away from Kunio as a life long fan. So anyways, all my complaints aside, how is River City Girls Zero as a whole in 2022? Let’s dive right in!

River City Girls Zero is unique for several reasons with one being that it not only introduced Misako and Kyoko but also is a very heavily cutscene heavy title which is unusual for brawlers of the time. Series stars Kunio and Riki are imprisoned at the beginning of the game for a hit-and-run and end up breaking out to fin out who and why they were wrongly framed. As a story, it is the prequel to River City Girls however the story has taken some creative liberties to make it fit more in line with that title’s story so if you are serious about the series lore like I am then you will find this to be rather annoying.

Wayforward themselves handled the localization and included a localized script to fit more in line with River City Girls (of which I’m most annoyed with) and a literal translation of the original script which took itself substantially more serious than the modern translation. There is a new artsyle and animated intro made by my friend David Liu aka DSloogie along with a new theme song created by my friend Megan McDuffie.

Gameplay wise, River City Girls Zero plays pretty similar if not stiffer to the classic River City games. You have your punch, kick, jump, and back attack; where the real fun comes in is with the fact that you can find experimental moves and special attacks. You start the game as Kunio and Riki and over time you come to unlock Misako and Kyoko towards the later end of the game as this is, again, not originally a River City Girls title and is a Nekketsu Kunio-kun title. As the game goes past the later half of the game, at anytime you will be able to swap between any of the 4 characters at any point as each character has their own health meter and unique special moves. The game can be played Co-op with a buddy which is honestly the best way to play this game although the game is no less fun if you play solo.

Misako and Kyoko are not who you want to try to complete this game as unless you’re looking for a substantially harder run through the game and are wanting to challenge yourself as they have the weakest attacks and have absolutely no ground game outside of kicking enemies when they are down which can be awkward to pull off and slow in use compared to Kunio and Riki who are both well rounded brawlers. Boss fights are old-school hard and while I’ve seen a lot of people complain about them, as someone who grew up with games that pushed you to the limit, I personally love it. The bosses hit hard and have attacks that interrupt you attacks so plan accordingly.

There is also some platforming sections in the game as well as you will eventually come to sections needing you to jump and grab onto ledges to traverse across levels.

If you’re expecting to find series staples such as level-up-progression, equipment, stat boosts, and more then you will be disappointed as this is more akin to the original Nekketsu or as we in the west would know it as Renegade with it being a more traditional Beat-Em-Up than a RPG-Beat-Em-Up so if you haven’t played traditional Bea-Em-Ups and prefer the style found in River City Ransom and River City Girls then you probably won’t like the game, but for all others it’ll be just fine as this is a solid brawler.

All in all, this isn’t a River City Girls game. Misako and Kyoko are NOT the main characters of this story and aren’t even accessible to play until the end of the game and are the worst characters to play as. If you were expecting to go into this title and play it like River City Girls then you’re going to be let down and should probably wait for the sequel. If you are a brawler fan and want to see how the series progressed from where it was in 1994 when this originally released to where it is now in 2022 then you’ll find a lot to love (hate) and appreciate. River City Girls should’ve been labeled River City: The Elegy of Kunio and Co instead of River City Girls as this game has a strong possibility of turning off fans of the newer River City Girls.

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