Good sequels don’t try to reinvent the wheel, and instead look for new places for that wheel to go. If that’s your metric of success, then River City Girls 2 may turn out to be very good sequel, at least judging by its opening hour or two. In fact, the opening hour of the game might be a little too familiar, especially if the first game is fresh in your mind. Nevertheless, if you’re not yet tired of WayForward’s blending of inimitable cartoon style, solid brawling, and light RPG progression, the game promises considerable expansion once the introductions are over.
As before, River City Girls 2 is led by Misako and Kyoko, the tough-as-nails girlfriends of Kunio and Riki (of River City Ransom fame). The girls have rescued their boys from the clutches of the Sanwakai crime syndicate, thoroughly humiliating its acting head, Sabuko. Now Sabuko’s brother Ken and father Sabu (who happens to be River City Ransom‘s big bad) have stepped in. The result? Misako and Kyoko have been expelled from school, spending months laying low at home playing video games. Complications arise when they want to leave the house for once, and find the town taken over by yakuza goons. With their skills rusty but their hearts full violence, they need to beat their way through a small army of thugs to save the town again.
So far, so good. Brawlers like River City Girls 2 don’t need hugely complex plotlines to get going. Instead, they’re carried on the strength of the characters, and like its original River City Girls 2 is overflowing with personality. At the outset of the game you can play Kyoko, Misako, Kunio, and Riki, in single- and up to four-player local and online co-op. I haven’t gotten far enough to unlock them yet, but Marian and Provie are also playable. Character designs, cutscenes, and dialog sprites are all illustrated in an art style that’s an appealing blend of manga and American cartoons. The voice acting is also spot-on, and in one welcome addition, a Japanese voice track is available, adding new facets to the performances.
The sense of personality is reflected even in combat animations. Every character, even the generic mooks, animates in gorgeous pixel art, constantly moving, even in their idle cycles. Since they were available in River City Girls, all four of the initial playable characters have familiar move sets. Months on the couch have conveniently set their levels back to zero, giving players an excuse to grind and gain experience once more. They’ve got fast normal attacks, heavy strikes that knock foes down, and can grab and stomp enemies when they’re stunned or knocked down. Thankfully, a few more moves, like specials, are available at the beginning of the game, so you don’t need to unlock some basic attacks anymore. Though some of the animations feel recycled from the first game, additional visual flair like particle effects keep things looking fresh. Moves are unlocked with a mix of buying them from the Dojo and unlocking them by leveling up.
As before, you can also recruit goons to your side, deploying them like Assist Attacks in a fighting game. You can have two this time, and they come in handy to knock enemies out of a combo or absorb a charge. One new twist is the addition of a home base, where you can swap characters, change out your accessories, and even choose which goons accompany you into battle. They all appear in a big list, adding a Pokemon-like urge to “catch ’em all.”
I’m still early into what looks to be a substantial expansion to its game world, but River City Girls 2 is a rollicking good time so far.
River City Girls 2 releases on Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on December 15, 2022 in North America and Europe. It’s already available in Japan and Asia. This preview is based on a PC copy of the game provided by the publisher.