At ACGHK 2019, I was able to give River City Girls, the latest game in the Kunio-kun/River City series a try. The game stars Kunio and Riki’s girlfriends Misako and Kyoko, who previously appeared in games such as Kunio-kun-tachi no Banka on the SNES.
In the past, I was only able to look at the Kunio-kun series with a bit of a sceptical eye. While I knew about new games that were coming out, such as the games on the Nintendo 3DS, I was cautious about picking the games up, as visually they all were based off the look of the NES titles with 3D graphics. This gave a bit of an outdated look to the series, and also made it feel like not enough was being done to get new people into the series. This game changes that.
In River City Girls, characcters are fluidly animated with vibrant colors, and the school setting in the demo was given a sense of personality not only with the type of room it was, but also the characters standing in the background. Although in Japan and Asia the game is appended with the subtitle Kunio-kun Gaiden, the setting is much more based in the River City side, with concepts like detention and cheerleading teams being brought up in the game. Basically only the general aesthetic and names are Japanese, which creates this weird ‘Japamerica’ vibe that does go well with the ‘Western Anime’ style that the character designs have. There’s also bits of personality that really make this game pop, like chains around the screen when you need to defeat everyone to progress, to Misako and Kyoko jutting their heads out of their portraits when talking.
As a beat-em-up and RPG hybrid, River City Girls features level-ups, meaning that you unlock more ways to beat up baddies the more you fight, in turn leading into combat feeling even more smooth. One particular mechanic I liked was being able to accept underlings onto your team, summoned with the L1 button. They simply act as Strikers (if this were a fighting game) but will leave if they get attacked too much and run out of health. It made for a great way to mix up my options, as well as act as a bit of a distraction when I was being swarmed.
Despite all the aesthetic differences, at its core it is a Kunio-kun game through and through. But when you have a game like this that challenges the status quo of what the past few games have looked like, it’s hard to not be excited for this latest game in the series.
Check out 10 mins of off-screen gameplay below:
River City Girls releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on September 5, 2019. Check our previous report to learn more about Kyoko and Misako.