Dishing out knuckle sandwiches as either Kyoko or Misako in couch co-op brawler River City Girls is immediately fun, with the combat comparing favourable to the genre favourites of yesteryear. As tends to be the case with this sort of title however, fighting the ever growing hordes of enemies on your quest to rescue the duo’s kidnapped boyfriends does get a little stale. While instinctively falling back on a limited number of battle-tested moves to dispatch your assailants as quickly as possible, you’ll find that even though there’s a dojo of limb-breaking moves to unlock, none feel particularly vital in the run-of-the mill scuffles that make up a majority of your time on the streets.
The boss battles however are a different story, delivering a terrifically satisfying challenge as you probe your opponent’s defences while seeking out the precise moves and timing that will bring you out on top. These tussles are varied and creative, making them much more memorable than the army of street toughs you knocked out on the way.
Set in an open-world complete with shops, side quests, fast travel points, and respawning enemies, it feels odd to be exploring, and occasionally backtracking in a brawler. While it doesn’t always work as well as you’d have hoped, it does at least give a spin to a tried and tested formula that in recent years has been found wanting. On top of this, the pixel art style, pop soundtrack, and anime stylings make for an especially vibrant presentation that provides a pleasing backdrop to the action.
With a bright, pixel art infused splash, River City Girls throws you headlong into an old-school brawler that at times evokes the best of the genre. Whether you line it up against Streets of Rage, the rather excellent Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, or River City Ransom – a title which you’ll be unsurprised to hear River City Girls has a direct lineage to – it hits all the familiar highs and lows, while throwing in a few twists that mean it’s not just a by the numbers retro title.