Overview – originally developed by Technos, brought to new systems by WayForward and Limited Run, River City Girls Zero is an enhanced port of the Super Famicom title Shin Nekketsu Koha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, originally released in 1994. This marks the first time the game has had an official release outside of Japan, with the title currently being exclusive to Nintendo Switch with a release on other systmes later in 2022. A link to the game will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank WayForward for providing the copy of River City Girls Zero used for this piece. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be skipping the story segment for this review, moving directly onto the gameplay section.
Gameplay – River City Girls Zero is a side scrolling, beat ‘em up with four playable characters and lots of delinquents to beat up. The action takes place across a variety of locations including high schools and a theme park, with the goal being to get to the boss of each area, fighting through the foes that oppose the player. When advancing through the each zone of the game, story segments occur pushing the narrative forward and even adding new characters to the player party.
The combat is like many other traditional brawlers, with a punch, kick and jump as part of the character move set, alongside a back attack and guard/special moves that can be used during battle. The collision detection can be a little off when first getting into the game, but is easy enough to adapt to as new moves and combos are discovered. There is no instruction guide or detailed tutorial aside from the button functions, so special moves and combos must be discovered through experimentation.
There are four playable characters in total, with Kunio and Riki being available from the start, along with their girlfriends Misako and Kyoko, who join the team as the story continues. This title is different from most side-scrolling brawlers as there is no lives system, instead going with a party of characters with each have their own life bars. This alters the way that the actions, as a game over occurs in single player if a character dies, or the player is locked out during co-op until the other player dies or the stage is cleared.
To reduce the risk of defeat, there is the ability to switch between characters in the player party making every pixel of life important during the tougher battles. Luckily, the health bars for all characters will replenish between stages, along with a password system that allows the player to continue from the specific point that they had reached during the game. The same passwords can also be used during the two player mode, allowing a friend to join in when the game gets a little tough by noting the password down and hitting reset.
At specific points during the game, the focus will shift from the side scrolling action to a head on Motorcycle sequence, where the player travels along a track kicking enemies that attempt to attack. These scenes help to keep the experience flowing nicely, working well as mini-games to break the tension from particularly tough boss encounters. When these Road Rash styled segments conclude, it is back into the action and time to kick some more ass.
The last thing to discuss is the quality of life improvements made to the game, including new cutscenes and music (detailed below). There are newly made translations to for the game, offering a literal translation to match the Japanese as close as possible or a more localized version to match the dialogue of the River City Girls game. Along with the new translations, there is a save state feature that allows the player to freeze the game where they are, allowing the game to continue without the need for a password.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving into the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls for this release translate well from the original Super Famicom layout, to the modern Nintendo Switch set up. However, there is the possibility to accidentally reset the game or break the flow of action, as the menu button is tied to the right trigger rather than the start button as would be expected. But, the inputs for movement and battle all work well with zero lag, although they may feel slow if compared to the River City Girls experience, they can be adapted to quickly.
Difficulty – the difficulty curve present is fair as the party system allows for players to switch when health is low, along with the passwords and generous checkpoint system. There are two difficulty options that the player can select when starting a new game, with an easy and normal option. The easy setting plays out the same as normal, but there is one difference as the game will only play out up to a preset point before telling the player to start again.
Presentation – the visual style for this game is a mix of old and new, with brand new music and cutscenes that add a modern vibe to the presentation. When the game starts, the intro has a retro anime feel to it along with the new theme included. At the start of a new game and after clearing it, manga scenes that break the fourth wall connect this adventure to the Modern RCG universe, featuring voice work from the modern versions of Kyoko and Misako as narrator.
There is also a gallery that can be accessed, providing a recreation of the original Super Famicom box, manual and cartridge. The game itself works very well, with the 16-bit sprite work looking sharp on all screen types, with animations and action that flow smoothly with zero performance issues. The music featured makes the most of the original system sound chips, giving a deep sound that successfully adds to the atmosphere of the action.
Final Thoughts – being a fan of the River City Girls game, I jumped at the chance to play this game and I can happily say it was worth the 25+ year wait to finally come to the west. The action flows well, the story was engaging and the use of new materials to bridge the gap between games was a fantastic inclusion. The quality of life improvements that have been added to this title are a welcomed inclusion, giving the option to save at any point and continue later, as well as the gallery being a nice bonus.
I can happily recommend this title to fans of the River City games and brawlers in general, as the party system adds a unique twist to the traditional formula that most in the genre offer. I feel that this title works as an excellent stop gap while players wait for River City Girls 2 to be released this summer, while also adding to the established universe and giving depth to the events of the first RCG title.
In the end, I give River City Girls Zero a final score of 4.5/5. This is an excellent addition to the River City series and a fantastic companion to the first River City Girls release, adding more story details while also giving players a chance to play a classic brawler that has been exclusive to Japan for 25+ years. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to the game will be below.
Please note that this is currently exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, however, other platforms will get this game later and an update will be posted on this site with details and links to those versions.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
One thought on “River City Girls Zero – Nintendo Switch Review”