River City Girls 2 – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed and published by WayForward in collaboration with Arc System Works, River City Girls 2 is a follow-up to the original 2019 title. Take on a whole new threat to River City as Misako, Kyoko, Kunio and Riki as they brawl their way through the hordes of enemies that get in their way. This title is available on all major platforms, with a link to each version of the game 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 2 that was used for this piece. The provision of this software 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, starting with the story. I have also covered the “prequel” title, River City Girls Zero, which was released earlier this year which can be found (HERE).

Story – after their previous adventure, a new threat for the gang has arrived in the form of an old enemy from their past. When the Yakuza takes over River City High, the gang are violently expelled from the school by their henchmen. Two months later, as they leave the house to go to the game store, they are attacked by thugs paid by the yakuza. Now a new adventure begins as the River City gang must brawl their way through the city to take down the Yakuza and its leader.

Gameplay – River City Girls 2 is a roaming brawler with a fairly open exploration system, action RPG mechanics and some search action elements. When the player starts a new game, they can select one of four characters (with two unlockable characters). All characters at the beginning are set to level 1 with a basic move list and all stats reduced to 1. The player will play through the tutorial before the game starts proper.

Once the tutorial is completed, the player will be spawned into the main hideout where they receive their first quest. This first quest starts players on their adventure, with enemies appearing after leaving their home base. The enemies that appear will start with students, bullies and cheerleaders as the first enemies to overcome. However, as the game progresses, there will be a greater variety of foes to battle, with their own strengths, weaknesses and special attacks.

To take down wave after wave of enemies, players have access to the same core move set which will expand as they level up. The attacks are split into a few categories, with normal attacks that can be chained into combos, heavy attacks to end them and special attacks to deal big damage. Players can also find weapons scattered about the place, which can be traditional items like baseball bats to unconventional objects like benches.

The combat flows fairly well with smooth actions and combos that can be chained together well. There is a lot of flexibility with the weapons and special attacks thrown in to combat, making for a challenging and fun battle experience. At set points there will be encounters with enemies that lock the player into battle. These fights will trap the player in the boundary of a single screen, with a lock and chains around the edge of the screen.

As the enemies are defeated, the lock will become damaged to show progress of the fight. Once all foes have fallen the chains and lock will break, letting players continue on their way and sometimes drop food to heal damage. These battles can come out of nowhere so it is important to be vigilant and prepared. This can be done by destroying vending machines, which will drop health up items or the player can buy food from shops (discussed further below).

Fighting enemies will give players experience points which will level them up at set milestones. When a player character reaches a new level, they will be fully healed of damage, gain a stat boost making them stronger, unlock new skills and even open up upgrades in special shops. Defeated enemies will also drop money based on their strength, with the tougher the foe, the bigger the pay day. All money can be used at various shops scattered through the game.

The shops include convenience stores/cafes which offer food to heal lost stamina (and more), clothing stores that sell accessories to give extra effects and the Dojo where new attacks can be learned. When purchasing food items, it can be eaten immediately to provide a quick boost for the character, or saved to be used later while in the midst of battle. Whenever a food item is consumed for the first time, a permanent stat boost is gained, making shopping very important.

This release features a mostly non-linear approach to exploration, with the different locations being broken up into interconnected zones allowing some freedom to explore. During the early stages of the story, paths will guide the player in a single direction towards their goal, but as time passes more and more areas will open up. These zones and paths can be viewed via the GPS map, which lets players see where they have been and what is located where.

This system has a metroidvania feel to it as there will be a lot of backtracking to get to different areas. This is made a little less time consuming with the transit system, a series of bus stops that the player can use to hop between set “warp points” in the game. Speaking of backtracking, there is a quest system that is used for this title, with the types of quest often split into two distinct styles, story quests and side quests.

The main story quests will have the player moving all over the city to complete the various objectives needed. These missions can have boss battles where a powerful enemy will appear, battling them in multi-phase combat encounters that can be very challenging. The other type of quest is side quests that have a variety of objectives, like a dodgeball challenge for example. When these missions are cleared, players will gain XP and money as well as other rewards.

While most areas of the game will be locked off from the player, clearing the missions will open up new areas for the player to go to. These areas may have new shops, enemies and NPC characters for the player to interact with, who can give missions and information to the player. The open areas are shown with a green door icon at their border, with the closed areas having a red locked door icon. This is where the bus stops come more into play, helping players move quickly around areas.

The last things I want to talk about are the hideout and henchmen system. During battle with enemies, some of them may beg for mercy and offer to join the player. When this happens during play, the player can take them as a follower and recruit them. Each player can have 2 henchmen at the same time, one for each back trigger on the controller. These characters can be called into battle when their cool-down meter is full, unleashing an attack before leaving.

These henchmen can be defeated by other enemies if they take enough damage and will go to the hideout. There are also paid recruits that will appear at different parts of the game. These characters will cost money to join the player as unique support characters, but if they are defeated they will return to their spawn and must be paid for again. This makes for a tough choice on whether to focus on getting free recruits or splurging on the expensive paid ones.

Finally, I want to cover the hideout. This is the home base where the player can respawn if defeated without losing any money. While in the hideout, players can also switch their active character and heal some damage when returning there. There is also a store box to hold inventory items for later, a dedicated area for recruiting an unlocked henchman and Kyoko’s Mom is there too. This is an important area for newer players, offering a safe zone to heal during missions.

Now with the gameplay covered, I want to move into the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the control layout for this game is perfect for this brawler, with the movement on the left side of the controller, the attacks on the face buttons and assorted features like recruit attacks on the triggers/shoulders. All of the inputs work really well and have a good amount of feedback, there is no feeling of lag but the occasional input can be missed. Overall the game plays very well and feels very comfortable with a set of Joy-Cons or pro controller.

Difficulty – this is a challenging brawler, with enemies that can attack from all sides and overwhelm the player immediately. This can be frustrating, however it is a little easier when playing co-op, as players can revive each other if they make it in time. The respawn system of checkpoints or hideout helps lessen the difficulty a little as players don’t have to worry too much about failure. However, if players want to make the game tougher, there are two additional difficulty settings that make the game really tough.

Presentation – visually, River City Girls 2 has a very old school look to it, with the bold and vibrant sprite work that is used for the characters, enemies and environments/objects. This combines well with the slick anime style artwork for character portraits, the manga style cutscenes and animated cinematics. Everything flows together smoothly with zero issues in regards to frame rate, slow down or graphical instability.

The sound for this title is of the same quality as the first River city Girls, with a soundtrack that mixes several styles together to create one cohesive and distinctive sound. The opening theme that plays at the title is fantastic, featuring the vocal talents of Megan McDuffee and Cristina Vee. There is also English and Japanese voice over for this release, featuring the talents of Kayli Mills (Mary Skelter Finale), Kira Buckland (JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure) and Kaiji Tang (Jujutsu Kaisen).

Final Thoughts – when I first heard that this was getting a sequel I was really excited, as I really enjoyed the first RCG game. This is as good if not better than that title, with expanded gameplay and an overall larger scope in terms of the world and characters. I very much enjoyed the ability to choose from multiple characters right from the start, as well as the extra unlockable characters that appear later. This is a fantastic brawler filled with self-aware humour, intense action and kick ass tunes.

I have no problem recommending this title to people. It may be a little tough for some, with the way that enemies can surround players and beat them down, but the game doesn’t punish players in defeat. I wasn’t able to test out the online features, but there is local co-op which is an absolute blast when playing with others. WayForward have outdone themselves with yet another excellent action title, which I feel was very much worth the wait.

In the end, I give River City Girls 2 a final score of 5/5. This is the perfect sequel to an already excellent game, taking the groundwork laid out in the first and expanding it into a larger, more chaotic experience. The combat is solid with a variety of attacks to use, all of the characters feel distinct from each other and the slick pixel sprite work gives the whole game retro charm. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to each version are below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

Link to Xbox version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

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