Review: River City Girls Zero Is Exactly What It Says on the Tin

River City Girls is becoming a popular franchise, with its initial first release being a critical success and a sequel on the way, but the characters of Misako and Kyoko have been around for a lot longer than that. Originally they were playable in a previous entry into the River City series titled “The New Hot Blooded Tough Guy: The Elegy of Kunio and Co.” In that side scrolling beat 'em up you can swap between Misako and Kyoko, but also their significant others Kunio and Riki.  Now in 2022, this Japan only title has been localized by the good people at Way Forward, and brought westward retitled: River City Girls Zero. While the original game has a straightforward plot, here we get an intro to the characters we know and love from River City Girls. There's even a new catchy theme song followed by a comic book style story of the girls finding an old cartridge of their “original adventure” that they don’t remember having.  So of course they pop the game in to try to see what these videogames are all about. It’s adorable and voice acted in a way that makes you fall in love with the characters all over again. After that well crafted introduction, we get the original game, a no-frills classic brawler from 1994 for the Super Famicom. It begins with Riki and Kunio being imprisoned for a hit and run that they’ve been framed for. They break out of prison to try and find the person that set them up, eventually teaming up with their girlfriends and battling their way through amusement parks, collapsing schools, race tracks and even Pachinko parlors.  The brawling action is pretty simple, with punch and kick combos plus the ability to jump, block or hit behind you. As the story progresses though, you will acquire your full crew of 4 that can be swapped on the fly, and all have different health pools. This gives you essentially four lives, and considering the move sets don’t differ, it’s strictly aesthetic and helps ensure you don’t die. You can also guard, dash and throw, but what you get here is very bare bones.  After that, it’s a pretty straight forward port. There is English localization, a classic 8:7 aspect ratio and some neat filters. The updated graphics and audio work the nostalgia something fierce, and it’s nice to get those characters we love again, if only for the intros and outros. Otherwise, this is exactly as advertised. It’s the port of an otherwise unreleased game in the River City series. There aren’t any major advancements or breathtaking changes to the original. There’s a story for sure, but it’s pretty one note, which the combat also echoes. From a historical standpoint, it’s great that western audiences now get to experience this adventure, but it’s hard to ask for much more than authenticity with this 1994 title. It may have the River City Girls set dressing, but it’s otherwise a look back at a relic from the past. There’s fun to be had in this game, but more from a curiosity sake than actual gameplay.   River City Girls Zero is available now for Nintendo Switch.         A Nintendo Switch key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.
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Alex Orona